On the Job

5 reasons to keep a career journal

Journaling is an activity of recording experiences, ideas, and thoughts for later use. Many famous people have kept notebooks or journals including Thomas Jefferson, Ernest Hemingway, Marie Curie, and Frida Kahlo. The practice of keeping a journal has been around for a long time. In fact, some of us might have kept a journal when we were younger (i.e. a personal diary).

Even though we’re not teenagers anymore, keeping a journal is still very valuable. And for that reason, people are starting to keep journals to help them with their career.

5 Benefits of Keeping a Career Journal

The good news about career journaling is that you can make the experience whatever you want. If there’s a specific topic you want to focus on (like how to be a better writer), then your career journal can be dedicated to that topic. Or maybe you want to plan for a future career change.

If you like the idea of career journals, but are unsure about what to write about, consider these benefits. It might help you discover a strategy.

  1. Become more self-aware. An increasing number of organizations are looking for employees who display self-awareness. Being self-aware is defined as having a conscious knowledge of our own character and feelings. Self-awareness allows us to see our strengths and weaknesses. It can also be used to strengthen our emotional intelligence, which has been connected to leadership capability.
  2. Set goals. We set goals in our personal and professional lives. Journals can help us document our goals, develop action plans to achieve them, and identify success strategies. In addition, we can also use our journals to understand what happened when we didn’t accomplish our goals, and consider steps so it doesn’t repeat in the future.
  3. Contemplate ideas. Ever have a great idea that you’re not ready to tell anyone? Journals are a perfect place to write them down. You might also want to use a journal to work through details – things like budget, resources, implementation, etc. And when you do start telling people about your idea, use your journal to document reactions and questions.
  4. Recognize trends. If you have a habit that you’re trying to start (or stop), documenting the circumstances around the situation could be helpful. For example, experts say keeping a food journal that includes emotions can help people notice stress triggers. When it comes to career journaling, is it possible when we’re stressed or constrained at work, we notice trends in our behavior?
  5. Track accomplishments. We’ve already mentioned setting goals and idea planning. This is a little different. Journaling can help us realize when we turn those plans and ideas into results. Sometimes we forget to see the small steps as true accomplishments (and we really should). Small actions or steps can have a huge impact.

By focusing on the benefits you would like to see from your career journaling efforts, you can refine the scope of your writing.

Getting Started with a Career Journal

It’s possible that the hardest part of getting started with career journaling isn’t the actual journaling part, but the mechanics of it. There are so many options! Don’t let it overwhelm you. Start small and add more over time. You can begin by journaling once a week, then make it more often. The goal is to make journaling a habit.

In today’s technology age, you have decisions to make about where to keep your thoughts. There are paper journals like Moleskine or the classic composition notebook. You can also use an app like Day One (for iOS and Mac) or Journey (Android). Both systems have their pros and cons. Again, it’s about doing what you like best and works for you so journaling becomes a habit.

Finally, regularly reflect on the value of journaling. There’s no rule that your journal has to stay the same way forever. Make a commitment to evaluate your journaling practice. The value of journaling lies in making it beneficial for you and your career.

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