7 Reflection Questions to Inform Your Career Goals

Submitted on December 1, 2020

From the Graduate Center Office of Career Support

By Ryan Sermon

With the end of the year approaching and a new one within reach, many of us will start to develop goals for 2021. Goal setting and looking towards the future is critical to accomplishing goals; however, the key process of reflection is often glossed over. Taking the much needed time to reflect on the semester will help you to acknowledge your accomplishments and summarize them on your supporting documents for your next professional opportunity.

Here are seven great ideas for you to consider as you reflect on Fall 2020:

  1.  Describe a significant event that occurred during this semester. Why was this significant to you?

  2.  How did any of your personal experiences relate to the experiences you gained from the courses you were enrolled in?

  3.  What are some new things that you learned about yourself? About your program/degree? About career opportunities?

  4.  What new skills did you develop over the past semester? What led to your development of those skills?

  5.  What projects did you work on— as part of a team with others or individually? What impact did you have on those projects? What were the outcomes/results?

  6.  Who were some new people you met? Did you connect with those individuals on LinkedIn? Academia? Research Gate?

  7.  Use the PAR formula to underscore how you overcame challenges this semester.

     *   Problem – what was a problem you dealt with?

     *   Action – what action did you take in solving the problem?

     *   Result – What was the end result? How can you quantify this through numbers, percentages, statistics, or other forms of measurement?

While it is important for everyone to engage in this type of reflective process, it is especially urgent for those graduating in Spring / Summer 2021. Consider the same 7 questions as you address fellowship applications, career preparation for faculty positions, job search strategies, and interviewing techniques.

Being able to talk about your experience is advantageous, even though it may seem awkward. Remember, employers are less likely to follow up with you after you submit your materials if it is unclear how your past experiences demonstrate your readiness for a new opportunity. Your responses to the questions above can inform your professional introduction, which should be about 30 seconds and should include at least one major recent accomplishment. They will help you in summarizing and articulating your experiences to potential employers during an interview, and they will provide you with material to share during a networking event.

Lastly, now is a good time to re-evaluate your goals, as they may have changed over the last year. Do your current goals still hold true? Are there new objectives you wish to set for yourself? Creating them in the SMART goal format will help you accomplish them. If you’re unsure about your goals, about the professional development skills to achieve them, or about best pathways to a desired career, don’t hesitate to reach out to your career support team in the Graduate Center!

Additional Resources:

Reflection Toolkit – Useful resource from the University of Edinburgh to help individuals walk through the reflection process.

Goal Setting and Reflection – Online resource for helping with academic and personal reflection and goal-setting using SMART goals.