Career Corner: Time for Reflection

Career Corner: Time for Reflection

We are closing in on the end of the year. Thanksgiving was this past weekend, which signals the start of the holiday season. Some look forward to this time of the year, others do not. Probably everyone might agree though that it brings with it added stress and anxiety. Deadlines related to gift giving, party, and religious commitments crowd out our schedules. If you have children, managing their expectations is also a big part of the year.

David J Smith — career coach, author, and Fulbrighter

As a Fulbrighter, this time of the year might bring back memories of spending the holiday overseas. I fondly remember attending the Christmas Market in Tallinn when I was a Fulbrighter in Estonia. I also have warm memories taking a trip with my son’s international school to holiday sites in south Estonia including the highest point in the country (a big hill, Estonia is a flat country!) and ending our trip having a traditional blood sausage dinner and enjoying glögi (mulled wine) in front of a roaring bonfire. The pace was much slower and there was less of the commercial trappings that exist in U.S.

Coming to the end of the year provides us the opportunity to reflect on our past year. It gives us a chance to take stock of our experiences and successes, give thanks for what we have and who we have, and consider what we might strive for in 2019.

Little hiring takes place between Thanksgiving and the end of the year. Human resources managers are busy closing out their year and also engaging in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Rather than applying for jobs, this is an ideal time to consider goals for next year. If you are still not where you want to be career wise, what did you do in 2018, and what could you do differently in 2019? Did you keep to a schedule? Did you invest in networking? Consider whether in 2019 you might benefit from the assistance of a mentor or career coach. Who might you reach out to in 2019? What events or conferences should you attend? Now is the time to make a few promises to yourself (rather than waiting until the late afternoon on December 31). If you are where you want to be, what worked for you? What were your lucky breaks or strategic good decisions? Now consider: Who might you mentor and assist in 2019 who could benefit from some of your insight?

Be honest with yourself. Carve out an hour or two to commit to thinking hard about the past year and year to come. Make a list: maybe you could prioritize, or set up plus and minus columns to assess your year. If you have a trusted confidante, ask them how they think you did in 2018. Honest feedback is helpful, albeit sometimes uncomfortable to listen to.

And of course, take stock in your experiences as a Fulbrighter. If you spent the holiday overseas while in the program, reflect on that time and how it is different than what you are experiencing now. What from that experience can you learn from today? And by all means enjoy a hot glass of glögi while doing it!

—David J. Smith

David J. Smith (Fulbright Scholar, Estonia 2003-2004) is a career coach and the author of Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace (Information Age Publishing 2016). He is on the career advisory board of the Peace and Collaborative Development Network. David writes regularly on career issues at He can reached at Image credit: Guillaume Speurt from Tallinn, Estonia [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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