Reflecting on your career during lockdown? 7 questions to ask yourself

By Roddy Adair, Director of Hays Personal & Executive Assistants

Having space away from your usual workplace and some extra free time afforded by lockdown or furlough is a great time to reflect on your current job and career. For the more introspective among us this will come quite naturally, but others may need to make a conscious effort to take a step back and reflect on things.

The difficulty is often knowing where to start and what to think about. I’ve put together some questions you might want to ask yourself to constructively reflect on your career – which, you never know, might reveal something you didn’t know about your long-term professional goals and aspirations.

Does your job bring you happiness?
It’s incredibly easy to let the fast pace of modern life distract us from addressing how happy we really are in our jobs. As most of us spend most of our days going to work and doing our jobs, whether or not this is genuinely bringing us happiness should be one of the first things we question.

This may understandably feel like a big question to find an answer for, so try breaking it up to help you build the picture:

  • What parts of your job do you enjoy?
  • What would you change about your job if you had the chance?
  • Does your current role allow you to take steps towards fulfilling your long-term career aspirations?

Do you bring your authentic self to work?
Do you sometimes feel like you’re a different person at work compared to at home? Even though work often requires us to respect professional protocol, it’s worth questioning whether you are bringing your authentic self into work each day and the person you are around your colleagues. Signs that you are your authentic self at work include:

  • It doesn’t take considerable effort to go to work each day
  • You have like-minded colleagues who you enjoy spending time with in and out of work
  • You feel motivated to improve and better yourself in your job

If these points don’t resonate with you, I’d encourage thinking deeper about why this is. Is there anything you need to change about your job or workplace which will make you feel more comfortable about being yourself? Are there any networks or groups at work you could join to find some like-minded colleagues? Aim to return to your job or office in a position to reap the benefits of being your whole, authentic self.

Do you draw purpose from your job?
Being in an unsettling and uncertain time might have shed light on brings the most meaning to you personally, and I’d encourage you to see whether this inspires you to take your career in a new direction. Aligning your work to what truly matters to you can only be rewarding.

If you need some prompting, have a detailed look at your organisation’s values and mission and perhaps compare it to that of others. If you’re not inspired or motivated by what your organisation stands for, now might be the time to find a role that better aligns to your own moral code.

Do you agree with your organisation’s approach?
When organisations go through crises, their management strategies (or lack of) can expose a whole host of issues which may be of concern to you as an employee. Ask yourself:

  • If you were the CEO of your organisation, what would you be doing to manage the impacts of the pandemic?
  • Do you agree with your organisation’s internal and external response to what’s happening?
  • Has your organisation made you feel as supported as possible throughout this period?

Think also about whether you’ve been impressed by what another organisation has done. Can you bring this into your own organisation or is it time to think about moving to greener pastures?

Is home working your preferred way of working?
Social distancing guidelines has required most of us to work remotely. While some of us will already be looking forward to going back to our daily routines of commuting into the office to interact with our colleagues, for others, the flexibility of working from home is striking the right work-life balance.

As we transition into a new era of work, think about whether you would like to keep some of this flexibility into your working life. Consider speaking to your boss about different agile working arrangements or consider prioritising this when you’re looking for your next role.

Does your job match your skillset?
The unprecedented impacts of the pandemic may have required you to take on new responsibilities or shift roles. If this is the case, has it led you to realise that your skillset is wider than you thought? Ask yourself:

  • What am I naturally good at and do I get to demonstrate this in my current role?
  • Do I get the opportunity to upskill in my job and improve my work?
  • How well have I handled new tasks and responsibilities?

Asking these questions should illuminate whether there’s scope to take your current role in a direction that builds on your natural skillset or what you need to look for in your next role to ensure that you’re a better match.

Are your career goals still relevant?
Take this time to reassess where you want to take your career, starting by setting some short-term goals to achieve over the next 3 months. Some examples might include:

“In three months, I want to have learned how to use [a particular computer system] and use it day-to-day without needing support.”

“In three months, I want to have been to three different networking events and built my contact base on LinkedIn by [x] people.”

“In three months, I want to have started a new job which gives me more flexibility than my current job.”

More regular and short-term career planning will help you keep these goals in sight, ensure they are relevant to who and where you are in your life, and motivate you to achieve them.

Keep reflecting on your career – even after lockdown
The final thought I’d like to leave you with is that even though you ought to make the most of this time of reflection, this is a useful exercise to do at all points in your career. By asking yourself questions like the ones above, you’ll ensure you stay satisfied and successful in your job over the long-term.