Career planning and reflection aren’t reserved just for those who are right out of college. Looking back on where you’ve been and thinking ahead to the future can help you figure out what you really want from your career and help give you a sense of direction when an unexpected layoff or missed promotion throws off your career trajectory.
For remote workers, there’s an added benefit to self-reflection: a paper trail. Research cited by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in 2017 showed that while remote employees saw as much as a 13% increase in performance compared to their on-site colleagues, they were 50% less likely to get a performance-based promotion. Keeping a log of your accomplishments and the goals you reach can help you better prepare to make the case to your supervisor or a recruiter that you’d succeed in a new role.
If you’re working remotely and want to have a clear sense of direction—and ample fodder to prove your value to your boss—here are four strategies to help you reflect on and record your career progression in your daily life:
1. Try Career Journaling
Just as one would keep a diary to record the trials and tribulations of their life, so too can you keep a career journal to record your career goals and milestones. Jotting down your big ideas and reflecting on ongoing and past projects can turn your journal into an invaluable tool to help you keep track of your achievements—and if you quantify your results, you can even refer back to your journal when building a resume.
A journal is also the perfect place to document your mistakes and what you’ve learned from them. It can be cathartic to write these things down, and looking back on what you wrote later can help you evaluate your progress and see how far you’ve come. You can also use your journal to flesh out new ideas for products or services or just to vent about a rough day on the job.
2. Set KPIs or SMART Goals
If you’re a more detail-oriented planner or you have an entrepreneurial mindset, you may prefer to develop your own career-related key performance indicators (KPIs) and SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) goals. Taken from the corporate world, these tools are designed to help business leaders create goals for their company and measure and evaluate progress, but you can also use them on a more personal level.
For example, you may want to prioritize networking in your career, but that’s too vague to set as a goal. After all, how will you know when you’ve hit that milestone? Instead, strive for something more specific that easily measured and attained, and set a deadline for yourself. In this example, you may decide to try to make one new connection with a fellow industry professional each week. These connections will serve as indicators that you’re on the right track—KPIs—and the more of these you accumulate, the closer you’ll be to accomplishing your broader objectives.
3. Utilize Company-Sponsored or Personal Self-Evaluations
If written honestly and objectively, a professional self-assessment can help you gain insight into your strengths and identify areas where you could use improvement. Usually required of employees on either a quarterly or annual basis, these questionnaires ask you to evaluate your progress and give you the chance to showcase to your employer that you bring value to their organization. Most self-assessments also include questions about your goals and future plans, giving you a prime opportunity to think ahead and start a conversation with your supervisor about changes that could be made, if necessary.
If your employer doesn’t require you to complete a regular self-evaluation, try completing your own within the pages of a career journal.
4. Take A Career Aptitude Test
A final way to keep track of your overarching career goals is to periodically take an aptitude test. Just like the ones you took in high school, these assessments are designed to uncover your career strengths, weaknesses, interests, and preferences—all of which are bound to change over time. Taking a test like this, either in-person or online, can help you identify areas in which your outlook has changed and provide clues as to where to go next when you’re feeling stuck in your career.
As a remote professional, keeping a log of your progress comes with a host of benefits: you can refer to this information in meetings with your boss, promote it on your resume and in job interviews, and use it to prove that even though you’ve been at home, you’ve been hard at work.
Perhaps more importantly, however, capturing your thoughts on-the-job and reflecting on your career periodically gives you the chance to see where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going. Your goals will inevitably change over time, and taking the time to recognize when that happens will help ensure that you’re always headed in the right direction—even if you end-goal doesn’t quite match what you had in mind when you first started out.