What do I do with my professional reflection?
Connecting your reflection to your work context
As a professional, you may already have substantial experience in a range of work environments, and the expectations of your organisation, industry or profession will be quite familiar to you. You experience these expectations every day and they already play a large role in how you behave at work.
Unlike students who may have more difficulty imagining how they will put their capabilities into action in a work environment, professionals are for the most part familiar with what certain skills and attributes ‘look like’ in different work situations.
Reflecting on your experiences (either work-based or not) will allow you to unpack how you behaved in certain situations, determine the efficacy of your actions and decide if that way of working is appropriate in similar future situations or can be modified to achieve a better or more appropriate outcome. Because you are aware of what counts as ‘appropriate’ behaviour in your own work context, you can make these decisions more easily than someone who does not have that contextual knowledge.
You also have the opportunity to put your learning to work almost immediately in a similar environment to the situation that you reflected on, and have the chance to continue to refine your behaviours and responses over time, based on your reflections.
This process of reflection and continual improvement is how individuals progress at work, and demonstrates an ability to respond and grow from difficult or challenging environments. This growth may enable you to gain additional responsibilities at work as it demonstrates your ability to ‘learn on the job’, or provide you with the confidence to apply for other work, or to create your own.
Adding to your experience bank
The situations that you have reflected on and the capabilities that you have identified through your reflection can be used to substantiate your professional employability development. Even as a professional there is benefit to keeping your reflections together with other evidence of your employability in your ‘experience bank‘.
At The University of Queensland, we talk about an ‘experience bank’ as being one place where you can keep artefacts and evidence which can be used to demonstrate skill or capability acquisition. It may be a file on your laptop or an ePortfolio. You can look back at the items in your experience bank when you are putting together job applications, preparing for promotion or pitching to investors.
Your professional experience bank may contain:
- Reflections on work-related learning opportunities (SEAL or other reflective models)
- Letters of recommendation
- Personal goals
- Awards and achievements
Communicating your employability as a professional
If you do intend to transition into a new role then you will still need to understand the expectations of the new area or organisation you hope to move into.
The capabilities and attributes that you have identified in your self-reflection as a professional are likely to be transferrable to many other work contexts and the ability to communicate these effectively in a range of recruitment and networking situations will be valuable throughout your career.
In the recruitment process, you can use your reflections as a professional as examples of how you meet the selection criteria both in written application documentation and in interview situations.
Using reflections to prepare application documentation
Application documentation often asks for specific instances where you have demonstrated certain behaviours or capabilities and the professional work-based learning opportunities that you have reflected on are excellent examples.
You can also use the STAR(E) technique for written as well as verbal responses, and this format works particularly well for addressing selection criteria such as:
- Ability to work in a team and in a collaborative environment
- Exceptional time management skills and ability to meet deadlines
- Demonstrated high-level problem-solving skills displaying independent judgement, initiative and a creative service-oriented approach.
- High-level customer service skills, interpersonal and communication skills.
- Ability to quickly acquire knowledge of programs, IT systems, legislation and policy or work procedures and processes.
Because you have had exposure to work environments and particular industries you will also find it easier to communicate your potential or employability in a way that is meaningful to your audience using language that resonates with them. If you know the main issues facing your industry it is much easier to explain how you can manage or solve those problems with your capabilities and attributes – using the examples you have identified through your reflections.
Your value proposition as a professional
As a professional, you are also likely to be communicating your potential in networking situations. Depending on the situation and your audience you can also use your professional reflections to explain why you are passionate about a particular area or concept, or how your unique combination of experience and knowledge can be used to benefit an organisation or solve a problem.
Updating and refining your value proposition remains a useful exercise as a professional. This statement articulating the value that you promise to bring to a particular situation or role, can form the basis of networking conversations and can be your positioning statement for online profiles and application documentation.
For more information on creating a value proposition based on your reflections visit the student toolkit- Value proposition
Take some time to review your old value proposition or create a new one. It should be short and clearly articulate:
- Your strengths – capabilities and attributes that show up frequently in your reflections.
- Defining moments and key development opportunities – experiences that changed the way you thought about yourself or others, or those that have given you a chance to put your capabilities into practice.
- Your values and passions
As you write your value proposition consider if it effectively:
- Communicates why these things will be of benefit to the organisation or in a particular role
- Provides evidence that supports your claim – linking back to your learning opportunities
Your value proposition should be dynamic and will probably need updating every 6 months or so as you engage in other experiences and gain new capabilities and perspectives.