Lessons on Reflection: Go to your room and think about what you have done.

Our earliest lessons in learning how to reflect upon ourselves and the things we do often came accompanied by the words …”Go to your room and think about what you have done!”

As a child you may have been sent to your room or made to “sit in the corner” to think about what you did to get you is such a sad position, so usually you were in trouble. While in your room, feeling isolated from all human contact and alone with your thoughts you were supposed to think about what you did, feel sorry for your actions and their consequences, apologize for what you did, make amends for what you did if possible, and promise never to do it again. Or at least that’s what you parents wanted you to do.

As much as we hated being sent to our rooms it was our earliest training on learning the importance of reflection about ourselves and our actions. These early efforts by the authority figures in our lives to get us to reflect actually laid the foundation and served to teach us the value of pausing to consider, ponder, question, think and reflect all in a critical way about our issues, problems, success, failures, and plans … our lives. Unfortunately, since this learning was not taking place under pleasant circumstances. So if we participated in the process at all we did it grudgingly, but usually we feigned the response that was expected of us to get out of the circumstances we found ourselves in. This was also an early form of enlightened self interest … so that we could get back to our agenda, whatever we were doing before we were interrupted by this unreasonable demand to “think about what you have done”. Those demands placed upon us may be part of the reason so few people take the time to reflect and think about their lives, actions, and careers as adults. We don’t do it because it’s not easy, not fun, and we don’t see the benefit in doing it.

How does this relate to career development? In any part of life, but especially in career development efforts, critical reflection is an essential part of your development plan. After you draw up your plan and have begun the implementation and have worked the plan for a while you need to pause and take some time to reflect on what you are doing. You need to set aside time periodically and examine your plan, your progress in implementing it, and your overall effectiveness in making it work. The reason for this critical reflection is not only to check on your progress, to see how far you’ve got, but to also to tweak the plan and make any adjustments needed to enhance your development plan. You need to ask yourself questions like “What’s working?”, “What’s not working?”, “What do I need to do more of?”, “What do I need to do less of?”, “Do I have the resources I need to execute my plan?”, “Who do I need to network with to help further my goal?” “What are the implications if I take this action as opposed to that action?”. By asking these and other critically reflective questions you can sharpen your plan and continue to update your execution strategy. By exercising the disciple of critical reflection you can make your plans better and improve your chances for success.

In order to do this type of deep thinking and to be able to critically reflect upon your current state you need to get way from distractions of the day to day and concentrate, to focus on the task. A friend of mine refers to this as “going to the mountain top”. This simply means that you take the time to get away from the noise and distractions of your daily life so that you can concentrate on the task at hand. This may mean that you need to remove yourself physically from other people and distractions for an extended period of time so that you can be alone with your thoughts and think. If actually removing yourself for periods of time is not possible, it may mean that you purposely set aside time on a daily basis to reflect upon and examine your plans and progress, on what you have done and what you need to do. However you do it is not important. That you do it is imperative!

There is a certain discipline that is needed for this. As a child your parents brought pressure to bear in an attempt to force/ coerce/ make you think about what you had done. Now, as an adult, no one has the authority to pressure you or demand that you reflect on what you have done and how you do it. You have to demand it of yourself. And you do it because you realize it is in your own best interest to do so.

Employers want the basics from their employees

As I discuss the needs of the entry level workforce with employers and especially with hiring managers one theme keeps surfacing. Dependability. They need people who they define as dependable. When pressed to define “dependable” they end up defining it as a person who will show up, on time, every day, ready to work, and who can get along with others in the workplace. Sounds simple enough doesn’t? Seems as if most anyone who want to work could meet these few minimum requirements, but in many cases it isn’t that simple.
Let’s break it down:
Show Up: Go to work every day. Day in and day out. Week after week. Month after month. No last minute call offs. No excuses on why today just isn’t a good day to report for work. Even when you would rather not, show up.
On time: Show up every day when you are supposed to show up. Not 15 minutes later, not five minutes later. Get to work at the scheduled time, all the time, so you do not negatively impact the flow of business. Do what you must to order your life and activities so that they do not interfere with getting to work on time.
Every Day: Showing up on time most days, or 4 out of 5 or even 9 out of 10 days is not good enough. Consistency (read every day) is the key here, occasionally will not do. This is not horseshoes or hand grenades. Close don’t count. Most don’t count. Every day counts.
Ready for Work: Personal business handled. Rested and ready to meet the tasks for the day. Mind focused on the task at hand not on your love life, your recreations, or your troubles. We all have them and we must learn to put them aside at work. Engage your mind and focus on your job.
Get Along with Others: Show some emotional maturity and use emotional intelligence to handle the annoyances you will encounter. Be cooperative and flexible with the people (and customers) you must deal with not quick to take offense at thoughtless actions and comments. Put aside self centeredness and think in terms of what is good for your team members or employer and not just for you. Believe it or not it is not all about you.
These few basic requirements, along with some basic ability to perform the tasks of the job, are really all it takes to be successful in the workplace.
Employers state that they are willing to invest in people who meet this idea of “dependable”. They will train you for other positions, provide opportunities for advancement, and tend to keep you around if you meet their idea of dependable.
If you are entering the job market from school or trying to re-enter it after a period of unemployment you need to project dependability. You need to sell the hiring manger on your ability to meet these few simple criteria. Hiring managers are looking for it; they want to find it in you. Use your answers in the interview so that they see you as that dependable one they are looking for.