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Your career timeline

I’ve worked in HR for a long time, but I haven’t always worked in HR. In fact, my first job was working with horses and I trained to be a riding instructor.

I truly followed my passion when I left school, I was committed to doing work I loved and living a life that filled my heart with so much joy and happiness that some days it felt it could burst.

Eventually I moved into an operational retail role with Andy’s Records before finding my home in HR, all along the way trying to stay true to my need to always do work I loved and that I could throw my heart and soul into.

I want to encourage you to take a look back at your career and we’re going to pick out the highlights and look at how you might bring them forward to bring the sparkle back into your work. We’ll also look at how to make peace with the harder lessons you might have learnt along the way, taking what you need from the experiences you’ve had and leaving behind all that no longer serves you or benefits you in any way.

But first I want to say that everything has a purpose and even if we don’t realise it, the actions and activities we carry out today form part of a map of experience that we can draw on in a positive way and with gratitude in the future. It can be easy to forget that, especially when we’re feeling rushed off our feet, stressed, and don’t have time to reflect or think properly about what we’re doing.

So, I encourage you to take a bit of time today to try this technique that I use to help get results for my executive coaching clients.

Start by taking a blank sheet of paper and drawing a line horizontally across the middle of it. This will be your career experience timeline. Mark on it all of the jobs you’ve had in chronological order and add the dates for when you started and finished them. You can also allow space before your first job to add any events or experiences that helped to shape your career choices too.

Above the line you can then make note of any career highlights and positive experiences connected to these jobs, all the things that have happened that have filled your heart and brought you joy. Below the line you note the lessons learnt. The things that didn’t feel so great at the time and have stuck in your mind.

When you get to the end of the exercise sit with it for a while, maybe even put it aside and come back to it the next day. You now have your career timeline.

When you do come back to it, allocate 20 minutes of uninterrupted time where you can work on the next step. Set a timer and then just write or type everything that comes into your head when you reflect on your timeline.

Just let your thoughts flow without judgement, write down your observations, what you’re grateful for and acknowledge any lessons learnt. If you get stuck on any of the stuff that doesn’t feel so good try writing these things out in the format of, ‘From this experience I learnt …I take this learning forward and let go of the rest.’

Finally take time to finish the following statements based on what came up for you in this exercise.

  1. In my career so far, I am most grateful for…
  2. My biggest strength is…
  3. Doing work where I can…brings me the most joy and happiness
  4. For the next 12 months of my career I commit to…

As you reflect on this and think about your career, be kind to yourself and forgive any missteps because it might feel like there have been a few. Hopefully, you’ll see that these experiences have been ones that have given you the biggest learnings and enabled you to grow.

Your timeline should show you that your career is a journey and one to be explored and enjoyed. So, take some time to enjoy the occasional detour on the route to your destination and know that you can always choose again and take what you have learnt forwards in a different direction if you’ve found yourself stuck in a dead end. You never know when what you’re learning now will come in handy.

I still use many of the skills and experiences that I picked up in my first job today, although of course they’re now applied in a slightly different way and in a different context.

So, lift your head up, push your shoulders back and look forwards and in the direction that you want to go.

You got this!

Karen Beaven is an HR director, strategist and author.

Wellbeing columns from Karen Beaven are part of a series of columns appearing in the print issue of HR magazine. The piece above originally appears in the July/August issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.