Looking back may help you to see forward

In my work as a coach I often meet people who are struggling with their career progression, and especially what direction to take. A lot of questions are in the air: What would be a good way for me to move forward? Should I move to another role/organization/business? What is the next step? And then there is the big question: What do I want? All these questions are very important, but looking just forward may leave the picture unfinished and vague.

It may sound a bit strange, but what might clarify the thoughts around the future aspirations is looking back. Yes, looking back and exploring how you became what and where you are today may enhance your self-awareness and help you to formulate more precisely what you want from the future. Understanding your past enables you also to put your current situation in context.

So how to ‘look back’, what does it mean? Here are some examples of viewpoints you could take. You can start from your early experiences, for example what was the education you chose and why. What kind of jobs have you had? What has helped you to find your previous jobs? What have been your ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ in your career? What has proved to be successful for you, what not, and why? What/who has helped you to succeed? What have you enjoyed the most, and what the least? What were the differences between the jobs/tasks you enjoyed and those you didn’t? What impact has other aspects of your life (family, hobbies, …) had on your career progression so far?

One good way to bring this all together is to draw a picture or time-line of your life and career so far. Exploring your picture may bring new findings and thoughts. If you share your story with somebody you trust you may get more insights. With these insights about yourself you will have a more solid basis to start to formulate your future career aspirations. So what is your story?