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Ask the right questions if you’re going to find the right answers.
– Vanessa Redgrave

I love the end of the year. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the fact that I’ve weathered yet another 12 months of life’s challenges. Some days I’ve handled things brilliantly, other days not so much. But it’s a great time to reflect on where you’ve been, and where you’d like to head next. I do that by asking myself a series of questions and noting the answers in my career journal. Here’s how I approach these questions:


Start with an understanding of what you’ve already accomplished.  These can be major accomplishment or small wins – both are worth noting and celebrating. So ask yourself:

  • What did I try?
  • What did I learn?
  • With whom did I build a relationship?
  • What passion did I discover?
  • What person did I admire, and why?
  • What did I give?
  • How did I grow?
  • What did I let go of?

Think about what you’d like to accomplish in the coming year, and how you’ll do that. Yep, no matter what plans you make, at least some of them are pretty likely to get derailed. But having a solid set of target goals in place will help get you closer to what you want the coming year to provide. These questions will help:

  • What new activity will I try? When?
  • What new knowledge will I gain? How?
  • What person would I like to get to know, or know better?
  • Is there something new I’d like to explore?
  • Are there individuals (within or outside of the profession) I’d like to learn more about?
  • What/how would I like to contribute?

A year of embracing questions – and answers

The reality is that with all of these, it may be that you won’t know specifically what you’ll be able to learn or try out or explore or contribute until life presents you with unanticipated, unforeseen opportunities. But having these goals in mind will help you recognize when those surprise moments present themselves – and simply being aware is a great (and highly underrated) career skill.

American author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston wisely observed in Their Eyes Were Watching God “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”

To paraphrase Ms. Hurston, most of our years end up presenting many questions, numerous revelations, and a few answers if we’re lucky.

But that’s not bad – the questions reflect our willingness to grow, the revelations evidence our openness to new knowledge, and the answers when they arrive remind us that every year we get just a little bit better at this LIS career stuff….