Reflective Questions for Career and Life Improvement

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 16, 2022 | Published December 7, 2021

Updated June 16, 2022

Published December 7, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Reflecting is a powerful tool for growth in both your personal and professional life. Not only can it help you understand your underlying motivations and past decisions, but it can also help you make smarter career choices and work better in team dynamics. Understanding where to begin your thinking can help you create an easier process for problem-solving and conflict resolution. In this article, we define a reflective question, provide an overview of its benefits, and go over examples of how it can help shape your career.

What are reflective questions?

Reflective questions are a valuable and positive tool for thinking about past, current, and future experiences more in-depth. When you ask yourself a reflective question, you are helping yourself process and sort through your thoughts and feelings. Reflecting on something you did in the past can turn it into a valuable learning experience, and it can also make your future goals feel more attainable. Reflecting can be especially beneficial in potentially stressful situations, such as switching career paths or moving to a new location.

What are the benefits of reflective questions?

There are great benefits to examining your thoughts and then reflecting on them, ranging from improving your mindset to identifying your strengths. These are among some of the most rewarding benefits:

  • Reducing negative thoughts: Introspection can help you reduce negative thoughts and identify potential problems you are facing. While reflecting, you may be able to come up with ideas on how to improve your situation.

  • Increasing your understanding of yourself and others: You might learn more about your emotional responses or the effects of your actions on the people around you.

  • Emphasizing your strengths and improving your weaknesses: When you reach a goal or overcome a problem, you can reflect on which strengths made that possible. Similarly, if you're having difficulty reaching a goal or you cannot find a solution, you can identify which weaknesses are hindering you and work towards improving them.

  • Defining professional goals and being strategic with opportunities for growth: Reflecting is a great way to narrow down your goals into specific, achievable, and easy-to-follow steps. For example, if you are interested in a promotion that is about to become available at work, then you may work on extra tasks or show up a little earlier for your shift to show initiative.

  • Developing creative thinking and problem-solving skills: When you reflect on a situation, you can increase your chances of developing new ideas you can use to solve it.

  • Building confidence: Reflecting on the goals and achievements that you have accomplished can help you develop your confidence in the workplace and increase your morale.

Related: Interview Question: "What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?"

The Five Ws

One effective way to be more self-aware is to ask yourself these six descriptive questions in a manner that is relevant to your current situation. Answering these questions below can give you a detailed perspective:

  • What: This helps you localize the event or action that happened. It might also refer to important objects or specific details.

  • When: This supplies the time and date. Establishing the timeframe of a problem in a workplace can make it easier to keep track of other relevant factors, such as who was working on the day of the incident.

  • Who: This identifies the subject and any other people affected by the situation. It's important to account for every involved party, including coworkers and clients.

  • Where: This provides the location. If you work for a large company with many departments or different locations within a city, then it's important to determine which specific department or location your situation applies to.

  • Why: This often refers to what caused the situation. Understanding why the situation happened is a significant step towards discovering a solution that works for everybody involved.

  • How: This highlights which specific details made your situation possible. For example, establishing how a problem occurred can be extremely useful when explaining it to your boss.

Ten example questions for reflecting on your career

Reflecting is important at any stage in your career or life in general. These are ten example questions you can apply to past, current, or future workplace situations:

1. What would you have done differently in the past year?

Taking the time to re-evaluate past actions can prevent you from repeating limiting behaviours in the future. For example, if you successfully completed a project but struggled to cooperate with your teammates, consider steps that might have helped you work together more effectively. Now that you have had time away from the situation, you might be able to formulate an objective opinion that can benefit you in the future as you participate in more group work.

Related: How to Become an Effective Communicator

2. What has been one of the most challenging parts of your job?

Reflecting on challenging moments at work can turn a once stressful situation into a positive learning experience. You can attempt to understand any underlying limitations that made this part of your job challenging. For example, if you struggle with sudden and unexpected changes to deadlines or procedures, you can strategize effective ways to manage frustration or build better time-management skills.

3. How have you improved in your work habits?

Questions like this one have a more positive focus and give you an opportunity to acknowledge key areas where you achieved professional and personal success. You might have noticed that you have excellent punctuality or work exceptionally well with others. Take a moment to reflect on the situations that sharpened these professional skills.

4. Have you maintained a good work-life balance this year?

It's important to find a balance between your career and hobbies outside of work. Not only can this make you more productive and efficient in the workplace, but it can also make you happier and more satisfied overall in your career. If you feel you lack this balance, then reflect on possible changes you can make to better distribute your time.

Related: 20 Best Jobs for Great Work-Life Balance

5. What can you do to prepare for your upcoming projects?

It's much easier to guarantee a successful project if you give the appropriate amount of planning, time, and preparation to it. Consider outlining a step-by-step process to keep you organized. This is a great reflective question whether you are preparing for your first project and wish to make a lasting impression or are aiming to improve upon your organizational methods overall.

6. How can you be more productive at work?

It's important to be focused and task-oriented while you are on the job. Consider distractions that you can reduce or remove entirely, such as decluttering your workspace or silencing cellphone notifications. Putting aside time for breaks beforehand is an excellent way to build discipline and motivate you to complete tasks in a pre-planned timeframe.

7. How does your work style differ from your coworkers?

Diverse work styles can create a lot of room for growth in a workplace, which allows unique ideas and perspectives to co-exist. It becomes important to understand how your style differs from your coworkers to maximize productivity. It can also be beneficial for avoiding conflict.

8. Which parts of your job do you enjoy the most? Which parts do you enjoy the least?

Making this distinction can help you discover where your passions lie at work. Consider factors such as work environment, hours, company culture, and devotion to tasks. Creating a career around what you love and genuinely enjoy doing can help you develop a more successful and happier life.

9. Which work relationships need improvement? What steps can you take to make them better?

Conflict between coworkers can decrease productivity and potentially create an uncomfortable work environment for everybody. Reflect on how any past or current conflicts arose. For example, you may reflect on how you could have handled a workplace conflict differently. Or, if it was unavoidable, identify if there are any steps that you could have taken to improve the situation. After, you may consider different modes of healthier and more productive communication you can use to avoid conflict in the future.

Related: Eight Steps for Conflict Resolution at Work

10. What are your professional goals?

Arrange your goals into short-term and long-term. Short-term career goals can improve work habits such as focus and discipline because they are easier to achieve and tend to produce quicker results. Long-term goals, in contrast, are a great way to plan out your hopes and aspirations. Also, seeing them written down can help you make smarter choices in your career to accomplish them.

Explore more articles