Career Journaling for Success

If you’re anything like me, the hardest part about applying for a new job is writing a cover letter and preparing for an interview. It’s not the writing or the talking per se, but trying to remember the crucial aspects of my work experience. When it comes time for my yearly review, I sometimes struggle […]

career journaling, Hardly

If you’re anything like me, the hardest part about applying for a new job is writing a cover letter and preparing for an interview. It’s not the writing or the talking per se, but trying to remember the crucial aspects of my work experience. When it comes time for my yearly review, I sometimes struggle to come up with my successes, professional goals, or what I would have done differently. 


The good news is there’s a solution: career journaling. 


A career journal is not simply a diary about work. While documenting office gossip might be entertaining, the point of a career journal is to keep track of your good ideas, contributions to projects, and expectations. For this reason, many find career journals to be the least expensive and easiest form of career development. Hardly recently rolled out a new feature on our app: the Time Capsule, which makes career journaling easier than ever. Below are some tips on how to use it to your advantage.

STAR stories

career journaling, Hardly

One of the most important aspects of a career journal is logging your STAR stories. The Muse states that the STAR method is used for behavioral interview questions. These are questions that usually start with “tell me about a time when…” or “what do you do when…” and center around how you handled a situation in the past. Often answering these questions on the spot can result in rambling or a tangent that misses the mark. The STAR method enables you to answer these questions in a compelling and clear way so that your story hits the nail on the head. So what does STAR stand for?


Situation: Start with a situation. Here your goal is to set the scene and give just enough details so that the interviewer can paint a picture in their mind.


Task: Second, discuss what your role or responsibility was in the situation you just described.


Action: Third, it’s time to shine. Talk about how you reacted and give a play-by-play of how you addressed the situation.


Result: Share what your actions achieved. This will wrap up your story in a perfect bow and drive home the point you are trying to make.


This method will make your answers to these questions focused and signal to the interviewer your thoughts are well-organized which helps you come off prepared and polished. By journaling these stories in this format you will become intimately familiar with them. The more familiar you are, the more confident you will become telling them. Not only do STAR stories help you prepare for interview questions and yearly reviews, but they also keep you positive about your progress. Sometimes it is hard to recognize our strengths daily or remember times when we really nailed it. Reflecting on these wins can provide a morale boost when the going gets tough. I promise, writing and reviewing these stellar stories is the key success.

Lessons learned

career journaling, Hardly

The next set of items you should keep in your journal are lessons you’ve learned. This is a place where you can dive into opportunities for improvement or take note of why you excelled. Lessons can be learned in a variety of work areas from technical aspects of the job to relational ones. They can come from both positive and and negative experiences. Taking the time to analyze the “why” of successes and failures can provide a playbook for acing the task every time and help you avoid repeating mistakes in the future. The less time you spend relearning lessons, the more you can set yourself up for greater professional success.


career journaling, Hardly

We all know keeping track of our professional goals is important, but do we actually do it? Probably not as frequently as we should. Many of us are encouraged to write smart goals right around our yearly review but other than that, we have little idea if we are getting closer to where we want to be or staying stagnant. Maintaining a career journal can jolt us into thinking more broadly about our careers. So often we can get sidetracked or fall into what is comfortable instead of pushing ourselves. Many of us also get weighed down in the minutia and can’t remember our purpose for work. 


Goal setting can help increase our intrinsic motivation and prevent burnout. By journaling, you can connect the work you are doing now to what you want to do in the future. An article referencing Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky states that spending 20 minutes a day writing a narrative description of your best possible future self can help cultivate optimism and an overall sense of happiness. Journaling your goals will not only document where you want to go, but how you are going to get there. This is hugely helpful when looking for a new job position and thinking about whether the position you are applying for will propel you forward or not.

Good advice & good ideas

career journaling, Hardly

My husband always talks about how midshipmen at the Naval Academy are taught to keep a reflective journal noting the words and actions they like and dislike of officers. The purpose of this is to encourage those in training to become the officers they would want to be led by. Similarly, your career journal can serve as a place to keep wise words of mentors and good ideas of your own. Being able to remember the valuable advice of a boss or colleague is priceless. Referencing their words can serve as inspiration and even be passed on to a mentee of your own someday. 


Additionally, there is nothing worse than racking your brain trying to recall the great idea you had when you need it most. Your career journal is a convenient way to keep track of solutions that come to mind as you lay in bed and share them with your boss or team the next day.

Our time capsule

career journaling, Hardly

On the Hardly app, you can easily document all of the above as well as your experience at work. The Hardly career Time Capsule allows you to organize and search your work stories so that they are easy to access for interviews and yearly reviews. It also allows you to flag certain entries to be emailed to you in the future so you can gain perspective on how far you’ve come in your career journey.  Lastly, the Time Capsule will take your career journaling to the next level by serving as a more personal place for you to reflect on your work-life balance, reflect on what’s going right in your career, and vent about your current workplace frustrations. Documenting your work experiences can actually be a great form of self-care and reduce stress according to the HECEC at Cornell University


Let us know what other functions you would find helpful as a part of your career journaling toolkit and try our Time Capsule out for yourself at

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