Think back to when you were a young teen, complete with braces and pimples. Negotiating the tough school hallways and interactions with peers, you needed a safe place, a journal, to process all of the social challenges coming your way and share your hopes for the future.

So you started a diary, furtively writing daily and keeping it hidden away from your family and friends. And over time, in writing down your thoughts and reading over what you wrote, your teenage world became just a little bit clearer and less scary.

Well, now you’re all grown up (and hopefully the braces and pimples are long behind you!)  You can still use a diary — now called a journal —for your career, and reap the career benefits as you once did the same for your adolescent social scene.

How can journaling help your career? It enables you to leverage your musings over time to gain perspective and spark new ideas. Read on to learn about when, how, and why to journal.

blank journalWhen You Should Journal

1.During a Job Search. There are many ways a journal can propel your job hunt forward.  You can use your journal to set weekly goals, document interview experiences, and share the emotional ups and downs of looking for a job.

2.When Climbing the Career Ladder. In your journal, you can analyze what did or didn’t work in a particular workplace situation. You can also set goals and action items to achieve a promotion, earn a raise, or attain greater visibility within your company or industry.

At whatever point you happen to be in your career, your journal can serve many purposes. While the overarching goal remains your professional self-improvement, you will find there are many ways to accomplish this.

Here are seven of them:

1.Build your career/brand SWOT (strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats) analysis in your journal.

2.Collect items you’ll want to refer to later — quotes, career websites, book titles, skills, references, desired job titles, courses to take….really, anything at all that pertains to your career.

3.Learn where your passion lies, as well as what you don’t like doing, simply by thinking over these preferences and writing them down.

4.Include new skills or knowledge you have gained.

5.Set specific career goals for one, five, or ten years in the future.

6.Sketch out articles for brand visibility.

7.Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm!

But So What? And What’s In it For Me?

woman writes in journalAs you write down your thoughts, you reflect more creatively and thoroughly than if you just kept thoughts in your head. Different ideas often bubble up to the surface while you write, once you see your thoughts or experiences in black and white.

Also, your journal provides you with a written chronicle of your goals, plans, and dreams. You can create a plan, then return to your journal six months or a year later to see what you’ve accomplished.

You may even find that your journal provides you with insight that can augment and complement that which you gain from your career coach! You may want to bring your journal to appointments to discuss journal entries with your coach and gain his/her feedback.

Journaling will benefit you the most if you to commit to writing regularly – ideally, daily or every other day for at least a month, to establish a pattern. It is also helpful if you can jot down ideas as soon as they occur to you, though this may be challenging while at work.

Remember, a journal can be filled with more than words. If you’re a visual person, you may choose to doodle or make a collage with pictures you find. Your journal should work for you. So take these tips and journal your way to fulfilling your next career goal!