University Career Center

A woman thinking

One of the things I most enjoy about winter break is it gives me time to think. As I experience the end of another semester (and the hectic nature of it) I must remind myself to take a deep breath (or several) and reflect on the course of it. What went well this semester? What did I do, and more importantly what did I learn about myself by doing it? What skills did I strengthen, and when did I stretch myself or find I was outside of my comfort zone? Taking time to answer these questions ensures that I am not just-moving on to the next thing-but rather am taking stock of what's been, how it has shaped who I am, and how it impacts where I am heading.

Although we may think this comes naturally experts agree it actually does not. We must make explicit time and space to reflect on our doing!

Now that you too are on break I encourage you to find time and space to do some of your own thinking. For some of you it may mean identifying a physical space for contemplation. For others it may mean writing your thoughts. No matter what, this is a ripe time for reflecting on your semester. Here are four useful prompts to get you started:

  • What did you learn about yourself in the fall semester? How did your experiences in and out of the classroom shape that learning?
  • How is what you're studying connected or related to what you are doing (or want to do) outside of the classroom? As you survey your experiences what themes do you notice about them and in turn about you? 
  • How did you strengthen a skill, value, or capacity in the fall semester? What experience(s) represent that strengthening and why? 
  • What do you know about yourself after the fall semester you did not know before? What kind of a-ha moments have you had and what do they mean in terms of your plans for next semester or beyond? 

Believe me there are times over break when I'd rather take a nap than do the deep thinking I know is necessary; however by planning my thinking time and deliberately doing it, I not only become a richer, integrated, more articulate self but I use my other ample time to relax, rejuvenate, and frankly have fun. I strongly recommend all of you do the same! 

Photo credit: Geecy / CC BY 2.0