A creative technique to help you reflect on your learning journey

What skills do you need to have a positive career?


Image by Manfred Steger from Pixabay

There are six career development skills that we all need to have positive careers (CDI, 2020). You can find out what they are here: https://www.thecdi.net/write/CD1_85-Framework_poster-web.pdf or scroll down to see them below.

This post focuses on one of these skills in particular: ‘Grow throughout life by learning and reflecting on yourself, your background, and your strengths’. 

Reflecting on yourself and where you have come from can be a useful way to see how far you’ve come and to think about what the future may hold.

The video below shows one way you can approach this kind of reflection. My video focuses on my learning to date, but you could use it to make sense of other aspects of your career story or identity, including your experience or your strengths. You may wish to talk through your thoughts and feelings after with a qualified careers professional (details below).

When I first tried this technique in one of Dr. Barbara Bassot’s Transforming Practice through Critical Reflection (TPCR) sessions, I remember feeling really surprised about what came out of me. The creative approach uncovered thoughts and emotions I had not consciously realised. I still use this exercise today to reflect on my learning and career. Thoughts, feelings, and situations change, so it’s worth revisiting. I regularly use this exercise with my clients. I’m sharing today in case it’s useful to you too.

Even if you can’t draw (like me), don’t let it stop you.

Creative techniques like drawing can draw out feelings and reactions that you didn’t previously consciously recognise before.

Reflecting on my reflection.

Looking back on this reflection, I realised at this time I was thinking about the places I studied and the qualifications I gained. But this wasn’t the only way I learnt. In the time I described as a down time in my learning journey, I learnt: 

  • How to do a Tesco shop with an 18-month-old and a newborn
  • How to adjust to working at home
  • How to cook
  • How to balance and share my time when it seemed in short supply
  • How to manage the unexpected
  • How to set up a business
  • And much more! 

Learning does not just happen via courses or in schools, colleges, or universities.

It can happen in all sorts of ways – on the job, through life experience, via our hobbies and interests, through media and reading, and through interactions with others. It happens throughout our lives. 

It can be fast or slow. It can be hard or easy. It can happen when we seek it out, and when we don’t. Sometimes we realise we have learnt something straight away, other times it takes a period of time (days, months, years) to process and recognise what we have learnt. 

Reflecting on our journey so far can be powerful and revealing. It can help you to move forward and consider what is next for you.  

Are you up for giving it a go? 

If you do give this a try, talking it through with a Registered Career Development Professional (RCDP) can help.

You can book a personal career guidance session with me, or browse the CDI’s listing of Registered Career Development Professionals who are qualified to provide personal careers guidance/coaching. 



Bassot, B. (2016) ‘TPCR 1b Experiences of learning’ [PowerPoint presentation]. MACM TPCR module.  

CDI (2021) Career development framework: How to have the career that you want. Available at: https://www.thecdi.net/write/CD1_85-Framework_poster-web.pdf (Accessed: 13 May 2021). 

Hambly, L. and Bomford, C. (2018) Creative Career Coaching: Theory into Practice. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. 


Job Search Strategy Call


Just starting your job search?

Unsure where to search for opportunities?

Or job searching for a while and find you are hitting a wall?

Fed up with looking in the same places, without success?

Keen to find new sources of jobs?

Losing heart with applying for advertised roles and never hearing anything back?

 Pause for a minute.

Maybe it’s time to reflect and reframe.

A job search strategy call can help. The meeting is focused on you, and will be tailored to meet your needs.

We can start by talking through:

  • What you are looking for
  • Where you are currently looking
  • How your current strategy is working for you

Once we have laid the foundations, we can agree an agenda for the rest of the call, ensuring you get the answers you need to move forward.

For example, we could use our time together to discuss:

  • Where else you can go to find advertised roles
  • How you can access the hidden job market to support your career goals
  • Growing your network to facilitate your job search
  • Using social media sites for job search
  • The tools you will need to apply (e.g. CV, LinkedIn profile, cover letter, application form competency examples)

It might be that you’d prefer to cover something else related to your job search. That’s fine. You can decide.

Your call will last around 45 minutes and after the session you will receive links and resources to help you move forward.

Sound good? Place an order, and email me at lis@sunrisecareerguidance.co.uk to arrange our call.

Client Testimonial, June 2020

A client testimonial, June 2020

I was touched to receive this testimonial from a client. It is a pleasure and privilege to work with others as they think about their career. 

“If you are ready for a big, bold career move, want careers advice, guidance on how to create an awesome credible, compelling, shining CV, or simply want to discuss tools and mechanisms to promote yourself or your business, then I cannot recommend Lis McGuire highly enough.”


My Personal Career Guidance Story

I am a 49-year-old, retiring Police Sergeant, who has had a successful 30-year-long career in the Police, still willing and ready to work but one that had never written a CV before and one that has not had to consider ‘careers advice and guidance’ for some significant time.

However, having engaged with Lis over a number of weeks, I now realise the assets I have accrued during my career.

It is through my interaction with Lis that has helped me ‘identify, extract, discuss and assist’ me in my exploration and reorientation for future careers and in the development and evolution in what I can only describe as a professional, concise yet compelling CV, which I am extremely proud of, as it tells my story, with purpose and direction, and an almost guarantee of being noticed, when tendered for employment. 

When I discussed leaving the service with Lis, she readily identified my anxieties and disorientation and offered me the services she proudly provides, without any hard sell or pressure. I know of others too, that she has assisted and helped, who are now going on to newer and exciting things.

I had no idea of how to ‘crunch’ 30 years in to 2 pages of A4, or how to ‘identify and showcase all of my skills and abilities’ or even how to identify the type of new employment I fancied, let alone where to look and apply!

Lis took me on a journey of exploration, through 1-2-1 phone meetings, email conversations and even being flexible in her approach to arrange a 1-2-1, Covid-19 social distanced meeting.

The meetings have proven to be priceless.

In no time at all, the anxieties have been replaced with feelings of excitement and an openness about what lies ahead, with little to no fear.

Why? Lis that’s why, her intervention with me has opened my mind up to a whole range of potential working fields and also how to find the opportunities, what I need to apply for them, how to apply and the icing on the cake?.. a fantastic, powerful CV that will definitely open some doors.

Furthermore, a revitalised confidence in myself and recognition of what I am about, in order to do this. Having worked through my CV with Lis, I know it will make me aim high, stand tall and get spotted.

To conclude, a few personal words that describe Lis.. professional, confidential, encouraging, supportive, dynamic, hard-working, focussed, determined, patient, kind, knowledgeable, effective, understanding, realistic, interested, passionate, flexible, charismatic, credible, motivated, enthusiastic, efficient…  

I cannot thank Lis enough. I cannot recommend her highly enough. An absolute find.” 

Find out more about what you can expect from a personal career guidance meeting with Sunrise Career Guidance here.

You can also read other client testimonials on my LinkedIn profile. Please visit the Recommendations section.

What is personal career guidance, anyway?

What is personal career guidance, anyway?



Before writing this blog, I spent a little time choosing the images on the left here, to reflect on what personal career guidance means to me.

I was drawn to these images because personal career guidance provides opportunities to:

  • Pause, look back, assess your current situation, and look forward to the future
  • Unlock and express career ideas
  • Discover, discuss, and evaluate potential career choices
  • Think about where you are heading and the steps and resources you need to get there

Personal career guidance offers much more than this, but these are the images that sprang to my mind. I thought it was worth sharing my rationale for my picture choice before I explain more about personal career guidance and what it can do for you.


Before defining and describing the benefits of personal career guidance, I want to share with you what I believe ‘career’ to be.

Not everyone believes they have a career. They might think they have a job or a series of jobs, or do work to make money. They might think that ‘career’ is a word that applies to people with a plan, who work in a well-known profession, or who have made a series of logical steps towards a long-defined goal.

I don’t believe this.

I believe that career is a word we can all use about how we spend our time, however we occupy it. Whether we spend our days learning, working, caring for others, contributing to our communities, or seeking our next opportunity, career is our word – a word we can use to describe our “journey through life, learning and work” (Hooley, 2017).

Whatever we do, we all have careers. Careers come in many shapes and forms. They are as individual as we are.

I believe that as we all have careers, we can all benefit from personal career guidance.

What is personal career guidance?

Personal career guidance is one activity within the career guidance family (CEC, 2018).

The Inter-Agency Working Group on Work-based Learning (WBL) (2019) defines career guidance as “services which help people of any age to manage their careers and to make the educational, training and occupational choices that are right for them”. WBL explains that career guidance can help “people to reflect on their ambitions, interests, qualifications, skills and talents – and to relate this knowledge about who they are to who they might become within the labour market”. 

Hooley, Sultana, and Thomsen (2020) describe career guidance as “a purposeful learning opportunity which supports individuals and groups to consider and reconsider work, leisure and learning in the light of new information and experiences and to take both individual and collective action as a result of this”.

Personal career guidance is one method of delivering career guidance. It takes place on a one-to-one basis through a structured conversion between you as the client and a qualified careers professional (Stewart, 2019), who can walk alongside you and support you in this important reflective space.

Why is personal career guidance useful?

In a fast-changing volatile context, we can’t necessarily assume we will make and then execute one career plan.

Even if we know ourselves well enough at the start of our career to make an informed and appropriate career choice – I certainly didn’t – life happens, things change, and plans don’t always go according to schedule or turn out how we think.

The world around us is constantly changing, throwing up the unexpected, requiring us to adapt and change while still moving forward. In light of this, our plans may need to change too, or at least adjust.

It’s not just the world that changes. We change too. I don’t know about you, but I am not the exact same person I was at 17, when I was making decisions about my future. My core values are the same, but my experiences have evolved how I think, what I want, and how I want to spend my time.

As we change, and the world around us changes, it makes sense that we may need support to navigate and manage our careers.

How can personal career guidance help you?

Talking things through on a one-to-one basis with a career guidance professional can help you to get clear on:

  • Who you are now (skills, qualities, strengths, interests, preferred learning style, decision-making style)
  • What is important to you now (interests, motivations, values)
  • What you want now (aspirations, goals)
  • What is possible now (opportunities, factors impacting career choice) 

A personal career guidance meeting can help you to:

  • Unlock, explore, and review your career ideas
  • Identify career goals that align with your skills, qualities, interests, and values
  • Discuss any limiting assumptions that may be impacting your career choices
  • Evaluate any skill gaps and make realistic plans to deal with them
  • Identify and address your career information needs
  • Find and access relevant sources of labour market information (LMI)
  • Make confident, well-informed, and realistic career decisions

What to expect from a personal career guidance meeting

Your personal career guidance meeting is a confidential, impartial, and non-judgemental space for you to explore and review your career options. It is focused on you and tailored to your personal needs.

It is a chance to think about where you are now, where you want to go, and what happens in between. It offers you space to think about the steps you need to take to move forward, and to identify the tools and resources you need for your journey. These might include self-awareness, the right mindset, qualifications, skills and qualities, experiences, decision-making skills, labour market information (LMI), a CV, LinkedIn profile, and your support network, for example. Career guidance can help you check what you have and identify what else you might need.

It is not just a packing exercise, however. Career guidance can identify and help you address barriers preventing you from progressing. It can help you understand yourself and your story better, preparing you to move forward. It can open your mind to new possibilities, and give you the confidence and positivity to embrace those possibilities.

Although the word ‘guidance’ may conjure images of someone leading you or telling you what to do, a good career guidance meeting is not and will never be about someone telling you what to do. You have the best insight on yourself, your situation, and possible solutions to that situation. As I mentioned at the start, the career guidance professional’s role is to work alongside you, helping you to explore and review options, clarify your goals, and plan for next steps.

You can find out more about what you can expect from a personal career guidance meeting with Sunrise Career Guidance here.

Reference List

Hooley, T. (2017) ’Redefining Career Guidance: Is it time to move on beyond the OECD definition?’ [PowerPoint presentation]. Symposium at #BERA2017. Available at: https://adventuresincareerdevelopment.wordpress.com/2017/09/06/redefining-career-guidance-bera2017/ (Accessed: 7 August 2020).

Hooley, T., Sultana, R., and Thomsen, R. (2020) Why a social justice informed approach to career guidance matters in the time of coronavirus. Available at: https://careerguidancesocialjustice.wordpress.com/2020/03/23/why-a-social-justice-informed-approach-to-career-guidance-matters-in-the-time-of-coronavirus/ (Accessed: 7 August 2020).

Stewart, M. (2019) Briefing Paper: Understanding the role of the Careers Adviser within ‘Personal Guidance’. Available at: https://www.thecdi.net/write/CDI_27-Briefing-_Personal_Guidance-_FINAL.pdf (Accessed: 7 August 2020).

The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) (2018) Personal Guidance: What Works? Available at: https://www.careersandenterprise.co.uk/sites/default/files/uploaded/1146_what_works_-_personal_guidance_digital_15-11-2018.pdf (Accessed: 7 August 2020).

The Inter-Agency Working Group on Work-based Learning (WBL) (2019) Investing in career guidance. Available at https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/2227_en.pdf (Accessed: 7 August 2020).

Preparing to write your UCAS statement? Check out these tips for further reading…


Further (or wider) reading – reading beyond the texts specified within your current course syllabus – has many benefits. It can:

  • Extend your subject knowledge
  • Build your skills as an independent learner
  • Test the depth of your interest in a subject before you commit to further study

If you are applying to university, you can also reference further reading in your personal statement, using your self-led learning to demonstrate the depth and focus of your interest in a particular subject matter.

Writing about what you have learnt beyond the syllabus can show you are genuinely interested in a subject and can be used to show the reader precisely what your interests are.

There is no perfect formula, or roadmap, for wider reading. Be curious, follow your interests and see where they lead you.

Even if you are aiming to study the same subject as your friends, what interests them may differ from what interests you, and so it’s best to see what captures and holds your attention rather than working from a prescriptive list.

However, students often tell me they don’t know where to start.

These tips may help.


Oxford’s Very Short Introductions series 

With almost 700 titles in the series, the A Very Short Introduction books offer an accessible introduction into diverse topics, ranging from accounting and advertising through to refugees, renaissance art, and reptiles. Whatever you are planning to study next, it is worth checking out Oxford’s extensive publication list to see what catches your eye. If a topic or sub-topic captures your attention, use the references supplied to identify your next read.


Subject-related magazines 

Reading a subject-related magazine can help you to broaden your knowledge and interests. Examples include The Economist, BBC History, New Scientist, History Today, and Empire, although there are many more. Your local council website (e.g. Kent County Council may feature details of local eLibrary services, which offer online access to thousands of titles. PressReader’s catalogue is one place that you can browse and locate subject-specific titles and you can avail of a free trial before subscribing to the service.


University reading lists

Universities sometimes feature reading lists on their undergraduate course pages, and these can provide a helpful starting point for your reading. If the provider you are considering does not have a reading list, you might look at other providers for inspiration. Here is one example I found: https://www.geog.ox.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/reading-list.html


Professional bodies, societies, and trade associations

If your target subject links to a specific profession (e.g. law, medicine, engineering, project management), you might consider visiting the website for the trade association, professional body, or society. These organisations often feature blogs, magazines, videos, and webinars that can help you to explore your subject of interest. For example, the Royal Aeronautical Society publishes Career Flightpath magazine, and you can download copies for free online here. You can use the Prospects website job profiles and National Careers Service job profiles to locate professional organisations linked to specific jobs. UK ECC Services offers a useful list of associations/bodies and their websites. I have included some additional links to societies and council websites here:


Specialist careers websites 

A quick Google search on your subject of interest and the word ‘careers’ will likely return options for sites offering content linked to your chosen subject. Before using any site, check out who is behind the site, how credible it appears, and how recently the content was updated. Here are some of the specialist careers sites that I regularly use:



Further ‘reading’ is not the only way to explore and extend your interests. Volunteering, work experience, virtual internship programmes, and informational interviews are just some of the ways you can build and evidence your interests and skills. You could also try:


Lectures, talks, and virtual tours 

If you prefer watching to reading, that’s fine too. We are individuals, and the way we learn isn’t the same for each and every person. It’s not the medium that counts, anyway. It’s the learning. 

You might want to start by watching one of the brilliant TED talks or by visiting Learn Lounge. You could also use YouTube or iTunes to search for videos or podcasts by people already working in your target sector, company, or area of interest. https://lectures.london also features a calendar of lectures and webinars from leading institutions in one handy list. You might even be interested in a virtual tour of a museum or an art gallery.


Massive open online courses (MOOCs)

Studying one of the many free online courses is a great way to further your knowledge and interests. They can help you to discover more about your target subject or to find a specific area of interest to explore.

There are so many to choose from, and courses can be completed at a manageable pace that suits you. My World of Work offers a useful roundup of online course providers. I have personally referred students I work with to the following sites: 

Choose one of these places, or visit a few to start your journey, or use it as inspiration to find your own… the choice is yours. Follow your interests, read or listen to what you enjoy, and once you start, you may find that one activity leads to the next. If the author or speaker makes a point or reference that interests you, follow your nose, see where it can take you.



It can be helpful to reflect on what you read, learn, or do to understand what you gained from doing it. Whatever you do, it’s a good idea to make brief notes on:

  • What motivated you to read/do it? What interested you about it? Why did you pick it up? What did you hope to learn?
  • What were your main takeaways? What did you find out?
  • Was there anything you discovered that intrigued you? Or anything that you disagreed with?
  • Did this activity lead you to anything else in your further reading journey? 

These notes will provide useful points that you can weave into your personal statement.

UCAS offers useful tips on how to write your personal statement here.



“Be careful about mentioning specific titles/authors/articles in a personal statement that you haven’t really read or read in much depth as some universities (including Oxbridge) will use this as the basis of an interview question.”

Victoria Geary, https://victoriagearycareers.co.uk/ 


“If you are still in school, consider if and how your extended learning links to your studies. Does what you read support, complement, extend, or contradict your learning so far? If so, how? Reflecting on this will help you to craft a strong personal statement.”

Liz Reece, http://lizreececareers.co.uk/