Looking For a New Job? Keep a Journal!


Finding a new job entails searching, but it also demands reflection. Process your ideas, intentions, anxieties and aspirations through keeping a daily journal.

Journals are a staple of transformational work. If you have used journals to help you lose weight, to track a business project, or simply to document a particular period in your life, you know the power of the regular practice of just sitting down to write. It is an exquisitely safe and personal process that can also be a powerful tool in helping you get a new job.

Strategy #15 – Keep a Reinvention Journal

Your Reinvention Journal will serve as a collection vessel to help your mind begin releasing the valuable inspiration that has been locked up inside you for years. Think of it as your connection to a well of information and insight that already knows what your new job is going to be and is carefully guiding you there. Rather than a space to detail specific ideas or analyze issues of logistics or strategy, it is an opportunity for your imagination to run wild. Later, you’ll take the valuable ideas that pop up and use other tools to turn them into concrete plans, agendas, schedules, and programs.

Starting your Reinvention Journal is easy. First, pick out a notebook you find pleasing to look at, one that you will feel drawn to write in every day. If you’re feeling a bit intimidated by the idea of keeping a journal, look for one in a format that feels comfortable and won’t overwhelm you—perhaps one with 6×9-inch or 5×8-inch pages and with wide spacing.

The prescription:

Write two pages per day, in longhand, with a pen. (You may find that as you get into the process you want to write longer entries, but to get started, two pages is plenty.) Write at the same time every day; make it a ritual. It doesn’t matter whether you write in the morning, afternoon, or evening. You can write before you go to bed, when you wake up, after you work out at the gym, before or after lunch. What matters is consistency. If you don’t choose and maintain a specific time window to write in, you will tend to fall off track and will start missing days.

The content:

Even though this is your Reinvention Journal, you may find yourself, particularly at the beginning, actually writing about everything but your new job. Just start off with whatever is most present for you at that moment. If you’re just waking up, you could write about a dream you had or about your feelings about your schedule for the upcoming day. If you’re writing at night or the end of the day, you can write about what happened that day, including wins, losses, ongoing challenges, insights, and so on. You can describe your mood and write about your relationships.

Most journal writers find it hard to write at times. Sometimes the flow isn’t there. Sometimes you’re in a resistant frame of mind and feeling fed up or shut down. Many of my journal entries over the years have started out with me writing about being angry about having committed to writing the journal in the first place. That’s okay. Just write about whatever is coming up in your mind, even if all you can do is repeat it. “I hate writing in this stupid journal” is a perfectly great way to begin an entry. Get your frustration off your chest.

You can even write about the fact that you have nothing to write about. You can write “ham and eggs” over and over, or vent at the journal for being there, complain that you have nothing to say, or curse me for assigning you this dumb journal-writing project.

It’s all good. The purpose of this exercise is to begin to access the dormant areas of your mind that have grown used to living in the dark. As you continue to journal ritually each day, those unexpressed areas around your new job will slowly start to feed into your writing. Over time, you will be surprised to “hear” what seems to pop into your mind as you write. It could be memories you haven’t thought about for a long time. It could be different perspectives or opinions about your work or people you know. It could be creative ideas or solutions for problems or projects you’re working on.

After a certain amount of journaling, you will begin to hear things and receive input that relates more and more directly to your reinvention, some of which you can later translate into concrete plans and activities. Just as you start the Reinvention Journal with strings of seemingly random thoughts about your day-to-day life, as that day-to-day life begins to include more and more elements of your emerging reinvention plan, your Reinvention Journal will reflect that activity.

Intriguing and useful patterns of ideas and information will increasingly begin to emerge.

Don’t worry about how your Reinvention Journal looks or reads. No one else is going to look at it. You don’t have to write evenly or legibly, or with fine literary style. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation do not matter. You don’t even have to look at it or read it over once you’ve written an entry. The purpose of the journal is simple: to bring thoughts into your conscious mind for you to consider.

You’ll probably have periods of time—perhaps days or even weeks—where nothing meaningful seems to be coming through in your journal about your new job. Just keep writing. If you’re blocked, write about your block. There will always be something to write about because you are always in process on something, whether it’s positive or negative, productive or distracting. Sooner or later, you will work through the fallow period and begin to channel positive and productive ideas once again.

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John Tarnoff is an executive and career transition coach, speaker, and author who supports mid and late-career professionals in defining, planning, and achieving more meaningful and sustainable careers.

Fired 39% during his 35 years as a film producer, studio executive and tech entrepreneur, he learned how to turn setbacks into successes in a volatile business. He reinvented his own career at 50, earning a master’s degree in counseling psychology to share his career lessons with others going through similar challenges.

Since leaving entertainment in 2010, John has coached individuals, groups, and led career workshops for university alumni, including for UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. Corporate coaching clients have included Bank of America, Bridgewater Assoc., Levi-Strauss, Softbank, TD Ameritrade, and Thrive Global.

He is the author of the best-selling Boomer Reinvention: How to Create your Dream Career Over 50 and has been named a Top Influencer in Aging by PBS/NextAvenue.


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