Careers and Employability Service
Services for current students

Reflecting back

Woman looking out of a window

Hands up if starting an internship, placement or graduate role has felt a little bit like a roller coaster? Perhaps it’s time to take a minute to just breathe?

And if you can summon the energy, reflect a little on where you are now and how much you've learned and achieved already.

The four steps of reflection


Step 1: What has happened?

A good place to start is by simply noting down what has happened since you started your job.

You might write a list of key milestones or adopt a fact-gathering ‘who, what, where, when’ approach. This activity alone may help you to realise the distance you’ve travelled.

Step 2: How do you feel?

Once you’ve got a basic timeline of events, you can begin to layer on how you felt about each step.

Reflecting on your emotions can help you to identify highs and lows and consider what has motivated you along the way. Explore both the ‘hot’ emotions that you felt immediately after an event, and the ‘cold’ emotions you experience in the days after when you had slept on things and were able to apply a more rational perspective.

Step 3: What have you learned?

Next, you can begin to analyse your experiences in a little more detail and adopt a curious and questioning approach.

  • What new insight have you gained through experience?
  • Have you had any ‘eureka’ moments and what has changed as a result?
  • Has anything or anyone challenged you to think differently?
  • When have you felt most energised and engaged with your work?
  • What feedback have you received?
  • How else could you have approached your first few months in the working world?

Maybe you will spot patterns emerging in your experience or simply begin to appreciate the quirks and complexities of your professional life. Either way, in contemplating some of these questions, you will hopefully generate a series of learning points and in turn, this may help you to build both self-awareness and a deeper understanding of the workplace.

Crucially, it is what you do next that matters. How will you now put all that you have learned into action?

Step 4: What could you do next?

You might decide to set yourself some objectives linked to your learning, perhaps around specific training or development needs that you identify. Talking to your manager, your mentor, or a close colleague can help you to explore options and ideas to shape and define your goals.

Or, if you’re returning to your studies after an internship or placement, talk to your personal tutor or placement contact about how you can put the new insight and skills you’ve acquired in the workplace to good use when you’re back at university.

Careers and Employability Service

University of Nottingham
Portland Building, Level D
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 3680
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 3679