Professional confidence - The unexpected benefit of journaling, and the expected benefit of a yellow blazer

Posted August 10, 2020

On September 2018, I got a 8 hour/week internship at Harvard, that would one year later lead to full-time employment. At the time I had no idea it would land me a job , but I was excited for my first UX role and wanted record everything I learned. So I went to the store and bought a small gray spiral notebook, which I used every Tuesday and Thursday religiously during lunchtime. As I downed a sandwich so I could get to my next job, I hurriedly scribbled down a summary of my day.

Journaling came incredibly handy in some obvious ways—like being able to more clearly express what I was working on or what I wanted to learn. But almost two years later, I realize that writing about my work has brought some unexpected benefits. Aside from helping me better organize my thoughts, journaling has inspired me, motivated me, and increased my confidence.

When I started full time at Harvard, I swore I would continue the daily work journal. But of course going from 8 hours to 40 hours per week meant more things needed to get written down. And the new notebook I bought for my journaling also somehow became a sketch book for ideas before/during client meetings. So daily journaling turned to bi-weekly, to weekly, to a monthly, to… Let’s just say, the habit had to evolve. Instead of writing daily, I now keep a folder with screenshots of projects I am proud of and I write case studies for these projects every three months or so. But after my first annual review at Harvard, I want to go back to journaling on a more consistent basis.

As part of my review, my manager asked me to do a self-assessment. Both she and I were pretty surprised with how detailed the evaluation was. Thanks to keeping a journal and a folder of projects, I was able to list over 17 projects that I worked in within my first year at Harvard, and explain how exactly I had met my goals. And by being able to trace back all of my work, I realized how much I had grown since I started the job.

When I first started, I felt incredibly unsure of what I was doing, but I had this anxious desire to learn and grow, to establish myself as a real designer and researcher. What felt like a rocky boat ride then, now feels like I actually hit the ground running. Sure I tripped a couple of times, but I got back up and pulled on my favorite yellow blazer so no one would notice.

Being able to specifically note where I succeeded and where I struggled, allowed me to zoom out with positivity. And I honestly don’t think that I would have been able to get specific had I not kept record of my work somewhere. So, yes, moving forward I will journal more, not just to learn and reflect, but also to feel more confident.