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If You Want a Raise or Promotion, You Need a Success Journal

Success journals help you advocate for the next step in your career using data - here's five tips to start one today.

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There you are, staring blankly at your computer screen trying to recall everything you’ve accomplished at work in the last year. You know you’ve hustled hard and have plenty of successes to prove it, but now that the opportunity has come to put it on paper and share with your boss, you’re drawing an absolute blank. Certainly your boss has paid attention to all your hard work this year – and will inherently agree with your request for a raise, a promotion, or increased responsibility, right?

Wrong.

One of the great mistakes we make at work is believing our boss pays attention to our accomplishments on a day-to-day basis. We fail to recognize that while we’re hustling for that raise or promotion – our boss is hustling for their own. We are responsible for tracking our own accomplishments, how we’ve advanced the business objectives, and where we went above and beyond expectations.

You need a Success Journal. The concept of a Success Journal is simple: Have a dedicated place where you regularly record your accomplishments; Big ones, small ones, personal and professional ones.

Why? Because…data.

It’s no secret that businesses value data. If you want a promotion, a raise, more responsibility or to lead a team, you have to show up with the data that proves you deserve it.

It’s easy to forget everything you’ve done over the course of a job or position. We often sit down in performance evaluations, job interviews, or in conversations with our supervisors without the data that demonstrates our achievements, our skills, or our potential. We scramble to update our resumes and are flummoxed trying to figure out “what we did” while we were in a specific role. We leave annual reviews frustrated and disappointed because we didn’t get the raise we were hoping for. And if any of these statements feel familiar to you, it’s time for a Success Journal.

I had a young professional I mentor start a Success Journal. She was supervising staff for the first time, in a new role. She was also tasked with launching an enormous project very quickly. The project required her to engage lots of different stakeholders, work in partnership with really important people, and had the potential to make a significant impact on her organization. We checked in on her successes, 90 days in. Her list looked like this:

  1. Finished and launched big project.
  2. Trained staff.
  3. Happy staff and clients.

Everything on the list was true, but nothing on that list accurately described the work and achievements she had in a short 90 days. Each of those achievements were more likely ten smaller achievements that better represented the work she had done and highlighted her skills as a young professional. The original list would be less than impressive to her supervisor. Turn that list in to 30 specific achievements that highlight what went into achieving those goals – and she’s destined for a raise, a bonus, a promotion, or at minimum her boss’s attention.

Ready to start your Success Journal? Here’s a few tips:

  • Be Consistent. Write down something every day in the journal. Schedule time on your calendar dedicated to it at the end of each day. It’s much easier to edit away the stuff that isn’t that big of a deal, than it is to remember what you did in 6 months ago.
  • Be Specific. Try to be as detailed as possible. The more you try to separate your achievements into smaller ones, the clearer the picture becomes on what your true talents, skills, and achievements are. It gives you concrete examples to use when applying for jobs, awards, promotions, or leadership positions.
  • Make it Measurable. Focus on recording things that are measurable and show marked improvement. Increased revenue or engagement, number of new clients, higher satisfaction rates, lowered expenses, etc. The more tangible and measurable it is, the easier it is for people to understand the achievement.
  • Tie it To Outcomes. If its not directly “measurable” it can usually be tied to business objective or outcomes. Do your best to tie the achievement to a business or department goal. Avoid generating a checklist that shows you performed your minimum job functions. Instead, focus on what you did that advanced the organization or its goals.
  • Review Regularly. Take a look back at your successes every 90 days. Highlight the big stuff. It’s important to look at how far you’ve come and use those things to inspire new action, set new goals, or give yourself a kick in the pants.

A Success Journal takes work. You can’t look at it like homework you have to do. A Success Journal is an investment in you. Your successes help you advocate for your next promotion or raise, or help when it comes time to update your resume. Regardless of where you use them, they’ll teach you to better communicate your skills and achievements in a way that “wows” people. So head to your favorite retailer and pick up a new journal. Today is a great day to start.

Jessica Gendron is a women’s leadership expert and culture strategist. As President & CEO of The Center for Leadership Excellence she has spent the last several years studying successful female leaders and workplace culture. As a female CEO she encountered many barriers throughout her career and she felt alone in her experiences.  She now helps women strengthen their leadership skills so they can shatter glass ceilings and actively advises businesses on how to create inclusive and equitable workplaces. Jessica is the host of a video series highlighting the journeys of female leaders called Ladies Leading and has authored two books on building relationships. She has spoken on leadership, female friendship, workplace culture, and equity and inclusion for over 15 years, to hundreds of audiences nationwide.

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