Community//

Why it’s time to start keeping a diary again

There’s one powerful habit that we recommend all working women develop — keeping a diary of your career wins.

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Photo by picjumbo_com--2130229
Photo by picjumbo_com--2130229

One of the most common Resume problems we see is telling, not showing. In other words, someone asserts that they have excellent communication skills, or strong business development expertise — but they have nothing to back it up. It becomes a ‘so what?’ to the person reading the Resume.

Anyone can say they are great at sales, but a potential employer will be much more likely to sit up and take notice if this statement is followed with ‘Over the last 12 months I have exceeded my quarterly sales targets by 10–15%, making me the top performing sales executive in the state’.

Take a look at your current Resume now. If you have listed just skills and responsibilities, can you see an opportunity to demonstrate these? To show the impact you have had in your role or how you’re an excellent employee?

What you are looking for is evidence, and this generally falls into 1 of 6 categories (this may vary by industry, but you get the idea):

  • promotions, payrises and increases in responsibility
  • great feedback from customers, clients and managers
  • budget / target / KPI performance (with hard numbers)
  • innovations and process improvements
  • new business wins and expansions
  • corporate contributions

And this is where the diary comes in. If you have been recording incremental, small and large wins when they happen, this will be invaluable when it comes time to update your Resume (it’s a great way to fight recency bias + fallible memories). You will be able to read back over your notes and use this as the basis for your evidence. This is not to say that every win forms a separate piece of evidence in your Resume — be discerning, use common sense, and focus on the best examples and insights.

(By the way, this record will also be gold when it comes time for performance reviews or other feedback sessions with your manager).

Our tips?

  1. If possible, keep a small-ish physical notebook or journal just for your career wins (something you can carry everywhere — see point 2). Evidence suggests that we learn better when we write rather than type, and in any case, spending a few minutes at the end of your work day reflecting with a pen in hand and taking a break from the screen is a nice mindfulness technique.
  2. If your notebook is small and you carry it everywhere, you’ll be able to record a win whenever you think of one. If you are using an e-record instead of hard copy, use the Notes function on your phone or something else that is super easy to access and save — you want to reduce any stuffing around, as this will just put a barrier in the way of forming the habit.
  3. Put a recurring calendar reminder in your phone for your work days. Call it ‘two minute win reflection’ or similar so the voice in your head that says ‘I don’t have time for this’ is immediately answered with ‘it’s just 2 minutes’. This doesn’t mean you have to write something down — in fact, there will be many days where you’ll have a blank entry. But take these two minutes to reflect, and remember you are looking for small and large wins. Even the smallest win is worth noting down.
  4. On a monthly basis (again, use a calendar reminder to help you), review what you’ve recorded. Do you notice patterns (do your wins tend to fall on certain days, or with certain projects)? Gaps (have you only recorded wins in a couple of the categories above)? Problems (are there multiple days and weeks where you’ve struggled to find a win)? Opportunities (can you see a way to capitalise on your wins? Could you chat to your manager in a sharing and feedback session)?

New habits can be really really hard to form: we get it. So let’s make this new habit manageable. Commit to recording your career wins just for 3 months (2 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for 3 months is just 2 hours of investment) and then reassess. We can guarantee that you’ll learn something about yourself in this time that you didn’t know before.

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