When I meet with people who are starting their career transition journey, I often ask if they have a record of their accomplishments from their previous positions. Most often, people assure me that the information is stored “in their head.”
Relying on memory to account for your successes is not going to work. Those memories get more general as time goes on, and you lose the detail and specifics that make your accomplishments stand out when looking for the next step in your career. To keep track of your successes in concrete detail rather than approximations, it is essential to keep what I call a “business diary.”
In its simplest form, a business diary is a daily or weekly log of your key successes. It can be computer- or cloud-based, or in a physical book, but it should outline in as much detail as possible your accomplishments.
This is helpful on three levels:
- During an internal review, you have all the facts.
- If you decide to leave your organization, your resume will be easy to write. If you are pushed out of your organization, you don’t need to scramble to gather the info you’ll need to prepare for your next career move.
- On a hard day, when you feel you have made no impact in your organization or in your field, you can read through a few pages to remind you of the meaningful contributions you’ve made.
Types of accomplishments to include in your business diary
There are three tiers of achievements to track in your business diary. Tier 1 achievements are measurable and include specific metrics of some kind, whether absolute numbers, percentages, etc.
Tier 2 achievements are more difficult to measure, but in my opinion, are more important to your success as a leader than those in Tier 1. Tier 2 includes accomplishments like effective communication, relationship building, trustworthiness, transparency, and other soft skills. It’s important to write these successes down as well, even though it may take more effort to pinpoint them. The greatest leaders are the ones that start with the soft skills, and by putting them into place create great Tier 1 accomplishments. It’s worth taking the time to learn how to describe your Tier 2 successes.
Tier 3 achievements are positively impactful but more general in nature. They use language like “I increased/decreased/maximized/successfully implemented/improved…”. These don’t have the impact on your resume of a Tier 1 or Tier 2 achievement.
In general, it’s better to be as specific as you can using metrics, movement, observations or process rather than general language. Also, make sure to use clear “I/we” language to distinguish personal from team accomplishments.
Your business diary is also an effective place to start tracking your stakeholders; those who by authority and influence have the greatest impact on your success and failure. Be intentional about gathering info that will be helpful in future interactions.
I recommend putting stakeholder info in chronological order to maximize its usefulness. Having info arranged chronologically allows you to measure your reactions and get a sense of whether the relationship is moving forward. It makes it easier to use past information to connect two separate conversations to create a continuing conversation with your stakeholders.
As you write about your stakeholder conversations, it is crucial that you do so in a way that creates a win-win situation. Write down the info you’ve gathered in such a way that if you were to leave the book behind, you wouldn’t be embarrassed to find that someone had read what you wrote! This ensures that you won’t create any hurtful information gaps and that you’ll drive the point without using language that is disrespectful or harmful.
A reliable record of your accomplishments is helpful whether you’re in a time of transition or need to be reminded of the good work you’re doing. Don’t rely on your memory alone. Write down your achievements and successes to be prepared for whatever lies ahead on your career journey.