Getting your job journal into shape

When job opportunities come up, is your job journal - a diary of accomplishments - up to date? You'll need it to discuss whyyou're right for the job.

I was in a strategic planning meeting the other day and as part of the discussion, a decision was made to pursue the creation of one or more positions. That’s a good thing, as opposed to talks about layoffs, and it made me think about how job opportunities often spring out of the blue. The question then becomes, does the job interest you and are you prepared to take immediate action on the opportunity? Because, as the saying goes, if you snooze, you lose.

In this case, and another recently, the positions were nice enough that for a brief moment my interest was piqued. But only briefly, because I just started a new position and am enjoying it immensely. However, if that had not been the case, would I have been ready to make the most of the opportunity? The answer is, probably not as ready as I could be. Why? Because I have not been keeping my job journal up to date. Please note that this is not the same as keeping your resume up to date. The difference? Let me answer by explaining what I call a job journal, how you go about keeping one, and what goes in it.

What I call a job journal is a diary of sorts in which you make note of your accomplishments; keep track of boards, committees, and workgroups you participate in or chair; track hours spent doing project management; document products you have created or were involved in creating; and provide enough detail about each of these entries to jog your memory should you need to talk or write about it later. This is the information that will fuel your resume and cover letters and provide you with material to speak about during an interview. It also gives you information for preparing applications.

For example, if you want to become a certified project management professional (PMP) you will have to document the number of project management hours you have under your belt for a certain number of years and also what category of project management those hours fall into, such as project inception, planning, etc. This is another good place to keep track of all the training you take - the course title, when, where, who offered it, and so on.

Basically, the job journal consists of the small details of your daily work life that you think you will be able to remember, but by the time you need to accumulate that information, you've either forgotten the details of your accomplishments, or misplaced the documents or e-mails that would have provided it to you.

I am a strong believer of keeping your job journal in a real paper journal pad. You can transfer the information to some form of electronic media if you wish, but I believe that it is the handiness of having it in your desk to make quick notations that makes it special. It also can’t get locked away from you should you be told to clear out your desk and you suddenly find yourself unable to log into your corporate network.

However you keep it, you should keep one, and keep it updated while the information is fresh in your mind. It is up to you how verbose you want to be with your entries, but they should be detailed enough that they don’t leave you wondering what you meant if you pick up your journal two years from now.

Besides getting you ready for your next job opportunity, journals are also very useful in preparing your own performance evaluations as well as creating lists of accomplishments for a particular time period. So make sure you time stamp every entry and indicate the beginning and end dates of everything.

If you are a manager or supervisor, you might consider having your employees keep a journal as part of their "growth or professional development plan." It is a useful tool for everyone up and down the corporate ladder - and if you do a good job with it, you just might find that you will be the person who is best prepared to respond to opportunities when they appear out of the blue.

So what are you waiting for? Head out to your office supply store and pick out the journal that is going to document your work history from this point on. You won’t regret it. In the mean time, I’m going to go bring mine up to date. Good Luck!

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