When you did great work in school -- if you wrote an excellent report or put in additional effort for extra credit -- your grades reflected that work on your final report card. If you did A+ work all year long, you got A+'s on your report card. If you didn't, you got B's or even C's. You were rewarded with a report card that directly matched your level of output.
Unfortunately, this lesson -- that we're rewarded in direct relation to the quality of our work -- doesn't translate into the workplace.
Based on our experiences in school, it might feel like the workplace should operate the same way: if you do great work at your job, people will automatically recognize it and reward you with promotions and increased pay. But, in practice, it often doesn't happen like that. Some kinds of very significant work are less visible or memorable than others. This is especially try for an economic developer, who's day to day is full of little wins.
It can be frustrating when you've done significant/difficult/time-consuming work and realize that you aren't rewarded for it because your superior either didn't notice or didn't remember.
Luckily, I have a tactic that will help, no matter your job title and where you work.
You'll Never Remember Everything You Did, and Neither Will Anyone Else
Unlike in school, there's no syllabus on your boss's desk. There's no grade book in her drawer. She doesn't know every assignment she's going to assign at the beginning of the year. She doesn't have a list of everything you've done at the end of the year, either.
Do you have a performance review once or twice a year? Do you stress about it? You're not alone. Many people find having their work reviewed stressful. But it doesn't have to be.
One of the most stressful aspects of performance reviews is the question, "So what'd you do last year?"
What did you do last year? Sure, you can remember the big projects, and maybe the medium-sized projects, if you stop think about it. But you'll never remember every little success. And if you don't, surely your boss doesn't either.
You Need a Brag Document
Here's what you need to do: instead of trying to remember everything you did, make a "brag document" that lists everything so that you can refer back to it before your performance review.
Share Your Brag Document with Your Boss
If you're anything like me, after you make a brag document, you're going to be hesitant to share it with your boss. It will feel weird to say "look at this list of all the great stuff I've done all year long." But, trust me, your boss will be thankful -- this will make her job easier. Now she can look at your brag document instead of trying to remember what you did!
Also, giving your boss a document of your accomplishments will help her advocate for you if she reports to her boss, or a board.
Additionally, if your boss changes mid-year, you can bring your new boss up to speed by sharing your brag document.
Don't Write It All at Once
Don't wait until right before your performance review to write your brag document. Set aside ten minutes every other week to list out your recent accomplishments.
One Last Hint
Maybe you don't like to brag about yourself. I don't either. Don't try to make your work sound better than it is. Just describe it exactly as good as it was.
Take five minutes and start a brag document today. What have you accomplished already this week? Then share this article with your colleagues.
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