Always be prepared to talk about the value you bring to the table, with this tool.
It can be difficult to talk about yourself, especially when you're surrounded by strangers at a networking event or sitting across the table from a hiring manager during an interview. But the fact of the matter is, if you want to get ahead, you have to be able to confidently talk about your strengths and the value you can bring to a prospective client or employer.
I've developed a simple tool to help professionals like yourself prepare for these awkward conversations. For this week's career booster, I'd like you to set aside a few minutes to begin a brag book.
What is a brag book, you ask? It's a place where you record your professional successes. Some people refer to it as a wins journal. Regardless of what you call it, this uncomplicated tool will help you keep track of all the major contributions and accomplishments that take place in the workplace — or even outside of work — that speak to your skills and qualifications.
Here are a few tips to set up your brag book and then leverage it to boost your career.
Select a format
Where you store your brag-able moments is really up to you. I suggest choosing a tool that is easy for you to access and update on a regular basis. Some of you may want to keep a small notebook and pen in your purse or work bag. For others, you may prefer to use a Google document or an app like Evernote so you can update your list from any mobile device. I've previously kept a folder of documents on a flash drive. However, you choose to record your achievements, be sure that it's stored on a personal device or in your home, not on company equipment!
Brainstorm your contributions
Unsure what to include in your book? Start with what's happened most recently and work your way backward. For instance, have you received any positive feedback from your colleagues or boss lately? If so, add these kudos to your book. Did a customer go out of their way to thank you for your help? Record those details. If you received a raise or a promotion or you recently took on additional responsibilities, include this information. You can also add information from your most recent performance evaluation, emails you received from happy clients … you get the idea.
Quantify your results
When you're documenting your accomplishments, think in terms of results. How have you helped move the needle for the company? For example, did you help save the company money, generate revenue, improve customer satisfaction, or increase productivity? Even if you can't quantify your contributions, consider how you helped make things run more smoothly, better, faster, or more efficiently.
Include little details
This brag book will become invaluable the next time you want to update your resume or ask for a raise, so be thorough when you'd adding information. Include relevant details such as dates, locations, and the names of the people and organizations that were involved the project or job. When you look back at your book a year from now, I guarantee you won't remember all those details without some help.
Add to it each month
This book is only helpful if you continue to update it with new information. Put a note on your calendar to set aside a half hour each month to add new details to your brag book. Or better yet, set aside five minutes each week to see if there's anything new at work or in your activities outside of work that's worth noting. You may find that you have additional details to add to projects you recorded a while back.
Take a step back and reflect
Once you've been writing in your brag book for a few months, take a moment to review your entries and look for trends. Do your brag-able moments have any common themes? Are there specific skill sets you continue to leverage? Do you tend to do your best work when you're collaborating with others or when you're given a problem to solve independently?
Use this information to identify the key skills, core values, and work environment where you tend to thrive. Keep this in mind the next time you decide to look for work so you choose job opportunities that play to your strengths. This will also come in handy when you're developing your elevator pitch for networking events and job interviews.
When it's time to ask for a raise, use your bragging points as a cheat sheet to highlight the results you've achieved. I don't recommend walking into the negotiation room with a printout of your achievements, but you should use this information as a study guide to practice your talking points.
You don't have to build your brag book overnight, but make a point this week to start one. Your career will thank you!
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