How Keeping a Diary Can Help You Keep Your Current Job or Get You Your Next One

I was recently asked for an up-to-date résumé (note to my employer: I wasn’t job searching) and realized I hadn’t updated it since I got my current job four years ago. I had been working hard the last four years but hadn’t been keeping track of all of the interesting things I was doing. While I was able to scramble and put something together quickly, I didn’t have the time or raw material to allow me to portray my accomplishments in the best way. I vowed never to be in this spot again and promptly started what I think of as a cross between a work diary and a journal, but because I rather like the image of locking the cover of it every night and slipping it in my desk drawer, I just call it my work diary.

I started to keep track of what I accomplished (the diary aspect), and also to reflect a bit on those things (the journal aspect) and realized that this could be a useful tool for GovLoopers in several ways:

  1. Organization: Allows you to quickly and easily keep your résumé and bio up to date. This is useful for speaking engagements or job interviews, whether as part of an organized search or when your dream job just happens to pop up.
  2. Introspection: Allows you to periodically assess your performance at your current job. Taking time to write about what you’re working on puts you in a thoughtful mood that makes it easier to analyze what you’re doing well and what you could improve.
  3. Contemplation: Helps you identify when it is time to move up or move on. A work diary is a great tool to help you see when it is time to make a change and to explore what the next thing might be.

You can do it a lot of different ways.

First, you need to start keeping track of what is going on. If you have a job that involves producing things (briefs, filings, written correspondence, art) you can keep a chron file of all of those releases in chronological order. This also comes in very handy when you’re asked to produce a sample of your work. Our electronic calendars and email archives are increasingly becoming automatic chron files, but the key to making them useful is to make sure they are archived and easily searchable. The problem with using an email inbox or an electronic calendar, though, is information overload. This is why I decided to keep a written record of the most important events – good things that happened, when I had met certain goals, when I was complimented by a supervisor, etc.

In addition to the objective material, I took a more subjective approach and wrote about more thoughtful things – what was going well, what I could improve on, what I like and dislike about my job. I found that sitting down and writing helped me to see things I wasn’t seeing before I started the diary.  It also started to help me think about my accomplishments in new and interesting ways so I could keep my résumé up to date!

They key to success in keeping a work diary is to do it ritually – either briefly at the end of the day or week, but the more often the better. Make sure to do it in a convenient way – if you’re a paper person then find a great notebook (I personally like Miquelruis spiral notebooks) or if you’re a tech junkie, find an app for that. Most of all, make sure you review your material regularly and set aside some quiet time every so-often to reflect on it. You’ll be surprised at what you learn about yourself.

Brett Tarnutzer is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Bill Long

Sounds like a great way to really accomplish goals, improve your service and learn about yourself and others. Too often I’ve noticed those who keep meticulous notes about their daily activities (just lists really) are using them as a crutch to hold up the fact that they are essentially doing very little and producing nothing more than a laundry list of tasks and busy work, but this column suggests a much different approach to overall improvement! Thanks Brett!