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A Career Journal Can Prepare You For When Fate Forces You Into A Job Search

Imagine this, as unpleasant as it might be: You’re content in your job, which has decent pay and good benefits, a convenient commute, and just the right work-life balance. You wouldn’t dream of working elsewhere.

But wait! Here’s the unpleasant part: Your company has missed its financial goals and it probably won’t recover for some time. It announces layoffs – and you’re one of them. You’re stunned and devastated, to say the least.

What’s worse is that you don’t have a current resume and don’t know what accomplishments and talents you can play up to help you rebound quickly and land another job.

The key here is to prevent this scenario by proactively managing your career. In today’s ever-changing job climate, your resume needs to be fresh and ready to go at all times. When you land a job, it’s tempting to throw your resume into the recycle bin. Your job hunt is finally over, and you’re ready for a break. It’s understandable – but also short-sighted.

You can begin a proactive career management approach by keeping a career journal. This journal is where you’ll keep track of all the skills and accomplishments you’ll be acquiring on the job. It can be a spreadsheet, a Word document, or even a folder with handwritten notes.

A career journal is a great way to organize the information you’ll need when it’s time to update your resume. The idea is to keep an ongoing record of anything significant you achieve on the job, so that updating your resume will be quick and simple.

One of the first things to do when you land a new job is update your resume with all the details:

* Company name and location,

* Your job title,

* Starting date, and

* Main job duties.

The second thing you should do is start your career journal.

Consider adding a new journal entry each time you:

* Acquire a new skill (describe your new capability);

* Complete a project successfully (record deadlines you met and budgets you stayed within);

* Receive praise (save e-mails or make notes of compliments from supervisors or managers);

* Receive a written job performance evaluation (provided there are enough compliments and positive details to help you build your next resume);

* Play a key role in a new product/service offering (describe your role if you worked either alone or as part of a team);

* Increase revenue or profitability (use actual sales figures or percentages wherever possible);

* Streamline a process (describe how bottlenecks were unclogged or how productivity improved);

* Mentor a coworker (mention specific ways you helped him or her);

* Enhance customer satisfaction (cite survey scores or testimonials);

* Prevent accidents or losses (mention safety commendations or lower insurance rates);

* Gain certification or licensure (and describe how it helped your employer);

* Win an award (explain the honor);

* Receive a promotion (record your new title and responsibilities); and

* Acquire new responsibilities (describe your new role).

You should also note the dates of any memorable events on the job, what roles other people played relative to yours, and whether your accomplishments led to an increase in responsibilities, a pay raise, or bonus compensation.

Remember that your resume is, first and foremost, your personal marketing document, and the key to marketing is understanding what your audience wants, then proving you’ve got it.

Your career journal will have more details than you can (or should) put in your resume. Be selective and pick the ones that seem to best fit the specific job you’re seeking. If you’ve kept the journal current, it will be a cinch to add strong evidence to your resume, and show your next employer that you have the specific skills, qualifications, and experience to do the job.

Some of the journal details that don’t work in the resume might come in handy when you write your cover letter, or when you need a story to tell in a job interview. Reading your career journal can also be a great confidence builder, as you put all your successes in one place.

A career journal may seem like unnecessary work, but consider the alternative. Two years down the road, will you be able to recall quickly and accurately what you achieved on the project you’re completing today, or the value of the contract you landed last week?

Starting and updating a career journal takes only a few minutes at a time, but it can pay off in a big way when you can quickly and easily update your resume with accurate, impressive facts. So, the next time opportunity knocks, you’ll be able to open the door to your next career move easily. Beats panicking, doesn’t it?

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