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Maintain a career brag-book

Priya Narasimhan
Priya Narasimhan
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Maintain a career brag-book

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Priya Narasimhan
Priya Narasimhan

If you’re a junior career professional, whether you’re in academia or industry, keep a brag book, a work portfolio of sorts, one that showcases your tangible and intangible impact at work, as well as others’ appreciation of you.

A brag-book sets you apart.

A brag-book is not a list of qualifications. You already have a resume for that. Instead, a brag-book touts how others perceive you, how you’ve done things unasked, how you’ve made the workplace and your team more successful, how you bring your best self to work. A brag-book can help you at your performance review. at your promotion, at a job interview. It can serve as a powerful and useful prop when you sit down for that key career conversation.

What should you put in there?

Every professional compliment you receive, and every milestone you reach.

Your brag-book is the place for your above-and-beyond stuff.

If you’re in industry, list

  • Every product launch you’re involved in
  • Every talk you give to an internal audience
  • Every talk you give to an external audience
  • Every external written review of your product, e.g., iTunes review if you’ve built an app, a press release written by your company that involves your product
  • Every project that someone has asked for your help with
  • Every press clipping of your work being mentioned
  • Every picture of you in action at your job, e.g., doing a product demo
  • Every Coursera/Udemy course you’ve completed
  • Every thank-you note you’ve received from a client or a peer
  • Every person you’ve onboarded or trained
  • Every bit of work that you’ve done that has helped your company’s brand and visibility
  • Every bit of work that you did that nobody asked you to do, but that you did because you felt it had to be done.

Image by Rahul Yadav from Pixabay.

If you’re a grad student, list

  • Every paper you write, whether accepted or not
  • Every talk you give to your internal research group
  • Every talk you give to an external party
  • Every citation of your work
  • Every testbed/software/experiment/result you’ve contributed to
  • Every guest lecture you’ve given in a class
  • Every picture of you in action at your job, e.g., giving a conference talk
  • Every thank-you note you’ve received from a faculty member or a student
  • Every teaching evaluation you’ve received
  • Every student you’ve mentored
  • Every press clipping of your work being mentioned
  • Every bit of work that you’ve done that has helped your research group’s brand and visibility
  • Every bit of work that you did that nobody asked you to do, but that you did because you felt it had to be done.

You may cringe at the thought of maintaining a brag-book. It may feel unnecessary, pretentious, and the opposite of being humble. A brag-book is not about boasting (I know, I know, I see the word “brag” is in there, too). It’s about documenting your track-record and highlighting your reputation, in terms of both tangibles and intangibles.

It’s because we all forget the things we’ve done, at the critical moments in life when we want to remember them, e.g., when asking for a raise. It’s because other people also forget the things we’ve done, too. It’s because the intangibles sometimes set you apart, and we could all use reminders of people’s intangibles. For example, given two people with the same impact, the same qualifications, the same work ethic, and the same projects that they have contributed to, the person who has volunteered to mentor others will stand out.

Your brag book can also be a quick pick-me-up when you need it. It can boost your confidence when you’re feeling crushed over a paper rejection in academia, or disappointed over a failed product demo in industry. A brag-book can remind you that you are capable of succeeding, that you have succeeded before, and that you will succeed again. In our careers, we’re all often rushing from one thing to another, always chasing the next big thing, without stopping to smell the roses.

The roses matter. The big roses and the little ones. Not just to you, but to your career.

Start a brag-book. Stop and smell the roses. And help your boss, manager, or research advisor smell them, too.