How to Show Off: Tracking Your Success

Blog Contributor: Erin Wood, Communications Manager at Gateway Greening and YNPN St. Louis Marketing Committee Member 

We've all done it at least once - staring down the barrel of a job hunt and finding ourselves frantically digging through old notes, calendars, performance reviews.... anything that will spell out what we've managed to accomplish in our professional lives. 

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I know I have. Every time I've applied for a job, internship, and even a few volunteer positions.

Except for this last one.

You see, my last position was something of a leap of faith. I made the rather dramatic decision to leave a full-time for-profit job to spend a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA working in a completely different industry than the one in which I'd trained and earned a degree. I knew going into the experience that if I wanted to successfully transition into a new career, I would have to gain new skill sets and experience. Not only that, but I'd have to be able to list, quantify, and really sell those skills and experiences in order to beat out the competition in my new field. 

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The solution seemed simple at first; I started writing down all of my small achievements in a little notebook that lived on my work desk. However, my job required me to move from location to location throughout the day and often I'd forget the things I wanted to track before getting back to the office. Trying to carry the notebook with me didn't work either. I spend a lot of time around community gardens and, as you can imagine, accidents involving hoses and distracted gardeners will happen. In fact, they happen a lot. 

The next incarnation of the "I am awesome and here is my proof!" list was a Google Doc.  As a Communications VISTA managing several social media accounts, my cell phone practically lived in my back pocket (in a waterproof case), providing quick access anytime I needed to add something on the run. It was a cinch to add a quick note regardless of whether I was at home or in the office. 

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Three months before the end of my VISTA year of service, it was time to start sending out applications to any agency I thought might be a good fit. Before I did, I sat down with a printed copy of my running "I am awesome" list, and took a close look at all the things I felt I'd achieved over the year. No surprise: I'd completely forgotten about half of them, and the other half I'd never bothered to write down exact numbers for. But, I had a starting point that listed out skills, experiences, and in some cases, funny moments I'd experienced from the job and just wanted to remember later. With a bit of backtracking through emails and budgets, I was able to pull out quantifiable achievements and discuss them in detail with confidence. 

Updating my resume and LinkedIn profile had never been so easy. Or so full of buzzwords. 

The best part? I started off my job search with a level of self-confidence that I'd never experienced before - something that's priceless when trying to convince a hiring director that you are the best fit for the company. 

Tips for Success-tracking like a champ:

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  • Create a space for you to log your success - by hand, on a pc, on a phone - doesn't matter so long as it's something you'll see regularly and have easy access too.
  • Start writing things down as they happen, or set aside a few minutes each week to update. Have trouble remembering? Set a phone alarm or calendar reminder.
  • Having a bad day? Look back at all the awesome stuff you've accomplished for a quick pick me up (and subtly reinforce the habit while you're at it).