Make focusing on career goals part of each day

People don't think about composing a resume until they're forced to do it. They spend hours trying to remember exactly what they were doing three years ago, or even 10 years ago. They have difficulty defining what they really do. Could you summarize your job, and what you've accomplished, in one paragraph?

Preparing for your next career move doesn't start the day you decide to apply for a new job. The preparation should begin the first day in your current job. The best way to get ahead is to focus on your day-to-day performance.

How can you prepare for the future resume while concentrating on the current job? One way is to keep a work/accomplishment portfolio.

The work portfolio, which must be kept faithfully at least monthly (weekly is best), is a comprehensive record of what you do on the job. This includes what you have produced, regardless of how it's measured; positive feedback and ego strokes you've received for your work; and specific details of ways you've helped the organization or department save or make money, cut costs, solve problems or improve efficiency.

Unless you keep the work portfolio on a regular basis, it won't be worth anything to you. The idea is to be as complete as possible. It can include work samples such as proposals, publicity clips, evaluations, memos - anything that shows what you have done.

Your portfolio will make it much easier to pick out your successes and highlight them on your resume. Interviews can be colored with vivid stories of how you accomplished these successes because you will have a handy memory refresher to refer to while preparing for them. It assures that there will be no gaps caused by not being able to remember what you did.

Your portfolio also will help you in your current job. Performance appraisals and salary negotiations can often be a one-sided discussion. A very common misconception is that the organization keeps concise, complete records of your performance.

A busy boss won't remember the specifics of your performance, and most won't take the time to keep detailed records. You are the only person with intense self-interest in your own career, so it is up to you to keep track of it.

Your portfolio also serves as a record of how your career is progressing. If it begins to look the same year after year, the message will be clear. Keeping a journal of the day-to-day events in your work life helps you to maintain a detached, objective picture of where you've been and where you're going.

It's also a wonderful vehicle to make sense of organizational politics, relationships around you and company changes. As you read over the fragments of the past, they often form patterns that bring the big picture into focus.

If you become embroiled in a conflict regarding work or personalities writing your feelings and opinions down safely vents your emotions on paper rather than at another person. Often, when you read your heated words a day or two later, the sizzle is gone, and a clear head prevails.

Your portfolio will also be good for your confidence.  You will be able to give yourself strokes for what you are accomplishing, and that can be very reinforcing.

It's often said that luck is nothing more than preparation meeting opportunity. When the next opportunity arises, be prepared.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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