The Secret of How I Broke into Tech
Many of us are fluttering through our careers, unable to move past the short-term as we whisk through a myriad of tasks on a daily basis. We rarely stop to reflect on what we have done and instead leave our future up to chance, and blame everything else for our lack of success.
We need to snatch back control of our future by pushing ourselves to make small, regular investments towards the long-run. One way to do this is to track all our accomplishments on a regular basis. If we want to achieve future success, we first need to track our current successes.
I will now explain how I tracked my accomplishments for the past six years and maximized my career opportunities.
Wet Behind the Ears
Let’s go back to 2013 when I was fresh out of university and was out to prove myself with my whole career ahead of me.
My first job was in a customer support role at a small growing company. The role encompassed a wide variety of tasks such as processing customer inquiries and requests, digitizing and streamlining procedures, assisting with marketing campaigns, performing data analysis for executive decision-making, working with engineering to develop new features, and the list goes on. It was a customer support role on a caffeine rush.
There was no way I was going to remember doing all this. So I started a running log of what I did at work, my accomplishments and any challenges I faced.
Looking Forward By Looking Back
I diligently logged everything on a weekly basis, and reaped the benefits when it was time for my first performance review. With a swift copy and paste of my log and some formatting, I had filled out my performance review template in under an hour. Meanwhile my coworkers were all gawking at the blank template, trying to figure out how to justify their merit increases.
When I met with my manager for my performance review, I was able to reference the most compelling evidence because of the inventory I’d built up. Everything was also fresh in my mind since my activities had been logged as they happened with any specific details included.
Tracking my accomplishments throughout the year also allowed me to constantly reflect on what I was doing and review how it aligned with my goals. For example, one of my goals at the time was to gain more responsibility in an area in which I could become a subject matter expert.
I noticed that I was repeatedly taking the initiative on a wide variety of new tasks. This was helping me gain more responsibility, but not setting me up to be a subject matter expert in a specific area. I therefore decided to focus on taking the initiative to help with tasks related to a specific product line within the company instead so that I could become a subject matter expert in it.
This strategic approach combined with a solid performance review is what contributed to my first promotion to Operations Coordinator a few months later. In this role, I was in charge of running the operations for a specific product line, the one I’d been taking the initiative on. By tracking my accomplishments, I had taken control of my career and managed to maximize my opportunities and grow my career.
As Operations Coordinator I was once again doing a variety of tasks including scheduling, investigating test security incidents, revamping policies, etc. So I continued to log all my accomplishments on a regular basis.
I went through two more performance reviews at this company, efficiently copying and pasting from my log every time. My last performance review was with a new manager. Having been tracking my accomplishments on my own, I was able to quickly bring her up to speed and secure the merit increase I deserved.
Confidence Kills The Imposter Syndrome
After three and a half years at this company, I was hungry for a more technical role but I felt like an imposter because I did not have all the experience listed on more technical job postings. How would I get a job without the experience?
The only thing I knew to do was turn to my trusty log. First, it was a massive confidence boost to see a comprehensive list of everything I’d accomplished so far in my career. Second, it allowed me to identify every possible transferable skill I could list when applying for a more technical role. For example I had experience working with engineers to digitize several processes, including specific metrics for how much time we had saved for the company with these changes. I used information like this to scrape together a decent resume.
I was soon interviewing for a Business Analyst position at a fintech company. Responding to the interview questions with the most relevant experience and scenarios came easily as everything was fresh in my mind from reviewing my detailed log. I also felt confident and was able to focus on being myself and building a relationship with the hiring manager.
I got the job and became a Business Analyst-a big jump in my career.
A Massive Library of my Accomplishments and Experiences
With so many new skills, technologies and challenges, it was critical that I document all of them so I could reference them in the future. It was also my first time working in a startup-like environment and with that came many challenging situations, some of which I did not handle well.
Documenting these challenging experiences in my log forced me to reflect on them. I would think about how I may have negatively contributed to them, and what I could do better in the future. It was like journaling, but more focused and structured.
Continuing to regularly log my accomplishments and experiences enabled me to build a massive library in the long run. A library I could later reference when I needed to build a strong case for myself: preparing for a performance review, asking for a promotion or pay increase, or applying for a new job.
I’m Not the Only Crazy One
I naturally assumed that I was the only one crazy enough to diligently track my accomplishments and experiences like this. Nevertheless I wanted to share my pivotal process with others.
Speaking to a few friends and interacting with some individuals on Twitter revealed that I wasn’t the only crazy one! Many of them were also tracking their accomplishments and experiences in a Word document or a simple notes file. They were struggling to track their accomplishments consistently, though. And they were concerned about this.
When we are putting out fires everyday we tend to go back to focusing on the short run and put off making investment for the long run. Soon, all our accomplishments and experiences are one big blur.
A search for potential solutions returned only task management tools like Idonethis.com, fully-fledged HR solutions or general journaling apps. Nothing specifically for this purpose.
Ever Seen a Hippo Flying a Kite?
So I decided to build my own solution and share it with others! It’s called Hippokite.com and it’s a service that sends you an email every week asking how your week went, what your accomplishments were, and whether you faced any challenges. All the information you provide is stored for you and you can reference it later in a report.
You can sign up at Hippokite.com.
Currently those who sign up before April 10 will be part of the free one-month beta program. I’m looking for users who are both interested and willing to provide feedback on the first version and help shape the product.
You also can see an infographic I created that illustrates the benefits of tracking your accomplishments and challenges as well as how to do it effectively.
Compound Interest Career
In the book The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy recommends tracking our actions against a goal we have. Doing so brings awareness to these actions and forces us to think about how they contribute to our goal.
“The Compound Effect is the principle of reaping huge rewards from a series of small, smart choices.” -Quote from Darren Hardy, “The Compound Effect.”
We can apply this philosophy to career growth and maximizing our career opportunities. Tracking our accomplishments on a consistent basis allows us to reflect on what we have done, what the outcomes were (including specific metrics), and how it all fits into the roadmap of our career.
This puts the control back in our hands of how we are setting ourselves up for the future. The result is a trail of meaningful crumbs that have led us to where we are today, which can help us make informed and intentional decisions about the future.
Nobody, not even our manager or boss, is tracking our accomplishments and personal growth. It is on us to track this stuff, because it is our responsibility to present the most compelling evidence when faced with a career growth opportunity.
The alternative is to passively move through our career and constantly wondering why we are not progressing. Your career, your choice.
Originally published at https://www.lenasesardic.com on April 16, 2020.