This sounds like obvious advice, but far too many people think of their project accomplishments only when it’s time to update their résumé, often years later. By then, important details may have escaped their memory. Keeping a weekly log of project accomplishments and challenges helps keep you on course throughout the journey through minor adjustments, rather than having to make a major “dead reckoning” midcourse correction or as the project comes to a conclusion.
Here are just a few reasons why you should maintain a detailed project log regardless of the size of the project.
- A log of past project accomplishments not only helps with crafting an attention-getting résumé, but serves as a project history and reference guide for when you encounter the same or similar projects later.
- A detailed project log helps capture your thought processes and how you assimilate, formulate, and execute your ideas throughout the project history.
- When you need talking points for an annual review, promotion opportunity, or job interview, you have the details handy.
- A detailed project log shows you the dead ends you may have been down once, and can avoid them in the future for similar projects.
- It helps you frame your participation as a contribution to the higher strategic objectives of the organization rather than as a “task completion” if you update your résumé further down the road.
- A detailed project log helps you calculate reliable quantitative data (dollars earned, costs avoided, percent improvements, etc.) that further demonstrates your value as a solutions provider to the organization.
Participating in internal process improvement initiatives can pepper your résumé with notable accomplishments.
My friend Stan Smith was part of a division publishing initiative at a former employer where seven people were charged with designing a new plan for creating, managing, and disseminating technical information to address emerging changes in the publications world. While the cost to implement the 18-month plan was between $1.5 and $2 million dollars (in 1998), the initiative was projected to save $2.3 million dollars in publishing costs and overhead each year after implementation.
Even though Stan wasn’t responsible for the entire initiative, his contribution is mentioned on his résumé. In fact, his detailed weekly log entries were a significant component of the final published study that was presented to upper management.
My wife kept a project log of how she prepared for taking the exam for the “Certified Fraud Examiner” designation. During the lengthy practice test and study sections, she noted which sections were harder than others, and mnemonics she created to help her memorize key information, terminology, and formulas. Her notes were later published through the certified fraud examiner association website as a study tool for others to use as they prepared for the hugely comprehensive exam.
If you are in the habit of keeping a project log, keep doing it; if not, today’s a good day to start.