As I’m writing this, it’s January, and I see a steady stream of “working on my annual review” tweets.
You want something. (We all do.) It could be a raise or a promotion at your current job, a new job, or a board position at a non-profit you love. How do you get that something? You tell people what you’ve already accomplished, and why you deserve more.
Why you need to be the one to tell your story
What you need to keep in mind, always, is that you are the only one that knows what you have done. Projects you’ve completed, milestones you’ve reached, and goals you’ve conquered haven’t been noticed by everyone. Your manager can’t know everything (and probably doesn’t write down everything she does know). Your team members are too busy taking care of their own work to notice. Your customers are happy you’ve done the work, but don’t know what went into it. No one else is keeping a list of your accomplishments.
You are in charge of telling your story.
How do I tell my story?
The first step is to make a list of what you’ve accomplished. Be specific. Write down as many details as you can remember. Dig through emails to find more information. Look through notes you kept about a project. Read documentation you wrote.
Now, pull out the main points.
Then, tell the story.
Let’s travel back to middle school English class. Every story has five parts: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution. Your story should have the same.
Exposition is where you set the stage. What is the background of the project or task you were working on? Was it an internal or external request? Was it something you’d done before and were optimizing, or a new task you had to learn?
Rising action is where you can list what went into planning and executing the project. What resources did you need to gather, and how did you do so? What new skills did you learn?
At the climax, you’ve accomplished the goal. Brag about it. Did you meet deadlines, stay within budget, surpass expectations? List these things! This can be hard. It takes a lot of effort to put yourself front and center. Remember your end goal, what it is you want. Without talking about what you’ve done, you can’t get to that goal.
Falling action is also very important – after the main part of the project, what impact did it have? Have you gotten compliments on the work? Add those. If you can add specific impact, such as hours or money saved by a process, do so!
Resolution is where you let people know why it’s important to you. Did you learn something fascinating? Did you accomplish a major goal? Did you free up time to be able to do something else?
Segue this into what you want. You’re clearly making the case for something – that raise, promotion, or new position. Another thing to remember, which could be a blog post of its own, is that you don’t get what you don’t ask for. This is why we tell our story – so we can get what we want and need.
When to tell your story
Writing your story about your accomplishments isn’t something you should be doing just once a year, in January, when your annual review is due. It should be a regular part of your professional development process.
If you haven’t put together a list of your accomplishments for six months or more, open up a document and start writing, right now.
Today is also a great day to start keeping notes for your future story. It can be in a format as simple as a notebook where you take notes every day or week. I love using OneNote. You could use a Word document. Use whatever format works for you.
Don’t wait until the end of the year to update it. If you have to, put an appointment on your calendar or a task on your list at least every month to update this.
In order to get what you want, you have to prove why you deserve it. Write your story so you can get it.