3 career tips for your personal growth


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Welcome to this episode of Compensation Insider. I shared a few career tips in my recent post on 50 lessons for work and life upon my 50th birthday. I just wanted to go a little bit into more details on some of those pieces of advice.

1 – Take notes. Take notes all the time !

Those who know me or worked with me will all smile about the first one, which is : “Take notes, and take notes all the time”. I have forced many people who were working for me, or at my clients if I was in a position where I could influence them, to teach them to take notes all the time. That makes such a big difference into your life.

When you go to a meeting you might think that if you don’t take notes or you just jot one or two words, it is going to be enough. But there is an analysis which has shown that the fact of taking notes by hand helps the brain to remember things better. Naturally, if you take more notes, you will remember more things, because we (humans) simply cannot remember everything, especially with the number of meetings that we have nowadays.

Taking notes helps you to manage ambiguity, allows to look back with a colleague on what happened a few weeks ago, what was agreed upon etc. That’s going to be really helpful for you.

2 – Make a weekly recap for yourself

The other tip that I would say is an important one, is to do a weekly recap of your main activities.

When I was in the corporate world, I used to do that in Outlook. I would create a task once a month. Within that task, at the end of each week, I would take a short note of any activities that had taken more than two hours of my time over the course of the week.

I could have spent a whole day working on a specific project. Then I would write what the topic was, and its duration. If I had spent, over two days, two times one hour over something, I would write it down.

My arbitrary inflection point was two hours. Why? Because two hours is half of a morning or half of an afternoon. It is an amount of time which is significant enough to be remembered, while a five minute call is not necessarily that important, unless that’s about a really big thing.

I would look back into my diary and the notes that I had taken and would just jot down a few, not even sentences, but bullet points of the things that took me more than two hours during the week. At the end of the month, I would have a recap of what I’ve done over that period.

That was super helpful to see if I was on track with my projects, if I had been derailed because something unexpected had happened, if I had been dependent on somebody else bringing me some information, or what have you. That was also really helpful at the time when we were still only doing semi-annual or even quarterly performance discussions.

Then at the end of the year, having that series of monthly notes was very useful for me to also remember what I had done throughout the year. Sometimes it enabled me to highlight some of the unexpected things that had happened, when I had delivered above and beyond, and which might explain maybe why certain project might have taken a backseat for a while. So that’s very important.

3 – Update your CV every year

That was also very helpful because the third tip that I want to share is to update your CV every year. When you look back at those notes, it’s easy for you to see your big projects and to update your resume.

Why do I say that you need to update your resume every year ? Because I think that what we should aim to do is to always be learning, right?, always be growing our skills.

It can happen sometimes that we have not worked on anything specific that was new. We have done new work, for instance I’ve participated to a survey, but it was the same survey as last year. I analyzed it in the same way, and applied the same methodology when I was updating my salary structures. That’s fine.

But my advice is to look at your CV again the following year. If you stay two years in a row, when you haven’t done anything worthy of being written on your resume as something new, my advice is : it’s time to wake up and really say “Either I find a way to start learning internally, or I need to look for another job” because honestly, if you’re not learning, you’re not growing. When the rest of the world is moving and you are still, you’re actually going backwards. You don’t want that.

The CV test is a good one because on the CV, you only write the really important stuff. You don’t write all the details of all the activities that you do. You write where you have done new things, added value, created something which is a legacy. If you’re not able to at least update your CV in a little way, every year, it’s a bad sign and it’s maybe time to think of moving on.

Extra tip on using your weekly notes : be intentional about your development

Coming back to the weekly recap of the activities, the other thing that it is useful for, is, at the end of each quarter, to look at what you plan to plan to learn in the next quarter.

It will help you be intentional about your development plan, whether it’s formal (you want to attend a course), or more informal (you’re going to watch some webinars or you might read some blog posts or listen to a podcast or read a book).

Your learning doesn’t even necessarily have to be something which is immediately directly linked to your functional technical skills, but anything that makes you grow will be helpful. Look at the notes of what you’ve done in the past quarter. You may be feeling a bit uncomfortable because you didn’t know enough, for example, on assessing incentive plan design, or on how to manage the budget for salary increments. Then you say, “Next time, I want to learn how to do that more confidently. It’s going to be good for me, and it’s going to be good for the organization as well”.

Those were my quick tips for today. I hope you found it useful and I will see you next week on Compensation Insider. Thank you.

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