November 1, 2011
You may have heard words like "down economy," "high unemployment" and, oh, I don't know, "recession," thrown around these days. In lay (wo)men's terms: it's real out there. If you happen to be searching for a job right now, like 99.9% of my friends, you know just how real ish actually is. In times like these, getting an interview can seem like getting Wonka's golden ticket. So when you do get in front of that recruiter or hiring manager, it's imperative that you do something to set yourself apart. Enter: Brag Book.
Bragging. The very word conjures up a visual of that douchey guy who cornered you at a party last week, going on and on about his (daddy's) money and all the places he's been. Or maybe the weird dude at the networking function who tried to wow you by dropping the names of all his industry connections. Yuck and yuck. As a woman, bragging probably strikes you as something you just don't do. You'll just let your hard work do the talking. But while bragging may immediately have a negative connotation, I urge you to read on before you swear it off entirely. In this case, I think it's smart to take a cue from our (non-douche) male counterparts.
A brag book--or professional portfolio--is a helpful tool for showcasing your unique talents. Beyond a resume, on which we've all stretched the truth a bit, a brag book substantiates your accomplishments. So if bragging isn't second nature to you, now you'll have a sort of prop to help you convey your strengths. No matter what industry you're in, or the stage of your career, I'm confident that you can put a brag book to use in your job search. Not searching yet? Start putting one together now so it's not a mad dash to Kinko's the morning of the interview. Plus, it's great to have on hand at annual review time, or when you're shooting for that promotion or raise. In these cases, a little bragging goes a long way. You can thank me later.
A good way to start is by looking at your resume, which you've hopefully used to highlight your collegiate and professional achievements--not just your job duties. Note each accomplishment and find documentation to support it. Earned a special award at your university or on the job? Include a copy of it. Received a great thank you from your boss after you nailed that project? Now's the time to show it off. Here's a list of items you should definitely include:
- Table of Contents - It's a good idea to include one to help keep everything organized. This way, the viewer can easily find what they're looking for.
- Resume - Include multiple copies, especially if you plan to leave the book behind after the interview. You want to be able to get it in as many hands as possible, with minimal effort on their part.
- Bio - Your one-page (or less) professional bio. Don't have one? This article has some great resources for putting one together.
- Professional Organizations - This demonstrates your involvement in your industry/function as well as your leadership skills.
- Letters of Recommendation - Former bosses and higher-ups work best for these.
- College Transcript - This is especially good for recent graduates, but if you skimmed by with a C-average I'd skip this one...for obvious reasons.
- Awards or Honors - Pretty self-explanatory. Include proof of any awards you've earned at work or in college.
- Endorsements - This is where you put any "good job" emails you've gotten from bosses or professors, and LinkedIn recommendations.
- References - Include strong references who know your work well and can vouch for you, using specific examples.
This by no means is an exhaustive list of items, as it varies by industry and job description. With more creative jobs you can be a little more, well, creative, but its always good to err on the side of keeping it professional. Make sure to place items in reverse chronological order, so the hiring manager sees your most recent accomplishments first. Print everything on quality paper and place them inside a nice binder. Again, if you plan to leave the book behind after the interview, keep your budget in mind. If you're computer-savvy (or have a willing techy friend), an online version can be a great option too.
In today's job market, differentiating yourself from the next candidate can mean the difference between scoring the role and applying to another zillion jobs. Or getting paid a fraction of what you deserve, while Mr. Name Drop gets a raise. Use your brag book to show how hard-working and professional you are right off the bat. And leave the name-dropping to the weird networking dude.