Business Magazine

Keep a Career Journal

Posted on the 27 December 2016 by Candacemoody @candacemoody

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You’d be surprised at how faulty your memory is for the current year, let alone three years ago. The serial position effect is the tendency to recall the first and last items in a series best, and the middle items worst. (June may be lost in the shuffle.) The term was coined by Hermann Ebbinghaus, who discovered that recall accuracy varies as a function of an item’s position within a study list. When asked to recall a list of items in any order (free recall), people tend to begin recall with the end of the list, recalling those items best (which is called the recency effect.) Among earlier list items, the first few items are recalled more frequently than the middle items (called the primacy effect.) So you may have trouble recalling, and your manager will certainly have trouble recalling on your behalf.

Keeping a career journal will help you understand why you feel what you do about your job. Keeping track of your good days and bad days can be helpful in making career decisions. If the majority of your entries are about projects being delayed, discord among team members, or funding cuts, you may be justified in consider a move to another company.

Not sure what to write? Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., writing for, suggests these entries:

  • Analyzing your current situation
  • Brainstorming about your future career goals; seeing yourself in 5 years, in 10 years
  • Establishing daily or weekly career-related objectives or tasks
  • Developing action plans to achieve your objectives and tasks
  • Keeping track of your daily career-related achievements, progress
  • Making checklists to keep your progress moving forward
  • Discovering and exploring your workplace values
  • Writing a personal mission statement
  • Preparing a SWOT (strengths-weakness-opportunities-threats) analysis
  • Recording key information, such as network contacts, informational interviews, accomplishments, job interview results, etc.
  • Expressing your reactions to job and career success and failures
  • Writing and polishing your key job correspondence material — cover letters, resumes, thank you letters, etc.
  • Practicing job interview questions – and answers
  • Gathering salary information; conducting salary research
    Developing plans for achieving promotions
    Strategizing methods to get a larger raise, bonus, other compensation or benefits
  • Preparing for job performance reviews
  • Marketing yourself within the company
  • Exploring whether further education or training will fast-track your career

Your journal will be a great way to build your case for a raise. There are really only two reasons for a manager to justify a pay raise: increased value to the company (a bigger role or more valuable skill set) or an adjustment to meet current market value for your role. Either way, it’s your job to collect the data and package it for your boss to consider. It’s important to make your case on data and not personal needs or wants.

You can certainly use pen and paper for your journal, but I recommend an online tool such as Evernote or a document stored in Dropbox for easy anywhere access. Having your entries stored digitally allows you to cut and paste them into email or your resume.

Your journal can also be a place to explore ideas for the future: articles you want to write, future career plans, even starting your own business. Researchers have found that people who write down their goals accomplish significantly more than those who do not write down their goals.

2017 could be your biggest year yet – write that down!

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