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Building Your Brag Sheet

Let's talk about one of the most important habits you can pick up for a successful and productive career - Documenting!

Performance reviews. It's that time of year when many of us struggle with the uncertainty of knowing if our managers see our impact the same way we see it. We sit in front of our screens, trying to find ways to convey the impact we’ve had over the last few months into a few paragraphs or bullet points. And then comes the anxiety-inducing moment you have to sit down with your manager to discuss your performance over the past quarter. Let’s face it, our community is no stranger to stress. Still, there’s something special about playing this game regarding your career growth and, most importantly, your money. Whether you're a seasoned employee or new to the game, one thing can make the performance review process a lot less stressful: a brag sheet. Don’t believe us? Click here to grab the Tech by Choice brag sheet template you can use today.

What is a brag sheet?

Yes, you heard that right. A brag sheet. It's not just for kindergarten show-and-tell anymore. In fact, a well-crafted brag sheet can be the key to acing your performance review and ensuring you get the recognition you deserve. So, let's dive into what exactly a brag sheet is, why it's essential, and how to create one that'll knock your manager's socks off.

First things first: what is a brag sheet? It's a document that lists all of your accomplishments over the past year. Think of it as a highlight reel of your professional life. But why is it important? For starters, forgetting all the great things you've accomplished over a year can be easy. A brag sheet helps you keep track of your wins, big and small. It also makes it easier to articulate your contributions to the company during your performance review. This can help you make a case for that raise or promotion you've been eyeing.

How do you use the sheet?

So, how do you create a brag sheet? Start by identifying your accomplishments. This could include projects you've completed, goals you've met, new skills you've learned, or any other achievements you're proud of. Don't be afraid to brag a little – that's the whole point of this exercise! Be sure to quantify your results where possible, and highlight any awe-inspiring achievements. Then, keep track of your accomplishments throughout the year so you don't forget anything important.

When it comes time to organize your brag sheet, categorize your accomplishments by project or job duty. This will make it easier to find what you're looking for during your performance review. List your achievements in order of importance, and use bullet points for clarity. You want your brag sheet to be easy to read and digest. After all, your manager is probably juggling a lot of information during your review.

What does this look like in action?

So, you've created your brag sheet. Now what? When it comes time for your performance review, share your brag sheet with your manager. Provide them with a copy of the document ahead of time, and be sure to discuss it during your review. Use your brag sheet as a reference during the review session, and emphasize your accomplishments' impact on the company. Don't be afraid to use your brag sheet to set goals for the next review! Discuss how you can improve your accomplishments and identify areas for growth and development.

Not all managers are made equally.

We’re here to help you level up even if you feel alone and unsupported in the workplace because we know bad managers are a thing. But someone else disposition shouldn’t block your bag, so here are some things we suggest people take their career growth into their own hands.

  1. Start your career growth conversations early, and have them often. Valerie Phoenix, Founder of TBC and Engineering manager, recommends “people should have career growth and alignment conversations at least once a month to avoid surprises.” If your manager isn’t initiating conversations, feel free to make it a topic you want to discuss during your 1:1s.
  2. Ask your manager for the most up-to-date career ladder that you can use to understand where you currently are in your career and where you would like to be. This will help you have a guide to work off of and not just go off of gut feelings.
  3. Document your conversations with your manager. In the same way, you want to keep a paper trail when things go wrong; you want to do the same with tracking the good things too! If your manager is overworked and poorly supported, they might forget to note down what you’re working on. Taking notes during your career growth conversations can help both parties stay on track with your growth. A great way to stay aligned with your manager is to send a summary of your discussions through chat or email.
  4. Share your brag sheet with a coworker you connect with or friends who understand the space you work in. People around you have an easier time pointing out your wins and your impact than you might. 
  1. It’s easy for people to find your strengths, but it’s much harder to come by constructive feedback. Remember this if you encounter someone who doesn’t give the best feedback. 
  1. Set up a meeting to review your brag sheet with your manager. Make sure you share your brag sheet with your manager at least a week before the meeting, so they have time to review it.

How to navigate this meeting?

Whether your manager took the lead or you have to, you’ll still have to discuss your brag sheet. If you’re thinking, ‘this conversation is uncomfortable,’ don’t worry because it is. It could be because we’re all still socially awkward because of the pandemic. Maybe you come from a cultural background, like some indigenous cultures, where talking about yourself is socially unacceptable. Or perhaps you’re suffering from imposter syndrome. Whatever it may be, we have a few tips to help make this conversation easier.

During a meeting, if your manager is dismissive or uninterested in your accomplishments, use your brag sheet as a guide to help you explain your impact. This is where it will be essential to tie the example you give to the company's career ladder and the overall effect of your work.

As you go through this conversation, take a moment to ask for specific feedback on how you can improve for the next review cycle. This conversation might take more than one session, and that’s ok! Your manager might need to take extra time to review your work and what you've presented to understand how to create a growth plan for you. Or maybe they need more clarity from their coworkers on how to best support you. Either way, you should know if your manager needs more time to give you feedback, this does not mean you’re not growing the way you thought you were.  It’s OK if this takes time (and this is why we start early), but you need to get in writing what areas you need to grow in from your manager's perspective. 

You don’t see eye to eye.

If you follow these steps and find you’re not aligned with your manager, there are a few things to remember. 

  1. You’re worth is not tied to your job. Remember, no one can pay your worth because there’s not enough money in the world to cover your experiences. Your salary is just compensation for your time.  
  2. You’ve been documenting everything, so it’s time to talk to your mentors and colleagues who can advocate for you and help you with feedback.
  3. Suppose you don’t find the support you need from other people in your organization. In that case, another company will prioritize your growth in a company that’s healthy for you. That brag sheet is extremely helpful for interviewing. If this is your route, reach out to your board of directions to help you create a game plan to get you to your following promotions.  

These conversations can take a toll on you, especially if the conversation doesn’t go as planned. Having career conversations often will help you chunk the conversations. The best part is you can always take breaks from this conversation. 

In Summary

In conclusion, a brag sheet might sound silly, but it can be a precious tool in your professional arsenal. It helps you keep track of your accomplishments, articulate your contributions to the company, and make a case for yourself during your performance review. So, don't be shy – start bragging!

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