You Really Need a Brag Document at Work, Now's a Good Time to Start: Here's a Great Template

A brag document is for self-reflection as much as it is for showcasing your achievements to others. Here's a template for getting it done.

You Really Need a Brag Document at Work, Now's a Good Time to Start: Here's a Great Template
Photo by charlesdeluvio / Unsplash

We've all been there, it's late-November, end of year pushes and vacations are making every hour at work jam packed and it's time to complete your performance review... You can't remember what you were doing in October let alone your accomplishments in February. YOU NEED A BRAG DOCUMENT and January is the perfect time to get started.

Unlock Recognition and Rewards with a Brag Document

In the professional world, it's a common misconception that excellent work will automatically be noticed and rewarded. Unfortunately, the reality is more complex. Not all types of important work are equally visible or memorable. Many of us have experienced the frustration of significant contributions going unrecognized simply because decision-makers weren't aware or didn't remember our efforts. This blog post addresses a strategy that has proven effective for myself and many colleagues: the creation of a "brag document."

Beyond Promotions and Raises

While this approach certainly aids in career progression, its benefits extend further. Reflecting on your work through a brag document can illuminate themes, personal values, learning experiences, and areas for change. It’s about more than just climbing the corporate ladder; it's about personal and professional development.

The Challenge of Remembering Your Contributions

As performance review season approaches, a common question arises: "What exactly did I accomplish in the last six months?" This moment of uncertainty often underestimates the breadth and depth of our contributions. It usually takes a deep dive into past emails, documents, and projects to uncover all the significant (and sometimes forgotten) achievements. These might include mentoring an intern, spearheading a security project, or playing a key role in a crucial migration.

Your Manager’s Perspective

Your manager, regardless of their effectiveness, is also likely to forget the full extent of your contributions. For them to successfully advocate for your advancement or exceptional performance evaluations, they need a comprehensive understanding of your achievements.

The Solution: A Brag Document

A simple yet effective tactic is maintaining a brag document that chronicles your accomplishments. This tool isn't just a list; it's a powerful resource during performance reviews and discussions about your career growth.

Sharing Your Brag Document

Initially, sharing this document with your manager might feel awkward. However, it's generally well-received as it eases their task in evaluating and advocating for you. It’s also incredibly useful during transitions to new managers or when engaging in peer reviews.

Explaining the Big Picture

A brag document is more than a list; it's a narrative that provides context to your work. Whether you're focusing on security, product skills, user relationships, or fostering a strong team culture, your document can reflect these themes and illustrate how your actions contribute to broader goals.

Reflecting on Patterns and Learning

This document can also be a reflective tool, helping you to identify what you're proud of, discern themes in your projects, understand the effectiveness of your work, and consider areas for improvement or change.

Regular Updates

Some find it beneficial to update their brag document every couple of weeks, while others prefer a comprehensive review every six months or annually. Experiment with different intervals to discover what works best for you.

Personally, I write comprehensive notes weekly to make my one on one time valuable with my manager, it's the perfect time to also add any appropriate updates to my brag document.

Including the Fuzzy Work

Don’t overlook the less quantifiable aspects of your work, like enhancing code quality, refining processes, or mentoring. These contributions, though sometimes less visible, are crucial for a well-rounded professional profile.

Encouraging a Culture of Recognition

Having a brag document can foster a supportive work environment where accomplishments are recognized and celebrated. This practice can demystify the process of career advancement and create a more inclusive and encouraging professional community.

Brag Document Template

Creating a comprehensive brag document can be a game-changer for your professional growth. Here's an expanded template to guide you through crafting a document that truly reflects your achievements and learning experiences. Remember, the aim is not to embellish but to accurately represent your hard work and contributions.

1. Goals for This Year

  • List Your Major Goals: Clearly outline your objectives for the year. This could include specific projects you want to lead, skills you wish to acquire, or performance targets you aim to meet.
  • Progress Updates: Regularly update your document with your progress towards these goals. Include any milestones reached or challenges faced and how you overcame them.

2. Goals for Next Year

  • Future Aspirations: Towards the end of the year, start identifying your goals for the upcoming year. This can include areas where you want to delve deeper or new directions you wish to explore.

3. Projects

  • Your Contributions: Detail your role in each project. Were you the initiator, a critical problem solver, or did you play a key role in implementation?
  • Impact of the Project: Quantify the impact wherever possible with metrics (e.g., efficiency improved by X%, cost savings of Y dollars, etc.) and also include qualitative impacts (e.g., improved team morale, enhanced customer satisfaction).

4. Collaboration & Mentorship

  • Team Interaction: Document instances where you supported your team members, contributed to a positive team environment, or helped resolve conflicts.
  • Mentoring and Leadership: Highlight your efforts in mentoring others, leading workshops, or guiding new team members.

5. Design & Documentation

  • Documentation Contributions: Mention the documents you've authored or significantly contributed to. Explain their purpose and impact.
  • Design Initiatives: Describe your involvement in design processes, especially where your contributions led to major improvements or innovations.

6. Company Building

  • Beyond the Team: Include your contributions that have a broader impact on the company, such as participating in committees, task forces, or company-wide initiatives.
  • Process Improvements: Document your role in streamlining or enhancing processes within the company.

7. Learning and Development

  • New Skills and Knowledge: List new skills you've acquired, courses completed, certifications obtained, or significant insights gained in your field.
  • Applied Learning: Describe how you've applied new knowledge or skills in your role and the outcomes of these applications.

8. Outside-of-Work Achievements

  • External Contributions: Include achievements in areas like community service, volunteer work, or industry involvement.
  • Personal Development: Share accomplishments in personal projects or hobbies if they contribute to your overall professional profile.

9. General Prompts for Inspiration

  • Testimonials and Feedback: Incorporate positive feedback or testimonials from colleagues, clients, or supervisors.
  • Overcoming Challenges: Discuss significant challenges you faced and how you overcame them, showcasing your problem-solving skills and resilience.

10. Visual Enhancements

  • Graphs and Charts: Where applicable, use visual aids to represent the impact of your work more vividly.
  • Screenshots and Photos: Include screenshots of important work or photos from key events or projects you were involved in.

11. Reflective Summary

  • Year in Review: At the end of your document, provide a reflective summary of your year. Discuss what you learned, how you grew, and areas for future development.

12. Format and Presentation

  • Organized Layout: Ensure your document is well-organized, easy to navigate, and visually appealing.
  • Consistent Updates: Regularly update your brag document to keep it current and reflective of your ongoing achievements.

This comprehensive template aims to encapsulate not just the what, but the how and why of your professional journey. It's a tool for self-reflection as much as it is for showcasing your achievements to others. Remember, a brag document is a living document – it should grow and evolve just as your career does.