How to Keep a Career Log

A career journal, diary, or log is a great way of keeping track of what you do each day or have done in the past at your job(s). Small, forgettable details, when added together, can add up to a significant pat on the back from a superior or even a raise! If used right, a journal can help you get the most out of your career and life experiences. It can also be helpful when updating your resume.


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    Dedicate a notebook or journal to this purpose only. It might be a good idea to have a distinctive look so that it jumps out at you and makes it easy to find. If you use an iPhone, Blackberry, or other PDA then utilize a note-taking application.
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    Keep it handy and close to you. Places like next to your computer, on your desk, or in your drawer at home are all good places. A smaller notebook could fit in your purse or pocket for convenience and privacy. The most important thing is to not bring it to work; the risk of it being found and read by your co-workers or boss outweighs the benefits.[1]
    • You could keep your notebook in the computer, but the computer isn't always handy. Write in your notebook and put it on the computer when you can. If you do enter your notebook in the computer, it becomes very easy to search for specific parts.
    • Check into keeping a blog. You can make it private so that it can only be viewed by you. That way, no matter where you are, you can access it. Go to your favorite search engine and do a search for 'free personal blog' or something similar. Be sure that it will allow you to make it private, or not.
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    Determine the purpose(s) of your career journal. You can do this as you go, if you want, but having a direction established will help. Here are some reasons people start career journals:
    • Switching jobs - You'll want to examine what you want from the new job and what you have to offer.
    • Switching careers - Research potential careers. Analyze your own skills, talents and experience. Establish a plan for transitioning from one career to the next.
    • Preparing to enter the work world for the first time (e.g. student) - Record results from self-assessment tests. Get advice from teachers and others. Sharpen your job-hunting skills.
    • Preparing to re-enter the work world (e.g. after traveling, or raising children) - A mix of the above.
    • Developing your existing career path - Filling in the "gaps" for becoming well-rounded in your role. Brainstorming conferences, books, seminars, and further education that may enhance your career. Networking.
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    Start writing and write often. Write everything that you remember in the past that you have done. Brainstorm to jog your memory. Form and flow don't matter, just remembering. A few simple notes jotted frequently will add up to more information than long but occasional memory dumps. It will also help to record the information when it is fresh in your mind. The remaining steps will give you some ideas to get started.
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    Flowchart your job(s). This will help you to 'see' what exactly you do from day to day. What's the first thing you do in the morning? And depending upon your result, what do you do after that? And after that? Doing this will give you a clearer picture of what you accomplish daily, and it is useful in staying focused through the day. If your daily routine doesn't really fit into a flowchart, you could also write a paragraph or more about what you do, draw a mind map, or write notes or an outline.
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    Record key facts and figures in a separate section of your journal. You will need certain pieces of your work history for just about any job application. It's easier if you keep this basic information together, in a different section than your reflections. It will be especially useful if you ever apply for something that requires a full life history, such as citizenship, a professional license, or a security clearance. Keep careful records of these details, especially when you change jobs:
    • Start and end dates at each company where you worked.
    • Your salary history, along with dates when it changed.
    • Your official title and, if it is not descriptive (Staff Member, Associate IV), a description of your job function.
    • Addresses and phone numbers of the companies where you worked (even if out of date).
    • Short summaries of your work.
    • Names and contact information of managers/supervisors and references.
    • Addresses and phone numbers of your personal residences (for life history applications) and contact information for landlords or management, even if it is outdated.
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    Reflect on your work, past or present. Even a simple gripe about your job ("I hate processing forms") can provide insight into your career preferences and work habits. If you hate processing forms, is it because you dislike tedious and repetitive work? Do the forms or the process need improvement? Should the forms be processed by someone else or abolished altogether? Use your career log in your current job to identify ways that you can show initiative or improve your work. Then, when you have shown initiative or improved something, record the accomplishment in your log.
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    Connect the dots. Make sense of what you have written. Give it some order. Look for strengths and weaknesses. Notice what you love, what you hate, and what you tolerate. Notice what you admire and dislike in your supervisors and coworkers, along with how you interact with them. Notice trends. Your career may evolve with stops and starts, but it will evolve. Is it going the direction you want? How could you improve it?


  • Things like meaningful work and job satisfaction can't be counted, but that doesn't mean they don't count. Use your career log to explore some of the intangibles of your work.
  • Include hobby and volunteer experience. You may not be able to make a living at your hobby, but what you do when you're not being paid may tell you where your true talents and interests lie.
  • Include copies of complimentary messages from clients, teammates, and others.
  • Consult your former resumes, status reports, and any work notes, documents, or email you still have access to.
  • Update your resume and other job application information from time to time, whether you are changing careers or not.


  • Keep your career log private, especially if it contains salary information, gripes about your job, or comments about your colleagues.
  • Be cognizant of what your company prefers to keep private, too. Respect policies regarding intellectual property and confidential information.

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