4 Documents Every Professional Should Maintain

Professionals today have to manage their own careers. They can’t leave things to chance nor rely on other people to help them progress with their careers.

That means you have to put in some work in order to make sure you grow professionally and in the direction you want it to.

In order to do that, you need to create and maintain these four documents throughout your career.

4 Documents To Manage Your Career

1. Career Management Document

The career management document (CMD) is the main document that you need to start and maintain if you don’t have one.

Think of it as a living resume.

It contains all the details about your previous jobs, the responsibilities you’ve had in them, and the most important one—accomplishments for each role.

What to Put

The CMD is like a resume. The only difference is that a resume is typically one page while the CMD is longer.

Think of the CMD as the main database where you record every accomplishment you had. When you’re applying for a job, you distill that and pull only the most relevant information into the one-page resume.

The easiest way to get started is to open your current resume, create a copy and rename it to CMD, then expand more on the different roles you’ve had.

Here’s a trigger list that can help you with this exercise:

  • Achieved, reduced, improved, etc. –> what have you accomplished for the company you’re working for?
  • Think of metrics or KPIs you were measured on; for example:
    • Number of qualified leads
    • Organic website traffic
    • Closed sales $
    • Number of Complaints
    • Ticket resolution time
    • Bugs resolved
    • Lines of code written
  • Soft skills
    • Communication
    • Leadership and management
    • Professional development and training

How to Update

A good rule of thumb is to update your career management document quarterly. It’s a good timeframe that allows you to hit goals or complete big projects that make an impact.

If your company does OKRs or quarterly rocks or something similar, then this should be easy for you. Even if the projects you’re working on aren’t finished yet, add an entry to your CMD to take a note. Then next quarter, update it with the results.

2. Delta File

The delta file is a simple document where you record all your rants and complaints about your boss and coworkers. You use this file as a reminder of what you don’t want to do when you’re in that situation in the future.

Delta, if you remember in your math class, means change. Delta file = change file.

Simply put, the delta file is a document for things you would like to change when you have the power and authority to do so.

Instead of posting on social media or saying bad things to your friends, record all of them here in this document.

The only difference is to frame it in such a way that when you review it next time, you get reminded that you don’t want to repeat the same thing when you’re in that position.

What to Put

You can put pretty much anything you complain about:

  • How your boss keeps having meetings at 4:45 PM
  • How you hated not being told you were rejected when interviewing as a candidate
  • How you didn’t like that you have to log detailed timesheets just because you switched from in-office to working from home

How to Update

Every time you encounter a situation you didn’t like, add it to your delta file.

Don’t just say, “my boss is a jerk” or “I hate my colleagues.”

Describe the situation around it using language that would make someone totally unfamiliar with the situation understand it. Think of it as when you tell a story to your spouse.

For example, you hate the new policy from your company about logging detailed timesheets.

You can start your delta file entry as “I will trust my team/employees and believe that they will do the right things.”

From there, you describe more background about the situation.

Before COVID-19, our entire company as working from an office. Eventually, we transitioned to a 100% work-from-home setup. After a week, upper management implemented a policy for every staff to create a detailed timesheet indicating what they were working on from 9-5. The team wasn’t consulted about this change and it just shows that management doesn’t trust us to do our work.

When I have a team or start a company, I will trust my staff to do the right thing and get things done. They can do it on their own time taking into account that each individual’s situation is different. It doesn’t matter if they don’t respond to emails or chat messages right away. What matters is they get the job done, no ball gets dropped, and customers remain happy.

3. Resume

A resume is typically a 1-page document that you customize and send when you are applying for a job. There is an entire section dedicated to this that goes into more detail about this topic.

4. Blacklist

A blacklist is another document that you maintain that includes people and/or companies that “are regarded as unacceptable or untrustworthy and should be excluded or avoided.”

As you progress in your career, you will encounter people and organizations you definitely don’t want to deal with anymore.

What to Put

One word of caution: if you have too many on this list, this means you are probably being too liberal with your definition of who goes into this list. For example, if you listed there every boss you’ve ever had with the reason they are assigning you too much work, then that’s most likely a “you” problem and not a boss problem.

If you put in everyone you have a conflict with, you’re using it wrong.

A good rule of thumb is to really put someone here you don’t want to work with in the future.

For example, you have a colleague who has a habit of throwing other team members under the bus. Not just once or twice. But a habit — it’s what they do week in and week out for months on time. They’ll say one thing to the boss but say something else when they’re with you. You spoke with them. Your colleagues spoke with them about it. HR and your manager have been brought in as well, yet they keep doing it again and again. That’s certainly a candidate to be added to your blacklist.

On the other hand, if you frequently get into a confrontation with your other colleague or boss because of a clash of ideas or beliefs, they shouldn’t automatically be placed on your list. Conflict is natural in any workplace. Different backgrounds and perspectives make for better ideas. So, if you are literally adding everyone you disagree with, you’re using the blacklist wrong.

How to Update

The way to update your blacklist is similar to the delta file. You put a summary statement upfront and explain the details behind it, similar to the example above. You don’t put in characterizations like “he’s a jerk” or “he’ll never change” or “he keeps throwing us under the bus.”

Sure, you can include that, but you have to describe the situation. Give an example. Bob, Christine, Henry, and I are colleagues under Elizabeth our boss. Bob keeps throwing us under the bus. Not just once, but habitually. For example, in last week’s meeting, he said that Christine didn’t do XYZ which is what he needed before he can do his job, but Christine finished the task early and notified him and everyone else. Elizabeth, our boss, who is also covering for someone else who just left, often relies on summaries because she has so much on her plate. How Bob is handling this reporting creates unnecessary conflict and extra stress for the rest of the team.

We have already spoken to Bob about it several times. His answer was always “he didn’t mean to”

If you carefully examine the examples above, it describes the situation in such a way that the reader will come to the same conclusion as you did. The main reason why this is important is months from now or even years from now, you will not remember this. If you only used characterizations like “we didn’t get along,” you will not have an idea about it in the future.

These are the four main documents you need to create and maintain throughout your career. No one is going to manage your career for you except you.

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