By now, everyone has heard that successful people create plans and goals for their future. However, in a panel discussion I attended of Smith College professors, historians and activists, there was a thought provoking conversation about the importance of and need for women to write their own history. The role and major contributions of women have been underrepresented and sometimes wiped out of history completely. Diaries, letters, and memoirs of these women from the past are all that remain to give those interested a glimpse into a more complete articulation of our history.
This led me to think that in business, for women in particular, documenting our past may be equally as important as planning our future. Here are some specific ways to make that happen.
- Daily business journal – Keeping a daily business journal can be very useful during performance reviews. Instead of letting the evaluator create their own version of your past performance, guide their opinion by giving your own version of your accomplishments, challenges, and goals first – complete with detailed examples. This will put the burden on the evaluator to disprove your version of the story.
- Follow up emails – When you make a critical point in a meeting, increase the probability of you receiving acknowledgment for it by sending a follow up email. Sometime in meetings, it can be difficult to remember who made what contribution. For women, this is even more so because gender difference often result in men repeating previous comments made by women and ignored by the room only to have them subsequently praised and embraced. Sending an email to the appropriate person/people following up on your idea with additional detail can increase the believability that you were in fact the originator of the idea. (The tone of the email is very important. The goal is to add additional insight and value, not complain that you did not receive credit for making the comment in the first place.)
- Update your resume/bio – After every major project/accomplishment, update your resume or bio. Be sure to articulate what the problem was, the solution you came up with, and the impact of it. Review your updates periodically to check for patterns of skills or experiences that jump out at you. Update how you tell your story and brand yourself to highlight these patterns that might not have been emphasized previously.
- Get published – With the Internet, there is no reason that a public record of your thoughts and accomplishments cannot not be created. Blogs, ezine articles, social media networks, etc. are readily available for everyone to share quality thinking for anyone to see. Putting works together that establish you as an authority or expert makes it difficult for you to be left out of the historical discussion.
Having the proper acknowledgement for your past accomplishments is not about building up your ego. It’s about making sure you have the opportunity to achieve your goals in the future. Increasingly, people are acknowledging that past behavior is the best predictor of future success. Leaving the articulation of your past to chance is really gambling with your future.