Keeping a "work journal"

When I was helping to hire more people to my team a couple of years ago (I was an individual contributor at the time), I was reviewing the resumes of candidates. One particular application caught my attention because it came with a "work journal" as part of it.

It was nothing complex: just a list of things a person did at their job, together with awards and recognition they've received from peers. I really liked it, though, because it gave a really good picture of the things the candidate has done and what impact they've had on their product, team, and department.

Why keep a journal

Recently I spoke about salaries at a TechToloka live stream. As part of it, we talked about manager's considerations for raises, and I realized that asking for a raise is exactly the situation where this kind of journal could help to back your case.

Since I became a manager, I try to keep tabs on the recognition and positive things I hear about my associates. In my email, I have a label called "Team performance", and several sub-labels called "Kudos to <name>" under it, one label per associate. All the congratulations, product launch emails, resolved customer issues that get resolved by someone from my team get labeled for my future reference. This helps me with performance reviews, but at the same time, that's not the whole story, since positive things are said via emails less often than via chat or during in-person communication.

Your manager doesn't know everything you're doing: we only know about the things you and others tell us about. Because of that, I think it's important to be ready to advocate for yourself, and a work journal could help.

This kind of journal could also be helpful when you'll decide to switch jobs: parts of it could go into your CV, or become the stories you talk about at your interviews.

How to keep a work journal?

I like keeping mine in a Google Doc on my personal account (not the corporate one, because I'd like to keep it regardless of where I work). You're welcome to organize it however you find suitable, but if you're looking for an example, here's a structure I use:

2021 *(best to keep the year as H1 or H2 to easily navigate) *

April (usually this is an H2 or H3)

  • wrote a blog post about giving feedback using SBI model
  • extended an offer to the team's first Test Automation engineer
  • received an Impact Award within Sales & Services org for my project management efforts with RHLS Premium and Management Reporting projects during Q4 CY20 and Q1 CY21

(Basically this is a list of things I did that might be interesting for me to look back at later)


  • recorded a podcast episode about having complex conversations at work based on the book "Crucial Conversations"
  • ...

Also, if I receive an email about anything that could count as an achievement, or just as something positive I'd like to re-read later, I add a "Positive emails" label to the message. This works well if you remember to do it, which I sometimes forget :)

Final notes

Even if you feel like keeping a work journal is weird, I sincerely suggest giving it a try. The human brain is often conditioned to remember negative things and discard positive events, so checking on your journal from time to time can give you a good sense of how much progress you've made with your career. Even if you don't feel like showing it to your manager for raises — try writing it for yourself to see your growth and impact, it'll be worth it.