Creating a Plain Text Career Management Document


From around 2005 to 2012, I maintained what I called an annotated career profile. It was kind of like a CV, but with more narrative. In it, I explained the work I did at my various jobs as well as the challenges I faced and overcame.

In 2012, I noticed that the document was becoming rather long. And, to be honest, it really was for my own use. For a few reasons, I abandoned that document in 2012.

Let’s fast forward seven years and a few months into the future. August, 2019, to be exact. I stumbled across an article explaining something similar to my old career profile: the career management document. That document:

is a comprehensive collection of your résumé and portfolio content. It’s a document you update regularly, over time, with all the work you’ve done.

While the article suggest using a word processor for the document, I thought that plain text would a better, more flexible choice. Let’s take a look at one way to use a text file as a career management document.

(And, yes, Emacs folks, I realize that you can use org-mode for this. But not everyone uses Emacs or org-mode, or wants to. So, I’m sticking explaining how to do this with a simple text file.)

Structuring the Document

How you structure your career management document depends on your needs. Here’s the basic information that I think should be in this document.

First off, start with a header that contains the basic information about your job. Something like:

---
Position: Maker of Stuff
Company: Yoyodyne Enterprises
Dates: 2018-04-01 to Present
---

That explains itself. You can also add a section that briefly outlines what your job involves. To save time, you can condense the job description from your employer if you want to.

At the very least, include these sections in the document:

  • Achievements. This outlines what you did during a period of time. That could be completing the development of a software module, landing an important client, or writing a whitepaper. How granular you make this section is up to you, but I don’t recommend anything more detailed than a month. Daily or weekly updates will make this document too long, and doing can encourage you to be less concise. More on that in a few moments.
  • What I Learned. A list of skills or knowledge that you picked up, related to your job and career.
  • Who I Helped. This is people you offered a hand to outside of your daily work. That can include someone you mentored, working with someone on another team to help them solve a problem, or pitching in to help someone on your team who is overwhelmed.
  • What I Did. This is for things you did outside of work, but which can relate back to your career — for example:
    • Giving a presentation or talk.
    • Writing a post for the corporate blog or an article for an industry publication.
    • Contributing to an open source project.

Style

Remember that annotated profile I mentioned at the start of this article? That document weaved a story about my career. You don’t need to do that with your career management document.

Try to make it as concise as possible. Use bullet points and sentence fragments. Make the document easy to scan and digest. Remember that your career management document doesn’t need to be a detailed chronicle. It can be a set of prompts that will trigger your memory when you need to use the information to update your resume or CV.

Here’s an example:

## What I Did

March, 2020

* Finished rolling out Docs Like Code for writing/reviewing release notes
    * Developers and QA get notes in GitHub, and review there
	* Everything in plain text for easier management
* Began rewriting & restructuring help topics
    * Adds more topics, but makes help less exhausting
	* 8% of topics reworked

Adapt that to your own needs and writing style.

To get you started, I’ve created a skeleton template. Feel free to download and use or modify it. I’ve released the templates under a CC0 public domain license that lets you do anything you want with the file.