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Aaron Dalton

“Brag docs”: An Aide-mémoire

Illustration of a text document with a rosette adorned with a star at the bottom of the page.
Illustration of a text document with a rosette adorned with a star at the bottom of the page.
Copyright: dacianlogan

Performance reviews and discussions around compensation are part of working in house. You can’t just unilaterally change your hourly rate. If you want to get ahead, you need to be able to have uncomfortable conversations and demonstrate your value. But if you’re anything like me, remembering what you did last week, let alone last year, can be a real challenge. Enter the “brag doc.”

A “brag doc” is basically a private journal you keep of all your work accomplishments, including not just major projects you’ve worked on but also things you’ve learned, challenges you’ve overcome and bridges you’ve built. Then, when it comes time to sit down with your manager or draft up a justification for a raise, you have a trove of recorded information to help you put yourself in the best possible light. I personally keep my “brag docs” private, but you might also keep separate ones that you share with colleagues, a mentor or your manager.

You should dedicate time to periodically update your “brag docs.” How often depends on how much you want to record and how good your memory is. I find setting aside an hour or two every month is enough for me, but your mileage may vary. When the time comes, review the list of base work you worked on that period. Review your calendar for meetings you may have forgotten about. Go through your “Sent” box and review your Slack/Teams channels to see what types of conversations you were having. Then decide what to record:

  • If you don’t already have a tracker that records all the base editing work you’re doing, then maybe a straight list of each individual project will be useful. In my case, we have extensive tracking, so I’m more selective about what base work I include. Not all projects are created equal. Some have outsized impact or pose unique challenges. Those I include.
  • Did you do anything in your normal editing work that was particularly helpful or effective? Maybe you helped an author restructure their document? Or you caught a particularly embarrassing error or problem?
  • Definitely record projects that fall outside of your base job description. Maybe you advised on an important IT project or are part of some internal committee? Did you help someone “on the side of the desk” with important work?
  • Did you overcome any particular challenges? How? What were the results?
  • Capture what you learned. Did you take any courses or webinars? Read any illuminating books? Have a personal epiphany during an editing project? Did you change something as a result of something you learned?
  • Don’t forget relationships. Are you a mentor? Did you have a breakthrough with a challenging author? Did you do something concrete to strengthen an existing relationship or forge a new one?

“Brag docs” aren’t just for in-house editors or even just for work-related accomplishments. Even if you don’t have to justify yourself to a boss, keeping a journal of positive achievements is good for your immediate mental health and can have unexpected uses down the road. You’re worth it!

Do you already maintain some sort of “brag doc”? If not, do you think you might start one? Tell us more below.


Previous post from Aaron Dalton: What is Plain Language? Part 5: The Nitty-gritty

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4 Comments on ““Brag docs”: An Aide-mémoire

  • Anita Jenkins


    Aaron, your articles are alway great. And helpful!

    When I worked freelance, I kept what I called a “kudos file.” If a client, or even a fellow editor, said something positive or complimentary about my work, I put a printed copy in a big brown envelope. I thought I would turn to it when I was having a bad day and someone was eroding my self-esteem. (It happens.) I rarely looked at it, but I knew it was there.

    • Thanks, Anita! I totally forgot to mention that! We have a points-based recognition program where I work, and every year I export the recognitions I’ve sent and received that year and put it in the same folder as my brag docs. As you say, sometimes you just need a pick-me-up 🙂

  • Teachers call it their ‘Monday file”. Not notes on accomplishments, but positive notes from students: The letter from a former student that thanked you for something they learned from you five years ago; the note from a parent that says how they’ve seen a positive change in their child they attribute to your class; a thank you note from a student for letting redo an assignment; a photo of the wooden vase a student made in shop class for you. The Monday file is not something to show anyone else, certainly not a supervisor, but just to have in one’s desk for when that Monday morning comes around where you just can face 8B English for another class. You take out the Monday file and it reminds you why you’re doing this and at least some of the kids get it some of the time. 🙂

  • Thanks for the sage advice, Aaron. I shared it with my son, who works in-house (not as an editor, but the principles still apply).

    For myself, I keep a list of projects, in various categories, and save testimonials, but your idea of identifying particular challenges and learning makes very good sense. Cheers!

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