Like many others, my career journey hasn’t been a straight path.
After a few years doing data work at some interesting jobs, I landed a position at a tech startup. It was one of those “help anywhere you can” kind of places, so I did whatever was asked and learned a lot in the process. I had only been there a couple of years, but life had other plans for me, and I needed to make a change. I resigned, moved out of state, and helped manage a significant health issue in my family.
Fortunately, the company valued my work and asked me to continue as a remote contractor instead of accepting my resignation. I didn’t exactly know what that would mean, but of course, I said yes, and it changed my life in ways I couldn’t even imagine at the time.
Now, let’s be clear, this was at a time when remote work was not the norm. The internet lagged, the flip phone was the newest tech, and forget about video conferencing…there wasn’t bandwidth for that.
It was a huge change for me and to top it off, this company determined I needed to account for my time in 15-minute increments when submitting invoices. The requirement didn’t worry me because I always did what I said I would, but ugh, just what I “needed”…another mundane, time-consuming, (frankly asinine) task, to be added on top of the real work that needed to be done. Be that as it may, my excel tracking file was born. And so began my self-tracking voyage to bigger and better things…even if I didn’t know it yet.
A decade later, when my employment ended with an unexpected layoff, I suddenly needed to update my resume and remember all the things I’d done over the years. Given where I started, it was a lot and felt like a daunting endeavor. As it turned out, what I had dreaded doing all those years, suddenly felt like a spark of genius! In fact, having all those invoices with written lists of my contributions thoroughly documented was a blessing, no longer in disguise. That’s right! I literally had the information I needed at my fingertips. Not only did I have the results in writing, but it gave me the confidence boost I needed to present myself with real-world examples of what I had achieved.
Ultimately, this experience turned habit, led to one of the most fulfilling positions of my career! And, I believe, in part because I was able to unlock the hidden potential of this mundane task and confidently articulate my capabilities and significant impacts.
Sometimes, I think we may all underestimate or under remember what we do, and the impact our work has. For me, seeing it all in writing was eye-opening. I thought "wow, I did a lot. I learned a lot, and honestly…I’m a great catch for a new employer".
Since then, I’ve made it a personal policy to continue to track myself, expanding my original excel file, adding any kudos I’ve received, awards, nominations, special projects with significant outcomes, and so on. Being the data junkie I am, I’ve even automated the file with a one-click time button and some formulas to make this mundane task as insanely easy as possible.
Just like my flip phone evolved to an iPhone, more tools designed specifically for time tracking have become available, allowing me to easily track myself and build reports to see exactly what I’ve done and how long it takes. I’m notoriously bad at estimating time in the moment (just ask my husband, lol), so this once unloved task has been a godsend for me to understand my own time and value through quantifiable facts.
Let’s face it, you can’t predict the future, but you sure can prepare for it, which at this moment is ironic, because…
I recently found myself “restructured out” and on the hunt for a new opportunity once again. This time, fully armed! My “mundane” tracking data and reports are just the jet fuel I need to propel me to my next endeavor.
Granted, this journey still has many years to go, but I know for sure that I will continue to make time to embrace the mundane task of tracking and documenting my experiences, especially considering the proven results I’ve seen and the impact it has as I navigate the current job market.
Update: I just accepted an exciting offer where I can tell you with certainty, my value is WELL understood.
No matter what happens in the future, all we can do is be prepared. Make the time for the “mundane,” and you too can turn it into “jet fuel” for your career! Trust me, you won’t regret it!