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Show your Body of Work

empty chair by table with laptop

Don’t Hide Your Professional Past

With extra coffee at my side this morning, I wanted to share my thoughts on the concept of our body of work and specifically explore the observation about how little we show what we’ve done. The combined forces of the web, technology and markets keep pushing towards transparency, accessibility and social proof. And it seems to me that we are increasingly working in a world where prospective buyers and our target audience want to see what have you done before deciding to spend their attention or cash. More than what can be communicated in a resume or interview.

Do You Show Your Body of Work?

Musicians need to put their work out there to make a living. You can easily look up an author’s body of work. The publicly available iMDb database lists the work credits of not only the actors but all of the professionals working on the production. In all of these cases, the body of work is available and tangible. Closer to the world of business:

  • Deal makers are happy to to talk about their financings or acquisitions done

  • Creative and ad agencies show their client campaigns

  • Architects and construction companies put their sign on their buildings and display models of what they’ve built

  • Websites post the logos of their notable business customers

And yet, for the rest of us, showing and talking about our work feels unseemly and more difficult. When you think about it, isn’t it amazing how little we actually talk about our work. Not the activities, but the outcomes. The thing we did, built, created, designed, improved, launched, fixed, installed, and enabled. And so we suffer for it. We don’t become as known as we might deserve to be. We rely on 3-5 bullet points on a resume, a few lines on the LinkedIn profile and a positive (fingers crossed) reference from our former manager when we are transitioning.

What are we afraid of?

I think we are held back by three things:

  • It sounds like bragging and we aren’t comfortable with the idea of self-promotion

  • Fear of what colleagues and the organization might think of you laying claim to a piece of the outcome

  • Being unable or unwilling to define your contribution, either because it doesn’t feel tangible, or worse, you’re not sure you have a body of work or don’t want to stand behind it.

I challenge you to think about your body of work. I think it is both a mindset that anyone can dial-up if not already doing so, and an activity that can lead to tangible approaches to how you think about, articulate and promote your value in the marketplace, and your legacy.

  1. To what extent have you adapted to this chasing reality? How willing are you to point to your work?

  2. Based on your career stage, what is your body of work and are you proud of it?

  3. What is the nature of your work and how can you describe it? Are you dealing with projects, products, service lines, clients, deals…

  4. How does your work fit into the bigger picture and how can you describe the outcomes?

  5. How could you show, demonstrate or point to the good work you’d done over the course of your career?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Resume/CV: A well designed resume / CV is an obvious starting point

  • Testimonials. References & Referrals: An indirect and important part of describing our body of work is to have others vouch for it and us

  • LinkedIn Profile: Say more in the experience section

  • LinkedIn Profile - Projects feature: This is a fantastic feature to lay claim to and point to a “project.” You can even tag project co-workers to share the experience.

  • LinkedIn Profile - Publications, Awards, Certifications, Recommendations, etc.: Multiple features to add texture to your profile and build a picture of your body of work.

  • Project or Deal Sheets: If your work is more project or deal oriented, you can create a document that lists and describes that work

  • Physical Portfolio: Not for everyone, but perhaps you can show your work with distribution limited to those you physically meet

  • Online Portfolio / Blog / site: A flexible and public method to showcase, discuss and point to work. You can shape the narrative and your personal brand through a presentation of your professional self.

  • Links: Use URLs to point to products, projects, organizations and other tangible entities as part of describing your work.

  • Case Study, White paper, Presentation Deck, Video ...

The tactics are less important than the overall notion and approach. Something to think about on this Sunday. If I can help you define, articulate or showcase your body of work, please get in touch. And if you have any thoughts about this article please leave a comment. I love hearing from you.

Be well and thank you for reading. Keep moving forward.

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