In the past 365 days, you’ve come a long way professionally: You’ve learned new skills, undergone new experiences, set new goals, and accomplished new things.
Shouldn’t your network know about all those changes?
Now, there are a lot of ways to fill people in on what’s happened in your big year. You could schedule an obscene number of “let’s catch up” coffee meetings and tell them individually. You could write a sappy LinkedIn post. You could send them all a newsletter.
But we thought something this big might warrant something a little different. So we’re proposing creating a personal annual report, in the form of a website or other online experience, that shares your proudest moments from the year behind you and lays out some of your big goals for the year ahead.
Sound intimidating? I created my own annual report to try it out, and I’ll walk you through step by step.
Why Do It
Most businesses create annual reports to share company accomplishments with employees, investors, and other stakeholders, but in recent years it’s become more and more common for brands to make these so fun they get shared around the web at large. They become not just a way to report data, but a marketing tool. (Check out some of our favorites from Warby Parker, Kickstarter, and charity: water for inspiration.)
Similarly, setting up an engaging website of your accomplishments makes it easier to share the information with your network than individual meetings, more fun to read than a social post or email—and ultimately becomes something that can elevate your personal brand for years to come.
First—and most obviously—it’s a fun way to remind everyone of all of the awesome things you’ve done or help them learn something new about you. Of course, you might remember that you fixed more bugs than any other developer for four months in a row, but most of your connections won’t (assuming they knew about it in the first place).
You’ll also give dormant connections a reason to reach out, whether to compliment you on an achievement, volunteer to help with a project, or ask if you want to meet up.
Furthermore, if you’re job searching, this will lay some serious groundwork for success. When your network knows exactly what you’ve been doing, they’re much more likely to refer you for a position, make a key introduction, or offer you a job themselves. And when hiring managers and recruiters Google you or check out your LinkedIn profile, seeing your annual report will make sure you stand out among a sea of applicants.
What to Include
Now that you’re sold on the why, let’s talk about the what.
A lot of what you might include in your report will depend on your specific role or industry, but here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Your biggest wins
- Personal or professional goals you’ve achieved
- Skills you’ve acquired
- New concepts you’ve learned
- New responsibilities you’ve taken on
- Side projects you’ve been working on
- Notable events (changing jobs, moving, getting a promotion, starting a new business, etc.)
- Lessons learned
- Goals for the new year
After making a list of all the achievements and events you can remember, go back to your mid-year performance review, feedback notes, and LinkedIn status updates to see if there’s anything you’ve missed—or even ask your mentor, boss, or co-workers for suggestions.
As you’re jotting down what you want to cover, make special note of two things:
Accomplishments You Can Tie Numbers To
Adding in data can definitely give a boost to your job search materials, and it holds true for your year-end report, too. Quick, which sounds more impressive: “Hit sales goals” or “Exceeded sales goals by 25% 4 quarters in a row”? That’s what I thought.
Now, you might have to get creative based on your job duties, but no matter what you do, there’s bound to be something to quantify. (Here are some ideas for those of us who don’t work with numbers.) For example, I included approximations on how many articles I wrote per week and how many words I wrote in the entire year. And depending on your industry, don’t be afraid to add a little personality! I also included, “Consumed 100 falafel sandwiches,” and “Made friends with roughly 30 Uber drivers.”
Accomplishments You Can Visualize
One of the major points of creating an online annual report is the ability to make it visually engaging so your viewers don’t just have to read a wall of text. Again, you can do this even if you’re not a designer—check out these tips for some ideas. I followed several of the tips here: using logos for the publications I’ve been featured in, using icons to accompany some of my accomplishments, and even doing some typography play with my goals for next year.
I also tried a few new tricks for my site. For my “Milestones” section, I used a timeline to give a high-level overview of where I worked this year—a much cooler way of telling people that I “interned in NYC with XO Media’s custom content department” than inserting lines of text. (To make your own, use the Knight Lab’s timeline template. This tutorial will show you how to embed it into Squarespace.)
Have you moved or traveled a lot? A map is a playful way to tell people you’ve landed somewhere new. (And you never know who will email you to say they’ve got connections in your latest home!) There are many easy-to-use map creators out there: Power is nice since it plugs into Squarespace, but you can also try Gathering Point or MapBox.
What Not to Include
It should go without saying, but anything your company considers sensitive or proprietary information is off-limits. Read your contract, employee handbook, and any company policies on what you can and can’t share with outsiders, and when in doubt, play it safe by rewriting potentially iffy statements so they’re more generic. For example, you might change Acted as liaison between my company and Johnson & Johnson, helping shape million-dollar contract to something like: Acted as liaison between my company and major international CPG corporation, bringing about multi-stage partnership.
You should also think carefully about including anything you’d post on Facebook before LinkedIn: wedding and baby announcements, vacations, and so on. While including a few personal achievements can give some more insight into your personality (for example, I chose to share my half marathon accomplishment), too many will detract from the point of this whole exercise: your professional triumphs.
How to Set it Up
If you already have a personal website, make it easy on yourself by simply adding a new section or page for your year-end report.
If you don’t, platforms like Squarespace make it easy to build a basic one in just a couple hours—and doing so for an annual report could be the perfect way to kick-start your little corner of the web. We’ve written some instructions on quickly building a website from scratch—many of which apply here, too—so hop over there for some basic tips on getting it set up.
In either case, keep your report to a page—you shouldn’t need more than that to tout your most important accomplishments of the year, and keeping it to a single page will make it much more likely that someone will read the whole thing. But you will likely want to divide your information into sections so it’s not just an overwhelming stream of information.
Begin by looking at your list of accomplishments, then see if they fit neatly into a few high-level sections. I decided to start with a short summary to give an overview followed by sections on “Where I Was” (info about the various companies I worked for and cities I lived in), “What I Did” (outlining numerical milestones), and “Goals for 2016.” Using Squarespace’s Pacific template, I was able to keep all this info on one page, while still having a menu at the top for quick access to each different section.
How to Promote It
Once you’ve got the finished product, it’s time to get it on in the world! Don’t be afraid to promote it on your active social networks (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook), add it to your bios (an especially great option if you don’t have a separate professional site), send the link to your professional contacts (and your mom, because she’ll want to see it), put it in your email signature—whatever it takes to let your network know about it. You can also consider attaching it to your job applications, either listing the link on your resume or including it in the “optional website” portion.
If it makes you feel awkward to be sharing your accomplishments around like this, think about changing your framing. Instead of messaging your professional contacts saying “Hey, check out all the awesome stuff I did this year!” come from a place of gratitude, thanking them for the part they played in helping you have such a successful year.
In just a couple hours, you can show off (tactfully, of course) an entire year’s worth of work. That’s a pretty awesome deal!