For me there's something inspiring and humbling about these physical structures. I often wonder what it's like to have been a part of the construction (or renovation) of Grand Central Terminal, the Chrysler Building, or Bryant Park. Part of that longing is the desire to have played some small part in the creation of places and spaces that so many people enjoy. Some of that desire is that, long after I'm gone, a bit of me would remain behind.
I don't work with my hands, at least not in the way that most people think of when hearing that phrase. I don't manipulate concrete, wood, or steel. As a knowledge worker most of the products of my efforts exist in less than solid forms. Spreadsheets, phone conversations, and emails don't add up to timeless testimonials to art and industry in most people's minds.
I do have two distinct advantages, however. First, as a social media enthusiast I've created content--video, photos, e-books, and blog posts--over the years that, while digital in nature, helps create a displayable body of work. Through this content I have the ability to share and spread my work through space and time.
The second is that I've spent my career in the retail (and now the restaurant) industry. Until such time as all of it exists online (which will never happen) there will be a need for spaces where people will meet and shop for things they want. And I've played my part in its creation and maintenance. I can walk by numerous locations, both in New York City and elsewhere, and point out with pride how I helped contribute to its existence.
I've also been fortunate enough to have helped open several stores for various companies throughout my career. Store openings are amazing experiences. You work long hours and it can be filled with plenty of anxious moments. Yet it's all worth it--the energy and sales created when the shop doors open for the first time is something that I can't adequately describe.
These examples are my way of making this point--it's important for anyone's career to have a concrete body of work. Resumes can highlight your work history. You can practice how to conduct effective interviews. Being able to show, in addition to explain, the way in which you've added value to an organization can provide an advantage that others may not be able to match.
So how can a person put together a body of work that stands out? Here are a few suggestions:
- Create content. While a job may not offer much in the way of making things, take advantages of any opportunity to do so. Maybe it's a convincing PowerPoint presentation, or a whitepaper highlighting your subject matter expertise. Whenever you get to create content be sure to make note of critical information for future recall, such as its purpose, its intended audience, and what goal it helped to get accomplished. Going back to my social media efforts, I can easily highlight objects such as the e-books I've written or participated in as highlights of my career.
- Tie physical landmarks to key career milestones and accomplishments. I have found that making connections with colleagues and clients go smoother when we have things in common. When you work in retail that can include places as well as people. I've mentioned locations I've worked at and have discovered that they have a history with it as well. Physical landmarks can also help in describing change over time. Going back to my examples of store openings, I can use those events to describe work-related details that were important then (e.g., hiring for a new store opening) and how they changed over time (e.g., recruiting for a store that's been open for a while). This, however, may not translate across all types of work and industries.
- Keep and archive objects as they evolve over time. When I was an employee relations manager one of my responsibilities was editing and publishing the employee handbook. This was an annual affair. During my tenure I kept copies of each year's version. In this way I could explain what changes were made to it's design, content, and cost of distribution. They could also be shared with interested parties.
If I removed the above photos and videos from this post would it impact the reader in the same fashion? The additional content (all my own) adds an extra dimension to the piece. So too should your offline body of work. Wherever possible, tie your strategic initiatives to real world results. This will speak more clearly of your value than just words, both now and in the future.