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The term “brag binder” seems self-explanatory, right? Put all the good stuff in one place so you can easily show it to your boss or potential client. It’s no different than photographers having an online portfolio of their best shots. Would you hire a wedding photographer without seeing their work? Exactly!
But I didn’t have a brag binder at my last job. I didn’t really tout my accomplishments on LinkedIn—the digital brag binder—either. And guess who never got a big raise. Me. Guess who never got a substantial promotion. Me, again. Maybe adding this one tool to my arsenal could have helped me earn more to slash debt.
In her book, Real Money Answers for Every Woman: How to Win the Money Game With or Without a Man, Patrice C. Washington gives excellent tips on how to get over yourself to earn more money. When explaining how to negotiate a higher salary, Patrice suggested showing your value with a “brag folder.” So what do you put in it?
- positive reviews
- notes of appreciation
- thank you cards
I re-read the book over the winter and immediately started keeping my accomplishments and praise in a folder.
“Your goal is to become crystal clear about what qualities you bring to the table, so you can learn to articulate them effectively,” Patrice writes. “You don’t want to appear bratty or cocky, but you do want to make sure that you’re not ashamed to toot your own horn when and where it’s appropriate.”
- It boosts your self-esteem and helps you be confident walking into an interview or salary negotiation.
- It makes sure you’re armed with the facts, so the meeting isn’t an emotional conversation. (“I deserve a raise. I just do. I’ve been here 30 years.”)
I recently interviewed for an internal promotion with a nice raise. I went a step further with my brag binder by taking into account the interview rubric. The man with the power to promote me wanted examples for each of the eight criteria:
- building relations
- entrepreneurial spirit (doing what needs to be done before being asked)
- customer orientation (satisfying customers)
- functional/industry knowledge (continuous learning and applying that knowledge to get good results)
- results orientation (setting goals and actively working toward achieving them)
- fostering teamwork
- developing others
- managing resources (being efficient with human resources, time, money and other materials like paper and ink)
Every hiring manager in the world is probably using the same barometer for measuring a candidate’s potential. Consider examining yourself to see what grade you’d get in each category. But I digress.
I pulled out my brag book to play Show and Tell with him. When he asked, “How have you fostered teamwork?”, I showed emails, texts and meeting agendas I created.
“Have you mentored other teachers?” I showed detailed notes and suggestions I wrote from observations.
“What projects have you lead at school?” I showed him the whole process of an iPad story writing competition—from training other teachers to emceeing the awards ceremony—and presented some of the students’ work.
The interviewer let out a few “Ohs” and “Ahs” while flipping through the pages. I think my interview ran longer than the others. Good sign, right?
I hadn’t done a physical portfolio in so long. I’m glad I took Patrice’s advice. When I left, I saw a coworker stand up with nothing in tow. These physical examples might give me a leg up in the hiring process. I’m hopeful.
Did I use a special binder?
Not really. I used a 30-pocket display book that’s ubiquitous in China. My school had already given it to me, so I didn’t buy anything.
What did I include in it?
- cover letter
- blog posts I’d written to help other teachers (shows expertise in your industry)
- emails from higher-ups congratulating me on a job well done
- emails and text messages (print-outs of screenshots) showing collaboration with coworkers
- posters I designed to promote sign-ups for extracurricular events
- PowerPoint presentations I create for the iPad competition training and the awards ceremony
- examples of my students’ work - agendas for meetings I lead (shows organizational and leadership skills)
How did I organize it?
I put my resume and cover letter in the front. I tried to place examples in the order of the rubric. And I also put like things together, so the whole process for the iPad story writing competition was in one section.
How could I improve the brag binder?
Quantify. Quantify. Quantify. I could have dug deeper to find an instance where I saved money or increased profits with my ideas and execution.
How could you use the brag binder?
Show case studies. Everyone loves to see before-and-after, rags-to-riches or ugly-duckling-to-swan stories. That’s why we binge-watch home makeover shows and go gaga over #TransformationTuesdays posts about weight loss.
So tell a story about how you improved some aspect of your business. The case study should clearly state (1) the initial problem, (2) list the solutions you thought of and the reasoning behind it, (3) how you implemented those solutions and (4) the results. Did you make communication more effective? Did you reduce costs? Did you eliminate redundancies? Did you increase profits? By how much?
Web designers could show how they turned a crappy website into a masterpiece, bringing in 200% more lead generations for that company.
Teachers could show old test results, methods they used to improve the students’ grades and understanding, and new test results.
Financial coaches could show their client’s busted budget and the budget they helped them create. They could say “On average, I help my clients save $500 a month after budget consultations.” Now, that’s something!
Don’t be afraid to show a company or employer what you’re made of. They want to see results. A brag binder is one way to do that.
Here are links to more explanations of brag binders: