The Brag Book for Job Hunters: E-Book Review and Tips

Some of my career-services clients have had tremendous success with “brag books" (professional portfolios of career highlights and areas of expertise), propelling them from good-but-average positions to the next level of leadership with accompanying salary and commission increases.

Those in pharmaceutical sales are likely familiar with brag books; candidates may be asked to bring them to interviews. Outside of this industry — in fields as diverse as transportation and speech-language therapy — a professional compilation of achievements, acknowledgements, activities, etc. can also be valuable.

Years before the popularity of personal branding and social media for career building, I worked with clients to create presentations of their professional successes and styles, all in a simple-but-elegant binder (purchased at the office supply store). The books showed their qualifications for specific openings and positioned them as future superstars by showing not only results, but also their unique approaches to developing business, building a team, retaining key accounts, and more.

Getting a brag book ready is one challenge. Figuring out appropriate presentation is another.

In How to Design, Write, and Compile a Quality Brag Book, Teena Rose, CPRW (Certified Professional Resume Writer) guides job hunters through the basics of brag-book preparation and presentation. I found the casual tone of the e-book easy to understand, which is especially useful for those who need straightforward direction during the stress of the job search. She also offers valuable tips for senior-level candidates.

Great tips include:

  • Focus on quality and recentness when compiling a brag book. Choose the best of your accomplishments to highlight, ideally from the last few years.
  • Create categories with easy-to-find tabs for quick reference when making a presentation.

  • Develop a theme for your brag book. This theme may reflect your brand; for example, one of my clients created categories of professional strengths and then provided documentation to showcase these different capabilities (e.g., the presentations category included a list of public speaking engagements; the community outreach category had press coverage of special events).
  • Place items such as letters of recommendation, annual performance reviews, and thank-you emails in the brag book. Consider using these items as talking points during the interview.
  • Ideally, tailor the brag book to the hiring organization.

  • Avoid compiling a "catchall portfolio." Demonstrate that you are an outstanding candidate, not just that you have basic qualifications.
  • Think carefully about when to present the brag book. Take cues from the interviewer. Look for a natural break in the conversation or reference a page that reinforces a point about your qualifications.

Teena mentions that sales professionals and those who have quantifiable results can benefit most from brag books. I’ll add that those who have less opportunity to produce measurable results may also use brag books. Illustrate soft skills by packaging items such as notes of thanks for going the extra mile or emails recognizing the use of creative ideas to solve a problem.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of How to Design, Write, and Compile a Quality Brag Book for review.

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