Managing Your Career – How to Add Information to Your Employment File

Many interview guides advise candidates to answer the common "What's your greatest weakness?" question with a positive trait disguised as a weakness. For example, "I tend to expect others to work as hard as I do," or "I'm a perfectionist."

Why? Because interviewers have heard these canned answers over and over again.

If you use one of them, it will likely backfire on you. Because the hiring manager will think:

You're not being honest about your true weaknesses and are just regurgitating someone's advice;

You feel that expecting others to work hard and striving for perfection (or whatever other disguised positive traits you use) are "weaknesses," which makes you look ignorant, naïve and/or lazy;

You don't know how to do an honest self-assessment;

Or you're delusional and think you don't have any real weaknesses!

In an article titled “Who is Managing Your Career?” I introduced a new self promotion strategy for internal career development or career advancement. I looked at the benefits of keeping your employment file up to date by ensuring the Human Resource Department received and recorded a précis of any new skills, qualifications or experience.
This article looks again at the benefits of keeping your file updated, how you to go about it, a guide to the information that should be provided, and how it should be presented.
Updating your employment file is important if you don’t want to be overlooked for promotion, to be considered for higher duties or special projects, changing career direction internally, to back up any salary requests or to bullet proof yourself against retrenchment due to organisational change (see my article).
Most large companies conduct regular performance appraisals, where skills, training and professional development will be discussed as part of the appraisal, and your records will be updated. If appraisals are not conducted, it is your responsibility to advise your Human Resource Management Department or persons who manage recruitment, when you acquire new skills outside the workplace.
Set up an appointment with your Human Resource Manager (HRM) or the person who is in charge of recruitment. Explain why you want to be able to update your employment file and clearly state how this could benefit the company.
Unless they are short sighted, your Human Resource Manager (HRM) should welcome this approach. Once you commence your employment you are pigeon holed to a great extent. Your resume is sitting in the files and management is probably unaware that you have gained valuable skills they can utilise. It is a cost effective method to look at their own employees before advertising for staff with specific skills. It is also good HR practice to employ people within the company who fit into the organisational culture.
If your request to have your employment file updated is successful, ask about setting up a process as to how it is going to work. Without an official sanction by “the boss,” it won’t work. Your HRM may want to see the information you are presenting for inclusion in your file and then delegate the tasks of updating your employment file to a staff member.
Ensure your supervisor and immediate reporting manager are aware that you are providing career related information to human resources/management and why. Give them a copy of the information. Be ethical and non threatening at all times
It is important that the company knows you are starting a formal course. Don’t wait 8 years until you complete it (see original case study). Provide the course details with a “to be completed by date” and provide a course outline. If you think the units you will cover in the first year/or have already obtained, are relevant, include them with the unit outcomes separately, with a headline “units completed.”
Be clear if this was part of the Company’s Training and Development Programme or if you undertook it independently. Once again you need to provide a course outline, course outcomes, number of hours you attended, the name of the company who provided the training, and any certificates you received and possibly the facilitator’s name.
If your company doesn’t do performance appraisals then do not assume your role and contribution is noted on your file. Once again write a short note and précis of the project, what it entailed, your role, and final outcomes.
Did you receive any verbal recognition for any contributions you made? This may be at a staff meeting or in a number of indirect ways. Now be careful here. At an appropriate time ask your supervisor, or immediate reporting manager, to see that it gets added to your employment file. Explain why you want it on your record. It would be bad form to go behind anyone’s back to do this.Think through what you are going to say. A wrong word or tone could put your supervisor offside.
Why the different approach? A special project is likely to be a formal process and therefore you have the right to ask for it to be recorded on your employee file.
It is appropriate to ask the person who received the compliment to advise your direct manager/supervisor to have it recorded on your file.
Be clear about what you should do if this situation arises. Have this worked out in advance.I don’t know how many times I have brushed this off and said ‘just doing my job’. DON’T ever say this. Turn it into a career strategy.
Thank them and then ask if they would mind putting it in writing. Make the process as easy as possible or they may not bother. Most people would rather do this over the phone.
Ask them if they wouldn’t mind “sending a short note” to human resources or appropriate person. Provide them with a name, title and address. In this electronic age they may want to email it,so suggest what to put in the subject line to ensure it is not deleted as spam.
Have all this information typed out and stored on your computer ready to email to send to the customer before they go cold. Make sure you state in your correspondence or phone call – “here are the details you requested.” Things have a way of coming back to bite you.
If you achieved a leadership award or sporting achievement, even within a team, it demonstrates planning skills, initiative, teamwork or good citizenship, for example. It is appropriate to have it recorded in your employee file.
If you, or your team, appeared in a newspaper or newsletter, ask your “contact” in the Human Resource Department if it is worthwhile putting on your hard copy employment file because it demonstrates leadership (or whatever you think it demonstrates.) You may want to say. “I think this information is important” then say, “don’t you?” It is probably a good idea to save this type of information until you have added some other data on your file.
These are the attributes employers are looking for in an employee. They look at someone who is promotional material. Sometimes the skills are only secondary. Read any job advertisement and it become clear that attributes are given more consideration than the job.
Remember, this information may have to be electronically recorded onto a database, so make sure the information you provide is relevant to your company and is recorded in a concise way for input into the database. Type up a précis of the information if necessary. Ask if they also keep a hard copy file. If so, It is a good idea to enclose a brief cover letter outlining how this information can be utilised within the company should the need arise.
if you can and start building a relationship with the person in charge of employment files.
the person who may have been asked to update your file. It is an extra task and we know how this can throw out work deadlines. Do not be demanding or indicate that you have the right to supply them with extra work.
. Don’t make a quick trip to the HR Department in your dirty overalls, for example. If overalls is a work uniform then it is appropriate to wear it, but do make sure it is clean and your grooming is spot on. Don’t go overboard and dress for an interview. You should always dress appropriately for your position, not just on this occasion, but always. It does affect your chances of gaining a promotion.
So as you can see, there are at least seven examples of information you can add to your employment file.

Copyright 2007- Iris Wood You may reprint this article as long as you enclose the resource box with live links and the authors name. You may not alter the text in any way.