job jumper tip #1: create a WIDD file


A neighbor commented to Bubelah that she visited a career coach to help concoct a resume after being laid off. She worked for a major financial institution that decided to layoff thousands of workers after some poor decisions by senior management (who, of course, did not lay themselves off).

Having worked for this company for her entire career, she had never prepared a resume again after being hired 15 years ago. I was shocked to hear this. My experience has been radically different. I have worked in four different cities and two countries for five different companies. For two of those companies, I made major changes in the department I worked for, necessitating a whole new interview process. As a consultant now, I “interview” for a new client on average once every six months. I do nothing but polish up my resume.

So as a confirmed job jumper myself, I decided to devote the next few Wednesdays to advice for the “job jumper” – someone who willingly jumps from position to position (I’m shifting the link roundups to Fridays). You don’t even need to change companies. My definition of a jumper is someone who needs to interview before working in a position, either internally or externally. How is this different from a job hopper? A job hopper implies (to me, at least) a more casual, laid back approach – just switching jobs for the sake of switching. A job jumper is making a definitive, forceful push for a reason.

These tips will be useful for anyone who is considering a change in their current “job” – even if they are self-employed. My intention is to make each tip simple, as well, because I have come across a lot of dense career advice. Advice you can’t easily use is the worst kind of brain clutter.


Tip 1: Keep a “what I done did” (WIDD) document.

I have a Word document that started out as a Word 2.0 file back in the mid-90s. I think the first time I saved it, it went on a floppy disk. The old school, 5 1/4 inch floppies that were really floppy. This document – I call it my WIDD file – has been a lifesaver over the years. I work in a “project” style job (except for one year in corporate financial reporting). A “project-centric” job means that I have projects that begin and end – I don’t do the same thing month after month. I go to Client XYZ, perform consulting/auditing/accounting/etc., give them a report and move on. Sometimes this takes months and months. Sometimes I do it in one or two days. At one point I managed eight different projects running concurrently (with a staff of 25). The point is that in 15 years I have probably averaged 50+ projects per year.

I kept a written record of what I did at all of them.

This is critical for a jumper. You need to keep a record of what you actually did, not what your duties were. This is different than keeping a resume. When I jump to a new position, I don’t list every project I managed. I do, however, hunt through my WIDD file to see if I can find a skill or experience that is relevant to the position I want to get. I could never keep all of this information in my head, or in a resume. If I keep it in a file that’s easy to search, I can quickly and easily tailor my “bare bones” chronological resume to highlight some clever “hit points.”

You don’t have to keep a long description. Do make sure you hit the high points. For my audit work, I might highlight which parts of their financial statements I personally audited, or difficult accounting issues I had to decide with the client. Two or three bullets usually suffice.

Try and keep a WIDD file. It takes one or two minutes per week to update and the next time you need to prepare a resume, you’ll be able to highlight specific, relevant experience rather than giving a potential employer the same dull, drab resume with generic skills that you give everyone else.

Check out the rest of the job jumper tips:

15 Replies to “job jumper tip #1: create a WIDD file”

  1. We call this an “I love me” file at work. We have to do yearly performance reports. It makes it easiest if we have already been keeping good track…in a personal file.

  2. I’m so glad I’ve been doing this since I graduated, I think it’s helpful no matter what your job is. Very few people do exactly the same things day in day out, even when they keep the same job duties.

  3. Great tip! I forgot what I did during a few college interships….I have the titles of the projects, but nothing after that….hm….I will definitely create a WIDD document for this job because I work on so many different projects.

  4. Great idea. I’ve always thought of resumes as being pretty useless, because “X years of experience with Y” doesn’t say anything about how good you are. When I was fresh out of school, I had a resume as a formality, but I used a cover letter to explain why they should hire me. Now that I have some experience, I can highlight relevant things that I’ve actually done, but of course a WIDD file makes it much easier than trying to remember everything you’ve done.

  5. Another thing to do is an annual “Why I should be making more file” that you present during your review. My manager asks for this and it’s really helpful because it keeps you a) motivated to come up with good ideas that improve the way work is done and b) it reminds you to write it all down so you don’t forget.

    The what have you done vs what job did you have argument is so true. No one cares what the job is/was. What did you do there?

  6. Love your WIDD file and it’s an excellent tip. I head up recruiting for a rather large company (in excess of 30,000 employees worldwide) and I can tell you from a hiring managers perspective (HR’s as well) there is a vast difference between a job hopper and a job jumper.

    The way a job hopper is viewed is that either s/he can’t get & keep a job; or is not a good performer, maybe bored & jumps from company to company in the hope of finding something they like; so invested in moving up as quickly as possible that the first offer that comes in that pays more than the current company does & they are off & running. Overall, not a good impression.

    If however, you have had the bad fortune to work with companies not doing well financially & that is why you lost a job or several in a row, explain that on your resume!! Otherwise, it’s assumed it’s your “fault” you don’t stay on a job for long. We do expect a couple of fairly short term positions after college as a learning curve, but if you keep on the path of a job for just a year or even 2, that’s generally regarded as a warning sign. Not fair I expect, but it’s reality.

    On the other hand, as a job jumper, that shows initiative that you have what it takes to get promotions or even if it’s a lateral move that you have the resourcefulness to learn different skills. This is definitely a good thing. In addition, (depending upon what level job you have) a good review will go a long way to getting you a better job. If your score is above average & you were blessed with a manager that put on paper the good things you’ve done, good habits you have & that you exceed expectations, well, that’s the candidate we are ALL looking for.

    I look forward to seeing the rest of your tips since this one is an absolutely invaluable one.

  7. For the last few years, I have been noting what I worked on in a monthly calendar at the end of the day. It is very nice to be able to see what I did on any given day. But the problem is that it is not portable. And when I move, I just dump it in a box. Just like Bubelah, I worked for the same company for years, so I keep dumping my used calendars in the a box (note: sometimes they are not in the same box – very disorganize). So I think I will give the idea of having a Word file with a list of projects a try.

  8. I did this at my last job…definitely was helpful in building talking points afterwards. I’m going to work on one for this current job in case of promotions. πŸ™‚

  9. Here is my tip…which relates back to the WIDD. I work in a company where practically all communication (including praise) goes through email…and we have the latest version of MS Office (2007) here. I manage a couple of large projects, and what I have done in support of performance reviews that come up on a bi-annual basis is to categorize the ‘you did a great job/thank you emails’ into “Project X Review Evidence’, “Project Y Review Evidence” and so on. You can set up categories quite easily…they are just a way of tagging similar things. Once set up, categories can be applied directly on the mail in your inbox. When review time comes, I simply run queries on my inbox for these categories, and then refer to them when writing up my review. Of course, I could never remember all of the praise that is heaped on me over the course of 12 months :P… it is a handy quick reference.

  10. @Brooke: I like the name “I love me” for this kind of file, too. Whatever you call it, it’s handy for a variety of reasons – it’s good that you pointed out performance evaluations.

    @SD: That’s definitely the point! Titles and generic job descriptions aren’t always useful in describing what you actually did. There’s no way my job offer letters that I’ve received ever described what I ended up doing, for example.

    @plonkee: Very good point – even if you keep the same job, it (hopefully) evolves over time into something new. Chances are good that unless you have a very rote job – VERY – that your duties change from year to year.

    @Hunter: Memory – at least for me – is a completely unreliable resource for things like this. Need to recall the lines to “The Breakfast Club” – memory works. Need to recall job duties from 10 years ago – nada.

    @WC: That’s a good idea, too. The WIDD concept could be pretty easily changed – you could ‘star’ items above and beyond, you could keep a separate page for highlighting superior performance, etc.

    @Pamela: Thanks very much – and you’re right, there is a distinction between a hopper and a jumper. If it’s just someone jumping from a job making $32,000 to a job making $32,500 for no reason other than a $41.67 raise per month, they are a hopper. Someone who strategically moves from position to position to build skills, enhance their network and define their interests is a jumper. Great clarification, thanks for the comment!

    @Asithi: The problem with the calendars, for me, at least, is searchability. I like to be able to search in file, or copy and paste from the WIDD to a custom-designed resume. The calendars still serve as external memory, which is good, but it is intimidating to pull out big piles of calendars and start flipping through them trying to find something in particular.

    @Mrs. Micah: Keeping one to bludgeon your boss with at review time is certainly a valid reason to get a WIDD file! πŸ™‚

    @Jonny: That’s a very good tip. Email is a good way to keep stuff organized, but I would still back it up externally. If you leave the company, you may not be able to take email history with you (they may not look to favorably on copying that .pst out – if it’s even possible). I have thought of keeping my WIDD in Google Docs, though, and integrating it with gmail – somewhat similar. Your system is a great idea for preparing for a performance review.

  11. This is such a great idea, and I wish that I would have thought about this earlier in my career! I wonder, is there a way to “cram” and get down onto paper what you have done on past assignments to make a starter WIDD file? I an in between positions currently (not of my choice, and not planned!) and am starting to interview elsewhere. Any advice? Thanks!

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