In the December 21, 2016 edition of Hotmail, I wrote about the importance and usefulness of writing a history of your company. Today I’d like to go one step further and discuss the benefits of writing down your personal career history.
I’m not talking about a professional timeline like you’d include in a resume. I’m talking about a record you can hand down to those who come after you’re retired and gone. Let’s look at the information you can record and preserve about your career that will be useful to the people who follow you.
As I grow older, I’ve come to realize each of us becomes increasingly important to those who are closest to us. What we did each day and what we loved to do will be meaningful to those who knew us, or come to know us through the pages and pictures we leave behind.
Also, as we become older, the experiences that make up our lives will evaporate into history and may be lost forever unless we take the time to record them. What would you give for five pages documenting the life of one of your great grandfathers?
If you’re still young, don’t think you need to wait until you’re older to record your history. Writing your personal history now captures the reality of your early years, and the budding enthusiasm about why you chose this profession. It will be interesting to see this evolve as the years pass by.
You may read this and decide your career and life are uneventful and nobody will be interested in reading about them. I promise, if you set aside a little time to write a few pages about your life’s work, that document will be cherished for generations.
How Much Will They Read?
This past holiday season as we visited our kids and grandkids, I asked them what I could write about my life. What would they really be interested in reading? I was surprised to hear they wanted a collection of short stories. This is something they said would be read again and again over the years. What a cool idea, right?
With that in mind, I encourage you to keep your personal history short and sweet, but include stories and descriptive events so they can be remembered. I’ve learned that people remember stories -- they forget facts and figures.
How to Start Writing
Since you’re probably not a seasoned writer, start with a simple outline scribbled on a piece of paper. Think about your history from a story-teller’s perspective for a few days and then begin to outline it.
Names, dates, and events will start coming to you. You’ll feel yourself grinning and chuckling and maybe getting a little fired up again about the events that shaped your career and your life. I bet you’ll experience an extra spring in your step as you see the purpose of your career and the impact it has had in developing who you have become.
In the Beginning
The Bible starts out with the words, In the beginning. That seems to be a hit, so you might as well start there too.
You will find your outline beginning to expand as ideas form into sentences and paragraphs. In the beginning, things to write about may include:
- Your age, the place, and circumstances where your career opportunities began and took you down the heating and air conditioning path.
- Discussions or events that impacted your decision to walk that path.
- People who set an example for you or opened doors that led you into this career.
- Refer to other related jobs or educational pursuits that hinted this was the direction to take.
- Write about why you chose your profession. Expand on your reasons to guide those who follow you in the years ahead.
You may rediscover seemingly minor events that directed your decisions and landed you where you are today.
The First Version Isn’t the Final Version
Don’t think the first version you write is the final version. At first, just write down all your ideas as they come to you. When you do this, you’ll generally wind up with much more detail than you want or need.
Save these ideas by saving each draft of the document as Version 1.0, Version 2.0, etc. You’ll clean up each version as you go, but will keep all your ideas intact in the older versions for later use, or for expansion in the future.
Tell ‘em a Story and They’ll Quote From It
Now for the good part: with the beginning and reason you chose your career documented, it’s time to write the stories that describe the biggest influences of your career.
Through a few good stories, people will see your attitudes about the services you offer customers and the passion you have for their comfort. Your familial and career descendants will see the skill you developed over the years – especially what made you great at your job and highly valued to your customers.
A good short story may include:
- When and where things got you started
- The circumstances of the day
- The people involved
- Think about providing addresses so they can visit where the stories take place
- If the weather is part of the story, talk about it
- Add a little tech talk. Grandkids will think that’s cool and future co-workers will benefit from it. Be sure to use terms and words that are easily understandable.
Don’t forget to include some of the crazy stuff too: the duct tape bandage, your dad’s mystery tool that solved all kinds of problems, the tight squeeze in the attic, the cool drink your customer brought to you, the dog you had to ward off with a heavy wrench, quotes from customers, the snake in the crawlspace, and the dirt-cheap wages you were paid compared to today.
When you’re done writing your story, read it through your family’s and co-workers’ eyes and edit the words to make sure it is easy for all of them to understand.
Wrap It Up
Conclude your career history with something meaningful that describes how you felt about your job and the purpose you found in it. Help your readers see there is so much more to air conditioning and heating than just hot and cold.
Help them understand you went to work every day to serve people and care for their needs. Be sure they know you loved executing the skills and talents you developed for the benefit of others. Tell them how you felt when you accurately diagnosed a long-term problem and how much your customers appreciated it.
List some awards you received and your educational accomplishments in our profession too.
Find and paste in a few pictures of your work. If you don’t have many photos, take a few current ones and include them in your story.
A Final Edit
A final polish of this document is appropriate. Keep it simple. Be careful not to make yourself look way better than you really are. Make sure it is believable.
Finally, include some names of your colleagues. Throw in some building names and addresses that will be around in a hundred years and imagine your great grandkids pointing to them and bragging ,“Great grandpa built that!”
Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute -- an HVAC-based training company and membership organization. Doc would love to read your personal history after you write it! Please send a copy to him at [email protected] or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at nationalcomfortinstitute.com for free information, articles, and downloads.