It was about 2:30 on a Friday afternoon when Harry noticed several of his colleagues being escorted from their cubicles to…. then there was someone from HR to escort him. They were taken to a meeting where more than four dozen of their colleagues were told that their services were no longer required. They were being laid off. Immediately.

They were given their severance package details and told that they could return to their work space to claim their personal possessions but that their computers had been locked down. No access. No exceptions.

That Harry and his colleagues, who were employed in a highly sensitive creative design department, would not have access to their computers was not a big surprise but he did have a problem. His only copy of his resume – his career history over the past 25 years – was now lost.

Harry remembers thinking as he walked to his car, “What the hell am I going to do about my resume?” He knew recreating your resumethat layoffs were possible and he had intended to download his resume to take it home, but now, caught off guard, it was too late. That he also lost his personal professional contacts list was also a setback, but for Harry, the resume was the big issue.

Harry is not alone. Every week, thousands of professionals lose their only copy of their resume – the hard copy was thrown away, the hard drive on their PC crashed, or they lost access to their office computer. In fact, it is so common, that this is not the first time I have written about this occurrence. And it is a frequent topic in virtually every career management workshop. In some instances, a data recovery service from companies such as DriveSavers can be used to help bring back lost data within the hard drive, it depends on the extent of damage, if any, it has recieved.

Here is what Harry will have to do: Carefully recreate his professional life relying largely on his memory, from dates of employment, to job titles and accomplishments. The latter were probably not going to be quantifiable since Harry would be hard pressed to remember his performance numbers from 20, or even 10 years ago.

This recreation process is a highly risky proposition because, over time, our memories about our career exploits tend to conform to our more comfortable recollections.

Here is what Harry should have done: Pulled his career journals from their storage space in his study at home and started work accurately rebuilding the document. These journals were categorized by year – he usually filled up two 8 x 11 leather-bound notebooks every 12 months – and indexed by month and year. There were tabs for keynote pages – those major career events like a new job, promotion, raises, incentive payments and job performance reviews – followed by journal entries regarding major projects, important decisions or crises. These entries covered successes, failures and reflections on lessons learned as well as observations regarding how to improve their performance. For Harry, keeping a journal had proved enormously beneficial to his career.

Whether you use leather-bound notebooks from Office Depot or the legendary Moleskine, or even a digital journal on your Apple or PC (but please back it up!!) – the method and medium you use is not as important as the discipline of doing it. Some of America’s and the world’s most influential and successful leaders keep journals and, over time, the chorus supporting this important routine has steadily grown.

So, for all of you skeptics who scoff at the notion that you, too, could one day find yourself the victim of the lost resume, it may be only be a matter of when, not if.

There will be more on this subject at a later date.

Watch for my updated Resume and Career Management Guide, coming soon to our web page.