Updated: January 2021
Communicating your career accomplishments on your resume is critical. The market for jobs is competitive so you have to use your accomplishments to stand out. In this blog post we will define accomplishments, explain how to create yours, and provide examples.
Figuring Out Career Accomplishments is a Common Challenge
When working with clients to optimize resumes and verbal professional branding, I often hear the refrain: “I don’t have any accomplishments. I just do my job.” This is how many people think about their work: simple, mundane, sometimes even boring. While the work you do may seem ordinary in the day-to-day and not like anything spectacular worth boasting about, it’s important not to overlook the accomplishments that will set you apart in the eyes of a hiring manager. If you’re finding it difficult to view your work through the accomplishment lens, here’s what you need to now and how to turn those menial tasks into glowing feats.
What Makes An Accomplishment Different Than a Task?
An accomplishment is anytime you have solved a problem. This can be rethinking a process, having a positive interaction with a client, or making/saving your organization money. Yes, it’s really that simple. The type of accomplishment you use will depend largely on your career level. If you are early career, your accomplishments may feel a bit more menial such as, “collaborated with a team to produce xyz result.” However if you are an executive or aspiring executive, your career accomplishments will be much more impactful to the organization.
Where and When to Communicate Your Career Accomplishments
Since the job market is highly competitive at all levels, you will need to talk about your career accomplishments everywhere. Specifically, you will communicate your accomplishments: on your resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letter, in interviews and networking meetings. Communicating your career accomplishments should become a normal and natural part of how you brand yourself. Therefore, you will need to know how it’s done best.
How to Talk About Your Accomplishments
There’s a simple formula you can use to frame your accomplishments. Many people have heard of the accomplishment formula P.A.R. = Problem, Action, Result (or alternately S.T.A.R. = Situation or Task, Action, Result). Breaking each accomplishment down to its component parts is a great way to help you communicate your accomplishments. It can also be helpful in understanding what tasks can be considered accomplishments.
Use Numbers to Create Stronger Accomplishments
The more specific you can be with the results portion of your accomplishment the better. Employers are judging you based on the information you are able to communicate in your resume and cover letter. By using specificity and quantitative measurements when describing results you can make your accomplishments stronger and more convincing. Here is a progression to outline the impact of numbers on your accomplishments.
Successfully implemented innovative customer service protocols, increasing customer retention.
Successfully implemented innovative customer service protocols, increasing customer retention by about half.
Successfully implemented innovative customer service protocols, increasing customer retention by 52% over a 6 month period.
Think of Accomplishments As Tent Poles
Imagine that your resume is a big circus tent. Your work experience is largely made up of canvas, the everyday material that takes up a lot of space. While it dominates the space on the resume, it cannot stand on its own. The canvas relies on tent poles (your accomplishments) to elevate it and make it into the big, impressive, tent towering overhead. Accomplishments are the tent poles of your job descriptions on your resume. They elevate your work from mundane to extraordinary and make you stand out from the crowd. They serve as punctuated examples of your success and form the basis for telling stories about your work during interviews. You don’t have to be all accomplishments, but you need at least a handful to keep the canvas aloft.
Don’t Be Afraid to Own Your Success
Owning success isn’t natural for everyone. There are many reasons why you may feel uncomfortable owning, and speaking clearly and confidently about your accomplishments. Whether you are coming from a culture that places a high value on humility, you’re shy, insecure, or inexperienced in the workplace, you must remember that you earned the right to speak about your success. It’s not boastful or a sign that you lack humility. Claim your accomplishments and use them to your advantage. No matter how big or small the impact, accomplishments are going to set you apart. Here’s a 3-step formula for talking up your accomplishments in an interview.
Still Struggling to Come Up With Accomplishments
Even after helping clients explore and craft their accomplishment statements many people still feel like they don’t have enough, or that their accomplishments aren’t impressive enough to highlight. If that’s how you’re feeling, don’t worry – Take Action! Every day you “punch the clock” is an opportunity to do something extraordinary. It’s not too late to get started!
Ideas for Creating Accomplishments (Starting Today)
Every workplace has situations and problems needing to be addressed, so seek out problems that need solving. You can work cooperatively with colleagues and supervisors to identify and work to fix or improve upon a wide variety of potential problems or situations. Don’t be afraid to ask about priorities or projects that you could work on. While you may be looking for a way to beef up your resume, your supervisor will see their employee going out of their way to improve the workplace, and the performance of the team. If you start looking for accomplishments you will be amazed at how many you find. By seeking out new opportunities to solve problems and build your accomplishments you will improve your resume, your references, and your job performance all at once. When you successfully do this you will be able to hold your head high, proudly claim your accomplishments and land your new job!
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