Accomplishments, accomplishments, accomplishments. It’s probably been said over a million times (by me and other career coaches) that the most effective resumes – meaning the resumes that get interviews – are the resumes that feature accomplishments or significant contributions or career highlights.
While accomplishments are the best way to demonstrate your value as an employee and differentiate yourself from other candidates, it can be extremely challenging to identify these impactful moments. With some positions and industries, accomplishments are more obvious: sales representatives and contact centre professionals tend to have it the easiest because there is an innate focus on metrics and measurable results.
But, for other positions, it can feel impossible – especially if your position is far removed from the sales process or if you have never been formally recognized with an award or honor. But, trust me – no company would be paying your salary unless you contributed to their success in some way. You just need to uncover your value.
Here are 3 Questions to Ask Yourself when You Feel Unaccomplished:
1. What’s Gone Wrong? (And How Did You Respond?)
Often some of the most overlooked accomplishments are the ones that arise from complete disaster. When all hell breaks loose at work, what do you do? How do you help make things better?
Maybe you’ve moved 3 projects from red zone to green zone in the last year; or implemented workplace improvements in response to poor staff survey reviews, or streamlined a process to make critical deadlines easier to achieve.
I had a client who was feeling unaccomplished, but after some probing, I uncovered that her company had experienced a massive product recall. As a Human Resources manager, she quickly created and deployed a program to support front-line workers feeling overwhelmed with customer service calls and complaints.
After weeks of working in an incredibly high-stress workplace, not a single employee quit or took leave. She thought she was just doing her job, but in reality, it was a huge accomplishment that markets her strengths.
Other potential gold mines include day-to-day problems you frequently resolve; inefficiencies or poorly performing systems that you scrapped/overhauled; or company pain points you were hired to ease.
2. How Do People Describe You?
It may seem like a cliché interview question, but it can be a highly-valuable question to ask yourself when you’re writing a resume. If you want to know what you offer others, listen to what they say about you and think of the tangible examples that have created that impression.
If you’re often described as reliable or dependable, perhaps that’s because you consistently achieve deadlines or productivity goals.
Are you described as a motivating or inspiring manager?
Maybe you have lifted employee engagement or championed professional development plans that resulted in promotions for team members.
Has a boss described you as business-savvy?
That probably means you’ve voiced concerns about an approach or provided suggestions to improve the effectiveness of a proposed strategy.
On the surface, the words people use to describe you at work often seem vague and impersonal. But, there is a reason behind their word choice – something you’ve done has resonated with them in a specific way.
3. What Do People Come to You for?
This one is similar to the question above, but I’ve found it can often help clients uncover new information. Think about why co-workers stop at your desk – instead of someone else’s. Colleagues asking you for help has probably become so common, you fail to notice the value you’re adding. Becoming a go-to resource is evidence that you’ve become a highly-valuable expert.
Do you interpret complex policies or procedures? Does your boss always seem to tap you when there’s a project that requires a quick turnaround? Are the “problem” clients always assigned to you? Or are you frequently invited to help finalize a contract or close a sale? Are you the default presenter/public speaker on your team?
Now, how did you become this known expert? You must have done something right, multiple times, to earn your reputation. Those incidents are seriously impactful accomplishments to include on your resume. The reputation you’ve built in the workplace is a big part of your brand. And, the best part is, if you market yourself on these types of accomplishments, others will naturally reinforce this brand for you (references, LinkedIn endorsements, sponsor comments, etc.).
Still, drawing a blank?
Dig-up those old performance reviews – some of the best accomplishment gems I’ve helped clients uncover have come from long-forgotten appraisals. You may also consider booking some time with a career coach or resume writer, who can ask the kind of probing questions that will launch your self-discovery in the right direction.