One of the toughest parts of updating your resume is writing resume bullets. Not all of us are in sales, driving revenue up 110 percent, or winning awards for our designs. But writing about accomplishments in your bullets will make or break your job applications.
Here are some of my top tips and questions for brainstorming great accomplishments.
I encourage clients to start by thinking generally about how they have helped their company save money, make money, or make a process more efficient. That might uncover accomplishments like cutting the prep time for client meetings because you created an intro video, or improving turnaround time for projects by implementing new collaboration software.
But to take your accomplishments to the next level, push yourself to dig deep.
Some of my favorite questions to ask clients include:
- Have you indirectly influenced or supported an increase in revenue? Taking on more work after an influx of new clients, for instance, counts.
- How have you improved customer experience? Have customer satisfaction surveys improved, or have you gotten unsolicited positive feedback?
- How have you supported your team, either as a member or a leader?
- Have you survived a round or more of layoffs? What additional work did you take on? Did you help with a smooth transition?
- How does your performance compare with industry averages? Sometimes your professional association can help here. How does your performance compare to your colleagues or your predecessor?
- Are there any parts of your job that once took a long time but you’ve streamlined somehow? How much time do you save per day, week, or month?
- Have you been the first, best, or most effective at something in your organization?
- How have you averted disaster? This is not tongue in cheek! I’ve had clients who saved lives, kept the grid running through a hurricane, and calmed an individual publicly experiencing a mental health crisis. None of them listed these accomplishments on their resumes at first.
- What unique challenges do you face in your job, and how have you worked to overcome them? This might be something particular to your company, region, or position.
- What would fall apart if you left? Or, on the flip side, how have you ensured that your successor will be able to succeed in your job when you leave (by automating or documenting a process, perhaps, or even creating an internal guidance document).
Sometimes I work with a client who simply doesn’t know of any accomplishments, even after asking my favorite questions, and that’s okay. Here are some places that hidden accomplishments might be lurking:
Your annual supervisor evaluation – This might be on file with human resources if you don’t have a copy. Don’t just pay attention to what your supervisor said. Sometimes your own words summarizing the year’s work will remind you of an accomplishment.
Your email inbox – Appreciation can be found in emails from customers or clients, highlighting work that deserved appreciation.
Professional associations – Maybe you served on a committee, gave a talk, or helped with a project.
Your own records – Sometimes known as streaking, think of times when you consistently delivered excellence for an extended period of time, especially in tough conditions. Hint: We’re all still doing this to some extent during the pandemic.
Your friends and colleagues – Sometimes we forget how we’ve helped or improved the lives of others. Check in with trusted colleagues and friends to see if they have ideas.
Accomplishments are sometimes challenging to uncover, and it can be tough to make time to do the homework, but the process can be a way of giving ourselves credit for all that we do, especially in a busy, overwhelmed world. It can help us see our strengths and give us ideas for growth in our careers.
Having trouble coming up with accomplishments? My resume service always includes a 1-on-1 meeting with me to discuss your unique background. Email me at email@example.com for a no-obligation quote to for help with your resume.