One of the most challenging parts of writing a resume is coming up with accomplishments to add to your work experience section. Not all of us are in sales, driving revenue up 110 percent, or winning awards for our designs.
I encourage clients to start with thinking about how they 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.
Some of my favorite questions:
Have you indirectly influenced or supported an increase in revenue. Taking on more work after an influx of new clients, for instance.
How have you improved customer experience? Examples include improved satisfaction ratings, unsolicited positive feedback, or helping to implement a new CRM.
How have you supported your team, either one you’re a part of, or one you manage?
Have you survived a round or more of layoffs? What additional work did you take on?
How does your performance compare with industry averages (sometimes your professional association can help here)? How does it 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 overcome them? This might be something particular to your company, region, or position. Examples include anything involving the supply chain through the pandemic, passing audits, or coping with pandemic closures.
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 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 your year’s work will remind you of an accomplishment.
Your email inbox – Appreciation can be found in emails from customers or clients, or even on office walls. Did you forget you were employee of the month, for example?
Professional associations – Maybe you served on a committee, gave a talk, or helped with a project. This could be something to highlight.
Your own records – When have you managed to streak (not running naked, the kind that involves repeatedly completing a task). Think of times when you consistently delivered excellence for an extended period, especially in tough conditions. 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org for a no-obligation quote to for help with your resume.