Do you recognize yourself in any of these situations?
- Jeff just learned his company is downsizing, and he will be losing his job in a few weeks. He knows he needs to update his resume and prepare for interviews. The last time he was in this position was a nightmare; Jeff found it extremely hard to remember everything he’d achieved in the job he was in at the time. His resume was substandard as a result, and his job search took much longer than he felt it should have.
- Danielle has decided after considerable agonizing that it’s time to ask her boss for a raise. She is determined to arm herself with a solid set of bullet points outlining her contributions to the company. She’s just not quite sure how to identify the accomplishments that will motivate her boss to raise her salary.
- Trudy set a number of goals for herself – things she wanted to accomplish over a year’s time. The year is almost up, and she wants to see how well she has done with meeting her goals. Unfortunately, her system for tracking her accomplishments was weak and ineffective, so she found it difficult to compare achievements to goals.
- Meredith is trying to start a small business and must present a proposal to venture capitalists to get the funding she needs. These firms want to know what Meredith has already accomplished that qualifies her to launch her dream business. She needs to know how to uncover the achievements that will help her sell her qualifications to her would-be backers.
- Larry was just asked in a job interview, “What accomplishments are you most proud of?” – and he completely froze up.
This book is for people like those listed above who are pretty certain they’ve had accomplishments, but can’t think of them. It’s for anyone who feels left behind by the accomplishments train and wants a more positive outlook. It’s also for people who aren’t sure the things they’ve done are truly worthy of being called accomplishments. Much of the book focuses on deploying accomplishments in job search and career, for job-seekers who need to identify accomplishments for resumes, cover letters, and interview responses. It’s also for people on the job who need to track their accomplishments to keep their bosses informed and to be prepared for performance reviews, as well as opportunities for advancement and salary increases. It’s for entrepreneurs who need to attract investors and win clients by showing them the results they’ve attained. It’s for students seeking to apply to college or graduate-school programs who need to showcase accomplishments on their applications. And it’s for people who simply want to feel accomplished and learn how to leverage accomplishments to set life and career goals.
If you’re not sure of who the audience for your accomplishments should be, consider an awesome question suggested by author Peggy Klaus in Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It!: “Who can help me meet my goals?” Anyone you can list in response to that question should know about your successes.
The inability to come up with accomplishments happens to lots of folks. I got interested in the dilemma of identifying and communicating accomplishments when I ran a resume- writing business for five years. I would ask my resume and cover-letter clients to list accomplishments as part of the process of preparing their job-search documents. Although I stressed that accomplishments are far more important than duties and responsibilities, a surprising number of clients were unable or unwilling to articulate beyond the day- to-day tasks they performed in their jobs.
What is an accomplishment?
Accomplishment = something you’ve completed or achieved
The dictionary definition of “accomplishment” is surprisingly simple; it’s something you’ve completed or achieved, says the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. It can be a quality or ability that equips you to function in society. An accomplishment may be a special skill or ability you’ve acquired through training or practice. By the way, since the shades of meaning of “accomplishment” and “achievement” are extremely close, I’ve used the two words interchangeably in this book so you (and I) don’t get sick of “accomplishment.” You’ll also see “result,” “outcome,” and “success” as synonyms for “accomplishment” in this book.
By those definitions, it’s clear that …
… Everyone has accomplishments.
I’ve had many people – students and clients, job-seekers and not – tell me they have had no accomplishments. I don’t believe that. I am convinced that everyone has had accomplishments. If we look at the broad dictionary definition of “accomplishment,” we can scarcely imagine anyone who hasn’t completed something, achieved something, gained the ability to function in society, or developed a special skill or ability.
But are those the kinds of accomplishments that will attract employers, clients, admissions officers, and the like? More importantly, are they the types of accomplishments that will inspire pride in the individual – to enable that person to feel good about himself or herself?
That’s a big part of what this book is about. I am confident that through comprehensive brainstorming and careful framing and articulation of accomplishments, anyone can unearth a set of accomplishments that provides a powerful tool for life and career.
The power of accomplishments.
Feelings of accomplishment lead to feelings of satisfaction. We almost always feel good when we’ve completed a project, especially when we’ve completed it well and seen positive results from it. But tracking our accomplishments and progress can do much more; it can make us happy in our work. When Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer compared research-study participants’ best days “when they were most happy, had the most positive perceptions of the workplace, and were most intrinsically motivated” with their worst days, they found that “the single most important differentiator was a sense of being able to make progress in their work. Achieving a goal, accomplishing a task, or solving a problem often evoked great pleasure and sometimes elation. Even making good progress toward such goals could elicit the same reactions.”
Uncovering and tracking your accomplishments will show you the progress you’re making. (See an engaging video of
Amabile talking about keeping a work diary above) Similarly, in his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, author Daniel Pink cites mastery, our desire to get better at what we do, as one of three primary motivators.
When we share progress and accomplishments with others, we reinforce them in our own minds and feel them boost our confidence.
Get ready to discover your accomplishments.
This book will help you understand why it’s important to have a solid grasp of your accomplishments. It will explain the importance of accomplishments self- knowledge for getting a job, as well as advancing in both salary and levels of responsibility. This self-knowledge will help you set goals and improve your self- esteem.
The book will help you gain a better understanding of why people – people perhaps like you – often have a hard time identifying their accomplishments. With that knowledge, you can overcome the barriers that keep folks from realizing what they’ve achieved.
The book offers techniques for brainstorming, identifying, quantifying, framing, and articulating accomplishments. One of the most valuable tools in the book is Chapter 4, which offers more than 200 prompts to help you mine for accomplishments.
Since job search and career advancement are big motivators for getting a handle on your accomplishments, Chapter 7 details how you can communicate your accomplishments in resumes, cover letters, interviews, portfolios, performance reviews, and other career- related venues. Chapter 8 discusses how to conduct ongoing reviews of your achievements. By the book’s end with Chapter 9, you can assess your progress in uncovering your accomplishments and plan your next steps as an accomplished person.