What Are These “Accomplishments” We’re Supposed to Put on Our Resumes?

If you’re job hunting or thinking about changing careers, you may be looking around online for some help to write a decent resume. Goodness knows, there is plenty of it out there! Some of it is excellent, some of it is garbage, but what you’re probably seeing over and over is that you must talk about your accomplishments on your resume.

So. What are “accomplishments” and how do you come up with them? Let me show you a compilation of what I found online:

  • Promoted an average 30 titles per year for a niche publishing company.
  • Increased employee training participation by 50% by adapting existing curriculum into online education modules.
  • Led project coordinating office moves for 55 employees.
  • Reduced time spent on inventory by 20% by reorganizing physical storage of supplies.
  • Planned lodging and travel logistics for 20 ships per year, with 10 crew members each.

I could pick apart each of these, explaining what’s okay with each one and what’s terrible. But I won’t, because we’d be here all day. However, I will say, did you notice each of these accomplishments contains a number? Apparently numbers are impressive to whoever is reading your resume. But we don’t all have that kind of information to include in our resumes. In a previous position you may have helped increase revenues for the company in some way even though your work was not directly sales-related. But by what percentage, you probably have no idea. It is not common for employers to praise non-sales employees for increasing revenues—they would have to give them a raise along with the praise!

The reality is, most of us common folk don’t know how, or how much, we contributed to a company’s bottom line, or increased its productivity, or reduced its time spent on a project, so how do we talk about our accomplishments on our resumes? Well, it’s kind of easy because…..

An accomplishment is simply something you did

Think about your previous jobs and remember what you did in each role. Grab a notebook to jot down your memories. Really devote some time to this and use this little system to get the memories flowing. Ask yourself:

  1. What did I do on a daily basis?  Write it down as descriptively and with as much detail as you can come up with.
  2. Why did I do it? Think of your job description and your role in the company—why did the company need someone to do that job? Why did your role exist?
  3. What were the outcomes as a result of what I did?  For example, a Billings Clerk could say the outcomes of what she did was keeping the company’s cashflow fluid. She sent out the Billings that generated the money for the company, and since nothing is as important to a company as its money, this is a pretty significant outcome.
  4. Think about and remember how you did what you did. Say in that Billings position, she used customized company software to enter data from field tickets. She would scrutinize the tickets for thoroughness and accuracy and work closely with guys in the field to clarify unclear data. Maybe she referred to service contracts to verify compliance. This is how you need to think and remember—in detail!  Do not overlook little things you may think insignificant. Nothing you did was insignificant.
  5. What computer programs and/or software did you use?  What equipment? What tools? What resources? The Billings clerk couldn’t have produced invoices without using specialized company software. Nor could she have done a thorough job without communicating with the men in the field. And if she hadn’t referred to the contract, she might have missed something that should have been billed.

These are the little things we sometimes overlook when we think in general about how we did our previous jobs. But if you think in detail of all the things you did, no matter how seemingly insignificant or automatic, you will come up with some very impressive accomplishments!

Turn a boring duty into an impressive accomplishment

To give you a quick example of how to describe an accomplishment, I’ll show you the wrong way first:

Duties or Responsible for… (never say Responsible for!)

  • prepared invoices using field tickets
  • verified correct information on field tickets with field personnel
  • ensured invoices complied with services contract

Yawn

Now, the right way:

Accomplishments:

  • employed efficient time-management skills to produce three-million monthly in highly-detailed billings under rigid deadlines in fast-paced accounting department
  • meticulously followed tight guidelines to verify field-ticket accuracy and service-contract conformity resulting in recovery of an average $5000 monthly

Notice how we actually did manage to get some numbers into these descriptions! It takes deep thinking, reflection, and remembering to come up with these descriptive accomplishments, and it’s worth the time and effort. Here’s the magic formula: what you did, how you did it, and what the outcome was. Why not grab your FREE copy of HOW TO WRITE A KILLER RESUME! to really learn how to do this! It has loads of examples!

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Terri is an expert resume-writer and a pretty good job coach. During her 30 years in the conventional work force, Terri was fired from 11 jobs, got laid off from 2 jobs, quit 3 jobs, sued 1 employer (successfully), made another cry, and wrote over 100 resumes for herself alone! Since embracing the good old “take this job and shove it” attitude, Terri decided to put all of her shitty “workin’ for the man” experiences and life-lessons to good use, and thus was born www.goresumepro.ca/blog. Enjoy!