One of my most consistent resume themes is that your resume must show your accomplishments. Logical — but where do you find your achievements to put on your resume?
This is a big deal to a lot of people. Defining an accomplishment is one thing. What happens, though, is once you define an accomplishment, you are suddenly confronted with where you are going to find the results you think you had? Once you recognize that great achievements mean showing your measurable results, you need to find the measurable results.
For a lot of people, knowing where to find measurable results is a big stumbling block to building out an awesome resume.
It’s hard. So let’s make this easy. Let’s go through the five places to grab those results your resume needs.
Achievements in your resume can come from performance review goals
Most companies have some sort of goal setting as part of your performance review. Sometimes they are SMART goals; sometimes they are not. There are team goals, individual goals, poorly written goals, goals that are not measurable, goals that are awesome and even Wildly Important Goals.
Yeah, I know, a lot of these goals can be pretty stupid — they are corporate goals that don’t match what you do on your job but cascade to you anyway. They are goals that talk about all the external activities you might need to do, but have nothing to do with business results.
Personally, my opinion is most performance review goals suck in most organizations because they never get to something measurable that shows you how your work is contributing to the organization.
But, you start there.
Someone said you have these goals to accomplish through your work. Your manager will write up comments on how well you matched up to those goals. You’ll probably write a self-review that says how you accomplished those goals.
And those goals are what management thinks are the most important things you should be working on to help them accomplish THEIR business goals.
Even if they really aren’t. Even if they can’t be measured. Even if they don’t have a lot to do with what you accomplish for the business.
Take a look at your goals as defined. See if you made the goal. See if there is something you can measure that shows how you met the goal.
If you can see those three things, you have an accomplishment you can put on your resume.
“Achieved a 3% productivity increase as measured by a reduction in cycle time from current standard.”
Your department goals can show your achievements on the resume
Many companies (not all) will also have department goals established for your manager to achieve. Those goals usually get divvied up among the team.
If that’s the case, you can take your work effort and show how that effort helped achieve your part of the department goals.
The need here is to have you question how your work will help achieve the goal. If you are given a vague subject, vague tasks, and an approach that is your own, you don’t know really how your work will help achieve the department goal.
So ask. “If I do x, y, and z, will that achieve my portion of the department goal? How will I know that?” Once you can do that, you can see if you have an achievement to include on your resume.
Your project results
Most of us are given projects to complete over the course of the year. You either work on the team that is doing the project or you are given a project to complete by your manager. Hopefully one that contributes to the department goals!
Here, it sounds like you are just getting a series of tasks to complete to finally end up at some end state. And, usually, the objective to achieve is not clearly stated. Nor is the accomplishment.
Instead of just accepting the set of tasks from your manager, it’s important to ask what the objective is when trying to complete the tasks. Important to ask, when all the tasks are accomplished, what the benefit will be to the department (or business — but usually the department). Important to ask how that achievement can be measured (numbers are good).
Projects are true knowledge work — you need to define the objective, have an approach to achieve it, measure the end results. Most people just accept the tasks and do them and never get to the point of knowing the objective of the tasks or how to measure success.
Cubicle Warriors, on the other hand, do. And the results go on their resume
Your lowly status reports offer a wealth of accomplishments for your resume
I get chided about status reports. A lot. No one wants to do them (including me). No one thinks anyone really reads them. A lot of managers never do (seriously). No one thinks they are important.
Well, they are important, but not necessarily for your manager or employer. They are important because they represent an entire history of your accomplishments over the course of a year. Written correctly (and, I would suggest, written like resume accomplishments should be written), status reports can give you a treasure trove of accomplishments worthy of putting on your resume.
And, as I contend, status reports represent a continuing, week-by-week story of accomplishment to your manager. Tough to beat that.
Ask what these tasks will accomplish for the business (or department)
Finally, you usually get tasks that are not part of your performance goals, department goals, a project. They are just tasks that your manager asks you to do.
Unless you ask what the importance is of the tasks given to you — how they will benefit the department or business – you’ll never get what you need to put on a resume.
This might come off as a little off-putting (why ask about the tasks you get?). But really, knowing how the tasks fit into the bigger picture is an important way to help you accomplish what is really being asked for by your manager. Asking what the success criteria are for the set of tasks is not an unimportant question.
After all, you don’t want to spend a whole lot of time working on tasks only to find out that what you did didn’t really meet what was (not) asked for when you were given the tasks in the first place. That never happens, right? Right?
The important takeaway here is this: you need results to put on your resume (and, for that matter, your performance self-review). These five places to gather up your accomplishments go a long way to giving you the results you need to have a really good resume.