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Career Accomplishments: The Key To A Powerful Resume
Nimish Thakkar, MS, MBA, CCMC, CPRW, SaiCareers.com, New York

Every book -- well, almost every good book -- on resume writing or interview preparation will advise job seekers to devote a substantial portion of their resume -- or interview conversation -- to career accomplishments. Career experts couldn’t agree better. As a matter of fact, most quality-conscious career professionals will spend hours uncovering their clients’ job-related results and contributions.

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Candidates frequently complain about not having enough to speak about or about not being able to remember major achievements. Ironically, these same individuals come up with a fascinating amount of information (career accomplishments) on detailed questioning. So, I concluded, there may be mental blocks (presented as excuses) that prevent individuals from recollecting their contributions at previous employers. The most common excuses that I have come across are:

Excuse 1: “I don’t want to sound like I am bragging.”
Excuse 2: “I don’t think I did anything great.”
Excuse 3: “I was just doing my job.”

If you don’t brag -- as long as you are being truthful -- on a resume or at an interview, where else are you going to? My favorite response to concerned candidates is “modesty is not the best policy on a resume.” The one thing I would agree with, though, is this: you must showcase your achievements without sounding overly egotistic. How else are employers going to recognize your value? As far as the other two excuses go, well, just question yourself further and you will realize that you did make several contributions at your previous positions (even though you were just doing your job). Achievements don’t necessarily have to be multimillion dollar deals. Any action that made a difference to your previous employers or any result that was better than your peers’ could be potential resume material. I realize that I am being a little vague here, but that is the only way this article can be useful to readers from diverse backgrounds.

To illustrate the concept of career accomplishments, I would like to share an example from my article Is Your Resume Not Working? Six Tips To Avoid A Resume Disaster. In the article I speak about two ways in which a sales professional could describe his duties:

Technique 1: Responsible for selling company’s products to customers.
Technique 2: Personally visited customers and leveraged selling and presentation skills to generate $14-million increase in sales; performed at 18% above average and added $5 million to the company’s bottom line.

The first example is how most resumes are written, while the latter is an example of how resumes could be made more powerful -- by focusing on achievements and results. The second technique illustrates a different approach to selling (visited customers personally as opposed to calling them), highlights the writer’s skills (selling and presentation skills), lists accomplishments (increased revenues by $14 million), explains how the results were better than peers (18% above average), and also how he impacted the company’s profits -- clearly a superior approach.

Your accomplishments don’t have to be like the one described above. An administrative assistant, for example, may not be closing large deals. In an administrative assistant’s case, highlights could be the 500 files that were efficiently organized and managed single-handedly (while still maintaining 100% accuracy), or the 80 phone calls (per day) that were handled while ensuring 100% customer satisfaction, or that 100-page manual created, or the reduction in annual purchase costs by $10,000, or an award or recognition, etc.

Accomplishments are what distinguish a stellar resume from an ordinary one. Using the right mix of responsibilities and accomplishments (I prefer 20:80; that is, 20% responsibilities and 80% achievements) can transform your resume into a response generating machine.

If you need help remembering your accomplishments, please read: Simple Ways To Remember Your Career Accomplishments


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