The great UCLA basketball coach John Wooden said, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”
I agree with Wooden 100%. Many clients come to me almost paralyzed with areas of weakness and career obstacles. In almost every case, these people have been successful in their careers or just completed a new degree. My job, one I greatly enjoy, is helping them see what they have to offer. Most people have made great contributions to their employers. Their problem is telling the story. They think too much about what “they cannot do.” Instead, as Wooden recommended, the secret to know is what you do best. Play your strengths.
A client is changing careers, and she came up with a great way to improve her networking outreach. She is giving her network partners a profile page that will help them understand her reasons for changing careers and some key points they should use to describe her. I love the idea and helped her edit the sheet.
If you're in a similar place in your career, here's the model. Start with a brief 4-5 sentence paragraph that explains how and why you are changing careers. Then list 5-6 talking points that focus on transferable skills and achievements that demonstrate why you will be able to be successful in your new career. If you don't provide this information to your network partners, they might be trying to help you, but they will think of you in your previous role, not where you want to go next in your career. This sheet shouldn't take long to create. It will work wonders in making your networking more effective.
I sometimes meet with clients who write resumes in a strange format: They hide their success stories. This format places a section called Honors or Achievements at the bottom of the document. The problem with this approach is that information that might help an employer decide to bring a candidate in for an interview is hidden.
My advice is to put your achievements with the job where you received the honor or earned the distinction. For example, if I was named Sales Professional of the Year for 2013, that achievement should be with my current company. To make the point more impressive, I recommend adding something about scope or quantitative measure. For scope, you could note how many employees were considered for the award. For quantitative measure, you could list percentage over goal or increase from the previous year. Be careful that you don't simply name the award and not tell the reader why you received the honor.
Even as the job market heats up, competition for the best jobs remains fierce. Show why you are someone who deserves an interview. Don't hide your achievements.
I frequently help clients prepare for interviews. Almost everyone begins with a worry about gaps in work history, lack of experience, or weak computer skills. What’s wrong with this kind of thinking? It ignores a very important fact: The employer likes something about the client that she will invest time on an interview. That means they see strengths that should be emphasized during the interview.
I’m not saying that we should not worry about preparing for any possible obstacle before an interview. Be ready to speak to any possible weaknesses. However, you should spend twice as much time thinking about your strengths and how to present them. Start with the job post. What do you have that the employer is looking for? Then go to the website and other sources to learn about the company. Again, think about how you can make a contribution. Practice telling stories about your achievements. The employer needs to see why you’re the best candidate for the job. You won’t be at your best if you’re only working about weak points. Play your strongest hand. Show why you’re the best.
A client called today to go over some points before a job interview. He was worried about a small gap in his resume and the level of his Excel skills. I reassured him that a small gap was not a problem. I also pointed out that his Excel skills may not be a problem. He would learn more about that during the interview.
While it is important to think about any weak points before an interview, it is more important to know and be able to present your strengths. Here’s a simple way to evaluate your strengths: Why are you good at what you do? Make an inventory of your achievements and success stories. Be sure these points are highlighted on your resume and that you are able to present them during a job interview.
We tend to focus too much on the question: What can go wrong? That leads us to think about our weaknesses. A good interview must convey competence and confidence, not weakness. Know your strengths and be able to sell them. That’s the key to a good interview.
Too often resumes simply convey basic qualifications for a job. This information is important, but it is equally vital to show the value you will bring to a new employer. Describe the achievements that will set you off from other candidates. Think of achievements this way: How have you been a hero at your previous jobs? If possible, quantify your success stories, but you should tell them even if you can’t represent every success with a number. Here are a few examples of how you can present achievements on a resume:
• Won several accounts from a major competitor (Symantec).
• Achieved year-over-year growth of 25% for license renewal.
• Increased market share from $100,000 to $900,000 in one year.
• Reduced cell phone costs for 500 units by conducting detailed research of market and price trends used in negotiation.
• Cleared a back log of 50 overdue performance reviews.
• Ranked #1 of 75 Account Executives.
• Completed an average of 500 projects per year.
• Established protocols and procedures for a new PET CT Department.
• Recognized by supervisors for providing outstanding customer service.
• Consistently exceeded goals for productivity.
• Achieved 110% of goal in the first year; planned and delivered 500 events.
• Launched social media and email marketing to reach younger consumers.
• Played a key role on a team that improved workflow in the Emergency Department by 20%.
• Entrusted with customers’ confidential data during computer repairs and data migrations.
• Achieved +$1 million in saving by negotiating price reductions outside of the market.
How have you helped your employer or former employers? Find a way to make these hero stories part of your resume.
A long-time client called me today with an urgent request. He needed his resume updated today because a high-placed friend was trying to arrange an interview. The problem is that he had not updated the resume since 2007. Over the last six years, he has had three jobs, and it was difficult for him to recall details and achievements from the earlier jobs. After scrambling, we were able to get the job done, but it could have been better.
In today’s job market, good or bad news can come at any time. We need to be ready to hit the ground running. Part of being prepared is having your resume ready to go. I recommend updating your resume as soon as you leave a job or as soon as your comfortable in a new job. Keep a list of achievements that you will want to use in the resume and during job interviews. It’s easy to forget details, and it’s easier to remember them if you keep some notes about what you’ve done well.
Updating a resume is always something we will do tomorrow. Sometimes tomorrow brings opportunity, and we are not prepared for it. Be prepared. Keep your resume ready to go.
Has a supervisor or client gone out of her way to say that you’ve done a good job? Did you include that success story on your resume? Too often, my clients only think of achievements as something that can be quantified. However, it’s just as impressive to hear that a boss or customer is impressed with our work.
Here are some examples:
• Recognized by a national account for solving a problem that enabled a new system roll out at 1,000 locations.
• Praised by a supervisor for taking on added duties after a company reorganization.
• Ranked by industry peers at a national conference as a “Top 10% Leader.”
Where can you find such testimonials? Check emails from your boss and clients. Review annual reviews. Look over any recommendations you’ve received from peers on LinkedIn.
I’m not recommending that you fill your resume with these mini-testimonials. One or two are usually enough. If you cite any type of achievement too often, the reader starts to yawn. Think about those situations where you have received some outstanding praise. That’s something you want potential employers to know. Highlight it in your resume.
Clients will often ask me, “What are the latest trends in resume writing?” One trend I’ve seen over the past few years is the achievement-based resume. This style focuses on measurable achievements, and it is supposed to make employers think the applicant can deliver results.
I have two problems with this style.
First, a list of achievements quickly loses coherence. It’s hard for the reader to remember anything specific about the applicant. Rather than impress an employer, this style leads to confusion. Achievement follows achievement, and it sounds like buzz, buzz, buzz.
Second, the all achievement style doesn’t address what an employer is looking for. I’ve never seen a job posting that says, “Send a list of your success stories.” Instead, they ask for a mix of experience, skills, and education. If those elements aren’t featured in your resume, it will be difficult for a screener to see how you are qualified for the position.
I’m not saying achievements should not be part of a good resume. They need to be balanced by information that shows why you are qualified to do the job. The sample at the end of this post demonstrates what I mean about mixing achievements and qualifications. Don’t get lost in the buzz.
A good resume will blend your experience and skills with a relevant list of achievements. Use achievements to show your next employer how you can do more than just “do the job.”
Here are some questions that can guide you in identifying achievements. Do they have to be quantifiable? No. If you have numbers, great. If not, tell your success story in the best way that shows your value to you next employer.
What have I done to help my employer make money?
What have I done to help my employer save money?
What have I done to make the company more efficient?
How have I exceeded performance goals?
What has happened because I took the initiative to do something?
Has an employer said something about me in a review that speaks to my character?
Have I trained or mentored an employee who took on a position of greater responsibility?
Have I been selected for special projects or assignments?
ave I won any awards?
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