Your “Success Episodes” are the Absolute Foundation of Your Professional Job Search!
There is a formal method of construction and a discipline in the use of Accomplishments. The proper construction of an Accomplishment is a three-part process. We recommend that you focus two full days on:
- Recalling as many Accomplishments over your career as possible
- Learning the proper method of constructing (writing by formula) an Accomplishment
- Documenting Accomplishments, categorizing them, and building an Accomplishments Library.
Just What Is An Accomplishment?
An Accomplishment is a three-part statement that summarizes a noteworthy, work-related event, in a way that is generally understandable and believable, while . . .
- communicating the event in a synopsis of what happened
- briefly explaining how it took place
- being specific about the beneficial result it produced.
An Accomplishment is documented in 14 to 20 words, two (no more than three) typewritten lines (no smaller than 11 pt. type), makes no reference to the employer or organization name, and uses no industry-specific jargon or acronyms.
You must strive to be truthful, but not necessarily precise. Sometimes you may not have been privy to the actual savings in time or money that resulted and so you have to make an estimate.
(More on this later.)
Your Accomplishments become integral components of several activities in your Job Search. Two examples are in the Cover Letter you send to get an interview (or in response to a request for your Resume) or at an interview to help “guide it” to bring out appropriate subjects.
WHAT You Did Is The First Piece Of Your Three-Part Accomplishment. [ What = . . . ed ]
The first part in documenting accomplishments is to identify the “what,” a brief description of the event. It is preceded by a power past participle (ending in “ . . . ed:”, for example: developed, created, managed, directed, etc.)describing your role in the event.
HOW You Did It Is The Second Piece Of Your Three-Part Accomplishment. [ How = . . . ing ]
“How” is a brief description of what you did, preceded by a power ". . . ing" verb form (analyzing, directing, teaching, researching, etc.).
RESULTS Is The Third Part of your Three-Part Accomplishment.. [ Results = . . . ing ]
The final part of documenting accomplishments is a brief review of the time or money that was saved, the degree of improved quality, the amount of additional sales or profits, preceded by a power ". . . ing" word (saving, improving, increasing, decreasing, etc.). The “ing” ending of words indicates the results are current or ongoing.
Example of a Complete Accomplishment:
Streamlined production methods, designing revolutionary automated testing equipment to eliminate work bottleneck, reducing manufacturing labor cost by 17%.
Streamlined introduces the "What?" Designing introduces the "How?" Reducing introduces the "Result."
When you're ready to begin documenting your first accomplishment, download our two Accomplishments worksheets.
Accomplishments Worksheet One
will jog your memory for Accomplishments, and help establish the VALUE of each. The one-page
Accomplishments Worksheet Two
helps you format each Accomplishment correctly. You may want to download several copies of Worksheet Two so you can begin building Accomplishments page by page.
Why This Format . . . Why The Truncated Sentence Structure?
One frequently-raised comment about our documenting accomplishments format, "This isn’t a complete sentence . . . won't a prospective employer think I don’t know how to write in complete sentences?" Another comment, “I cannot possibly recite most of my accomplishments in just two lines." Yet another frequent comment is, "My accomplishments simply cannot be quantified."
While each of these comments suggests the format, if adjusted for an individual's specific concerns, could be more effective, we strongly disagree. The truncated-sentence format emulates the abbreviated writing style of business . . . urgent, concise and to the point. The absence of the personal pronoun “I” conveys a degree of humility and reduces the ego factor that might make you appear arrogant.
Any change or attempt to embellish the descriptions will diminish the importance and detract from the believability. The accomplishment format has been tested over decades of use; it is not only the most effective format, it is designed to work with all other forms of documentation in your Job Search portfolio. We recommend strongly that you adopt this style in documenting accomplishments.
Well-Written Accomplishments Serve Multiple Purposes.
A well-written accomplishment is intended to demonstrate a number of things about you and stimulate the reader’s thinking in several areas:
- Demonstrates talents - There are certain talents a potential employer expects from an employee. An appropriately-chosen accomplishment typically introduces one or several talents.
- Shows value - Because the accomplishment is quantified (given a value), and because you're a key element in the accomplishment, the improvement associated with the accomplishment is transferred in the reader's mind "to your account."
- Conveys quality - Each accomplishment, on its own, made a positive impact, one way or other. Positives (improvements), in the reader's mind, are consistent with quality. Something that has been improved is perceived as something of better quality than its predecessor.
- Exhibits communication skills - An accomplishment is the epitome of readability. It is concise, tells the whole story, and has no misleading jargon or unbelievable elements. This is communication, at its best.
- Demonstrates commitment - A healthy list of accomplishments, responding to the needs and expectations of a potential employer's job definition, speaks volumes to understanding and responsiveness. Further, a well-targeted list of accomplishments also suggest a sensitivity to previous employer needs. Together, these strongly suggest a work ethic and commitment to an employer.
- Encourages questions - The accomplishment in its entirety is meant to stimulate a feeling of, "If the applicant can do that for others, he/she can do that for me." The accomplishment's individual segments (What?, How?, and Results), however, are intended to provoke questions in the reader's mind, such as: "How was that done?" or "I'd like to know more about that."
- Stimulates memory - The three-part form of writing, the use of power words to introduce elements, work together in a poetic manner . . . a predictable form, a predictable rhythm. This poetic quality, when coupled with the brevity and believability, make accomplishments more memorable.
- Enhances your value proposition - The reader, because of the "How" and "Results" aspects, associates your actions with the quantity of benefits and improvements that you list. In his/her mind, the reader is being prepared to negotiate (quantitative thinking) relative to hiring you, as opposed to hiring someone else.
- Encourages list making- Because the accomplishments are presented in a listed manner, and because they are quantified, the reader tends to make a list attributable to you . . . these accomplishments gain importance and can become a measurement method for comparing you to other candidates.
No other format will work as effectively as this one. There is no element of business (sales, administration, product development, marketing, finance, etc.) that does not have "What?" "How?" and "Results?" components. Every employee of a well-run concern is expected to regularly make contributions . . . that’s part of the deal. Your accomplishments are summaries of the more noteworthy contributions you have made over the years. The more you can document, the better.
The Use of Accomplishments Achieves Specific Objectives.
Documenting accomplishments has many purposes. The primary purpose is the creation of an inventory of important and noteworthy background issues. If you rely solely on your memory, you will overlook some and call upon others that are inappropriate for the immediate purpose. And, in fact, your “stories” will often be incomplete, inconsistent, and often will appear to be only marginally believable.
Accomplishments that are well-written, well-rehearsed, and fresh in your mind will be powerful tools in your arsenal. Perhaps as important as the “testimonial value” of accomplishments is that the mere existence of a substantive inventory contributes to your self esteem and projected confidence at all points in the Job Search process.
It’s also important to recognize that a majority of people who will be interviewing you are likely to be insecure in the interview process and greatly concerned about how to guide thesession and judge the outcome. They are worried about making a mistake and likely to face stress about the questions to ask.
Having some preliminary contact and providing the interviewer with appropriate list of accomplishments in advance can make all the difference. By documenting accomplishments you will be helping the interviewer immensely -- and you will be guiding the interview without appearing to do so. Following are some specific ways documenting accomplishments will move the action forward in your Professional Job Search . . .
- JOB SELECTION - Accomplishments identify skills and experiences which support your chosen career opportunities.
- SALARY NEGOTIATION - Accomplishments tell an employer of your potential value. At the time of salary negotiation, accomplishments support your perceived worth.
- TASK-SPECIFIC RESPONSE - Accomplishments allow you to respond to task-specific requirements with well-worded, results-oriented information.
- KEY TALENT (QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE JOB) SUPPORT - It is one thing to say "excellent communication skills," but supporting the claimed talent with an accomplishment solidifies the claim by providing proof.
- ALLOWS THE LISTENER TO DETERMINE VALUE OF YOUR EFFORTS - Each person values his/her accomplishments (as well as those of others) on a personal scale. This scale places more importance on some and less on others. In unstructured conversations, the mismatch between your values of various skills and the interviewer’s can detract from the progress of the interview.
Because the accomplishment format is consistent, the interviewer is allowed to manage the conversation about your experience according to their scale of importance, not necessarily yours.
And, since the interviewer retains the posture of being in charge, a feeling of "agreement of importance" is established between you as the candidate and the interviewer. This kind of agreement makes a you appear competent, likable, and a good fit . . . eminently capable without being pushy or overbearing.
This is vital in job search success and significantly reduces the possibility of being “threatening” to the interviewer.
- PROVIDES A FORUM FOR JOB-RELATED DISCUSSION - Because a well-formed accomplishment does not tell the whole story, it will often urge the interviewer/reader to want more information. "How did you do that?" is a frequently heard question, in relation to an accomplishment.
(This is an excellent opportunity for a turn-around question. "There are three issues identified in that Accomplishment - What was done, how it was done, and the result . . . which aspect are you most interested in?" A question may be raised, "Is this indicative of thechallenges I'll be facing here?" In each case, the use of your accomplishments as a guide for the interview provides you with a perfect platform for enriching the conversation and probing theopportunities for employment at the organization.)
- FOLLOW-UP - When following up on an interview, a network meeting, a chance meeting, or any other contact, if a specific accomplishment was discussed, or if specific talents and skills were identified, a properly-formatted selection of your accomplishments becomes an ideal element of ongoing communication.
An important note: During a phone interview, keep a printed list of accomplishments handy. Obviously, when reciting them verbally, you will do so in a grammatically appropriate manner.
DOCUMENTING ACCOMPLISHMENTS -- SUMMARY
Accomplishments are what each of us has to sell to a prospective employer. Documenting accomplishments becomes your personal inventory. For most of us as applicants for senior management positions, formal
education was twenty or more years in the past, so educational relevance is secondary. Experiential relevance (in other words, our accomplishments) becomes primary.
The best way to proceed in documenting accomplishments is to list all the accomplishments you can remember and then pick ten to write out according to the formula. Use your first ten or
twelve accomplishments to perfect your skill. Then, one-by-one, expand your list until you have at least 25 good, solid accomplishments documented.
If you are reading, and haven't yet done so, take a moment to download the
one-page Accomplishments Worksheet
now to help guide the process.
At this point you should be “on a roll” and expanding your Accomplishments Inventory daily until you reach 50, 75, a hundred or more! You are becoming aware of just how valuable you can be to a prospective employer and your growing self-confidence will become evident in your communications, both verbal and written. Now you’re ready to proceed to the next phase of your Job Search preparation, but documenting accomplishments should be an exercise for you that never ends.
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