Friday, February 27, 2015


CareerRealism suggests that you document everything you do on the job, so the next time you're hitting the pavement seeking a new job you'll have the information at your fingertips. Then you have the quantifiable accomplishment you can highlight on a resume, or at a job interview: "Increased sales by 25%" or "Shaved 10 seconds off the hold queue for telephone inquiries."

But what if you haven't done stuff like this? What if your biggest accomplishment was "Wrote a bunch of papers for English classes and turned them in on time while working almost full time"? Or "Elected Secretary of the Blah-Blah honors society." After all, you're still in college, and probably working an outside job which pays bills but doesn't offer much chance for bragging rights.

Two thoughts.

First, document everything. Keep a professional journal, a log, a box of paper, or some kind of written list of things you've done that you are proud of. When it happens, write it down and date it. Include a picture, a copy of an email, the grade you earned, the number of hours you worked. Code your entries. If you are keeping an electronic file, put classes, work, honors, service learning in different colors. If you are tossing stuff into a box of paper, make a marginal note in the upper right corner of each piece of paper reminding yourself of what this page is about.

Second, every so often (preferably before a job interview or "need a resume tomorrow" moment), spend some time sifting through the file, or the box, and practice condensing and sprucing up your accomplishments in resume-speak. 

  • "Held a 3.5 average while working 30 hours per week" is better than "worked a lot, got good grades." 
  • "Streamlined minutes and record-keeping on a cloud-hosted storage web-file" sounds much stronger than "Elected Secretary." 
  • "Tutored students who subsequently improved from C- to B average" is more impressive than "Did service learning for after-school homework help."
Doing the record keeping makes you aware of the need to ask for more information about results. And having a bunch of concrete information written down when it occurred helps refresh your memory at a time when you most need it. After all--what did you accomplish four years ago? Probably a bunch of stuff, but you would have trouble pulling it together into a coherent narrative right now. 

Thanks and a tip o' the Twitter hat @AriellaCoombs

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