Welcome to “Dear Dana”, our regular column to give you career and workplace advice/coaching. Please write in and tell me about a career challenge or frustration you’re facing at the office! – Dana Theus
Dear Dana, I am updating my resume to apply for jobs and I read your article about speaking accomplishment. I liked your advice and will apply it to how I manage my time in the future, but I want to ask for more clarification on how I should put my greatest accomplishment examples on my resume. My job is almost all in teams that are matrixed with other groups. I lead contract compliance teams and I work with just about every group in the company, but the other people actually DO the work in their areas. I’m just coordinating them to make sure they’re in compliance. So I know what my tasks are, coordinating these groups and updating status reports, but I’m not sure what my accomplishments are, since they actually accomplish the contract items. Any advice for how to include accomplishments on my resume? – Confused in Chillicothe
Dear Confused-Thanks for your question. I understand how hard it can be to figure out what you can actually claim as an example of your “greatest accomplishment” when you feel like most of your job is being a cog in a very large set of wheels. Been there! Here’s some advice that can help you update your resume.
First: Be specific about your customer
The key is to break it down and ask yourself “Who is my customer and how did I make their life better?” The answer is an example of a greatest accomplishment! In your case it sounds like you have internal customers among all the people you’re coordinating. You’re helping them remain contract compliant. So can you break down the benefit that compliance brings to each team? Here are some examples:
- If the sales team is compensated on recognized revenue, maintaining compliance can help them continually meet quota on existing customers.
- If the compliance tracking helps the client delivery and operations team update their project plans, you’re helping them meet customer deadlines.
- If the legal team has to litigate out-of-compliance projects, you’re helping reduce litigation costs by increasing compliance.
Of course, if you can attach a dollar value to any of this type of outcome, you should do so! It’s possible you don’t know all the value you’re delivering, in which case you should talk to your team members (or their bosses) to learn more about how they quantify and value the effort you’re bringing. Don’t worry about having to tell them you’re applying for jobs, speaking accomplishment is something you should do internally anyway, to informally update your boss on your work and to formally include in performance reviews. Ask them questions like:
- If we didn’t have this team, what would you do instead to ensure you met these compliance objectives?
- Would it cost them more to do it without you? How much more?
- If they don’t meet their compliance objectives, what is the cost and who pays it?
How do you phrase your greatest accomplishment when you work on a team? Here’s some advice that can help you update your resume. Click to tweet
Second: Specify your contribution to team success
Whenever you’re working in a team, it can be confusing about what you can claim as an outcome, as opposed to what you can’t really claim credit for–because others did a lot of the work. Be careful not to claim things that you didn’t do, but do claim your contribution to the outcome (and be specific about both.)
As I mentioned in the previous post, you want to stay away from listing your activities alone, but when you list them as the reason that your team was successful, this is very powerful and shows people both what you did and the impact it had. In this case, you’re listing the team’s accomplishment and then identifying specifically what you did to help achieve it.
So, let’s say your team was instrumental in ensuring 98% contract compliance last year (the team accomplishment) and your role was in coordinating weekly contract reviews. You might state your personal greatest accomplishment as ensured team achieved 98% contract compliance by coordinating communication between four departments and escalating issues before they jeopardized compliance commitments. In this instance, you are listing your work activities, but you’re doing it in the context of the team success goal. Of course this means you need to know specifically what your team accomplished, and any corollary metrics, but as with the note above, these are things you should be tracking anyway (so if you’re not, start now!)
Even though in interviews you’re likely to be asked for an example of your “greatest” accomplishment, you should be tracking all your accomplishments and keeping a record of them. Sometimes many small ones add up to a “greatest” accomplishment, and tracking them makes it easier to speak to others about your value and to believe it yourself.
When you’re ready to start applying for jobs, check out these tip sheets for how to find the job of your dreams (which contains the top 50 job sites across industries) and gain confidence for your interviews and offer negotiations. These materials have several workbooks that have step-by-step instructions for how to construct your greatest accomplishment examples in writing and in the interview. Good luck!
P.S. – Have a question you’d like anonymous support on? Write me!
P.P.S. — Need the inside track on your job search? Let me help you without the cost of personal coaching with my comprehensive online career transition program.