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How to Catalog Your Accomplishments

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Don’t scramble at the last minute. Keeping track of your career achievements throughout the year is the smart way to go.

Gunning for a well-deserved raise? Got your eyes on a great new job? Your first step to impressing your boss and hiring managers starts here: Make a catalog of your accomplishments for resume greatness.

Rather than waiting until performance reviews roll around—or when starting your job search—keep track of all your wins in real time. This saves time, energy, and takes the pressure off your already-strained memory.

“Having a concrete list of accomplishments that you can point to can show managers and prospective employers the value that you bring,” says Allison Rimm, an executive coach and The Joy of Strategy: A Business Plan for Life. “It also just feels really good to see how your hard work has paid off. It builds confidence.”

Follow these tips to build a catalog of achievements that will impress any manager at any stage of your career.

Define your accomplishments

Some workers make the mistake of confusing career achievements with job duties, says Alfred Blake, assistant director of undergraduate entrepreneurship programs at Rutgers Business School. A career accomplishment is something that shows you delivered results, says Blake. For instance, it’s the difference between saying, “This year I engaged 5,000 customers and converted 30% to the premium subscription” and “I called 5,000 customers.” You need to include (great) results on your resume because that’s what impresses people.

Laura Poisson, senior vice president of Boston-based executive coaching and outplacement firm ClearRock Inc., says the best accomplishments for resume highlights are those that demonstrate your core skills.

Poisson offered some examples of compelling accomplishments:

  • Supervised and coached scientists and senior scientists that resulted in high-impact, low-turnover team.
  • Led the implementation of a B2B e-commerce solution that streamlined the purchasing organization’s planning and buying functions, saving the company $2.2 million annually.
  • Raised $17.6 million in donations over the past 10 years, including a $4.25 million gift, the largest ever received by the institute.

The most impressive accomplishments deliver measurable results, says Kim Isaacs, Monster’s resume expert.

Jog your memory

If you’re creating a catalog of accomplishments from scratch, you may need a little help recalling your career wins. Isaacs says these questions will help refresh your memory:

  • Did you earn praise, recognition, or pats on the back from your supervisor or colleagues? For what (e.g., completing projects ahead of deadline, calming down irate customers, saving money)?
  • Did you receive a promotion, award, or commendations from customers/clients?
  • Were you selected for special projects, committees, or task forces?
  • Did you complete a particularly challenging assignment that improved your company’s customer service, enhanced efficiency, saved your company money, or increased revenues?
  • If you quit your job, what would everybody say about your work at your farewell party?

Keep track of how you made your accomplishments

Your catalog shouldn’t simply be a list of your career achievements—it should also include details about how you reached these milestones. For example, if you created a record-breaking fundraising campaign in the past year, include information about how you developed your strategy, what co-workers you tapped for ideas, how you delegated the work, and any other information that shows how you made it all happen, as well as any congratulatory notes from your boss.

Find a good place to store the information

Your catalog should be easily accessible. For some, this means printing and keeping a file; for others it’s an electronic spreadsheet, online document, or portfolio. Never without your mobile device? Use a note-taking app to jot down wins when you’re not near a computer. Even a handwritten journal could be useful—whatever works best for you.

Keep it going

Think of your catalog as a living document that you update on a regular basis—not just once a year. Rimm’s recommendation: “Take a few minutes every Friday to look back at your week and make a list of any significant accomplishments,” she says. “That way, you’re writing down your achievements when the information is fresh in your mind.”