Brag about It! How to Build Your Professional Accomplishments Folder

keep-calm-and-brag-about-itAny advertising copywriter worth his hefty salary will tell you that an effective ad is a specific ad. He won’t write that a car is “fast.” He’ll write that a car goes from zero to 60 in three seconds. It’s details that sell a product.

And it’s details that make your list of professional accomplishments effective.

But our memories for details are short. That’s why you need to keep an ongoing record of your accomplishments.

Accomplishments demonstrate your skills and experience. It’s one thing to claim you can do something. It’s another to prove you’ve done it. Details are what substantiate your claims.

I’m going to make it easy for you to document and detail your accomplishments.

When Should I Collect My Accomplishments?

It’s not just when you’re putting together your first résumé or updating your current résumé that you need that list of accomplishments. It’s important at these times as well —

  • When you’re due for your performance evaluations or an annual review
  • When you’re setting personal and professional goals for the next year
  • When you need to track the progress of projects you’re working on
  • When you want to support your qualifications in a job interview
  • When you’re ready to make your case for a raise or a promotion
  • When you need reminders of progress you’ve made to lift yourself out of a funk or a stall
  • When you apply for any recognition, like awards or scholarships

So, you can see from this list how important it is to build your own folder of personal and professional accomplishments. If you don’t “toot your own horn,” who will?

Where Do I Start?

  • Online.You can create a Microsoft Word file to document your achievements. You can create an email folder for accomplishments, and then just send yourself emails to store there. You can also use an app like Evernote.
  • Offline. You can use something as simple as a file folder or large envelope to track your achievements, filling it with any pertinent letters, printouts, clippings, cards, notes, and memos. You could also use an ordinary handwritten logbook or diary.

When you receive a “kudos” email, forward a copy to your personal email account, and tag it with a specific subject line (like “Kudos”).

If you receive notes of appreciation from customers, coworkers, or your company, save those. Make a copy and keep it in hard copy form, or take a screen shot and keep a digital copy.

You should also print out and/or take a screenshot of any LinkedIn Recommendations you have on your profile.

Other ways to document accomplishments:

  • Take photos. This is an especially effective record if your work is visual or your physical appearance is an important part of your work.
  • Collect news clippings. The digital equivalent is setting up a Google Alert for your own name.
  • Create a brag book or a portfolio. This can be a simple booklet or something very elaborate, depending on the nature of your accomplishments.

How often you should update your accomplishments varies. If you’re working on a series of projects or business is very brisk, you may need weekly updates. In other situations a quarterly assessment will be sufficient. The most important thing is do it, and do it regularly! Put an alarm or task reminder on your calendar if that’s what it takes.

How Should I Write My Accomplishments?

As I stressed at the start of this post, details are what make your list of accomplishments believable and convincing. Quantify the scale of the achievement by incorporating percentages, numbers, dollars, dates, and even names of people.

Be specific. Specifics make your list powerful.

Start each accomplishment with an action verb. Do a quick online search for “resume action verbs” and select those that fit your industry or profession.

You want to cast a wide net when collecting data for your list. To brainstorm more of your accomplishments:

  • Take a look at your past performance reviews
  • Think about any awards or recognition you’ve received
  • Answer the questions at the end of this guide

Now comes the important part, when you put your accomplishment in a context. Here’s where details enter. There are several different formats to make the job easy. The three common formats are called STAR, CAR, and PAR.

STAR: Situation, Task, Action, Results. Here’s an example of a STAR statement:

Recruited to revitalize an underperforming sales territory characterized by significant account attrition. (Situation) Tasked with reacquiring accounts that had left the company within the last six months. (Task) Developed contact list for lapsed accounts and initiated contact with decision-makers at each company. (Action) Reacquired 22% of former customers, resulting in $872,000 in revenue.

CAR: Challenge, Action, Result. Here’s an example of a CAR statement:

Manufacturing plant recently had its third accident, leading to a line shutdown. (Challenge) Updated internal safety plan and instituted new training program for production employees to reduce accidents and injuries. (Action) Plant has been accident-free for the past nine months — the longest it has been without accidents in plant history. (Result)

PAR: Problem, Action, Result. Here’s an example of a PAR statement:

Nursing home employee morale was at an all-time low, and long-time employees were leaving in droves. (Problem) Identified that new scheduling system was not well received by either new hires or long-time employees, resulting in significant dissatisfaction with employee schedules. Instituted new “employee choice” schedule system that increased employee cooperation in determining ideal staffing schedule and improved employee satisfaction as a result. (Action) Reduced turnover by 15%, saving more than $12,500 in hiring and training costs in the first three months after implementing new system. (Result)

Here’s another tip. If you can quantify your accomplishments by using any of these superlatives, you’ll be ahead of the game:

  • Only
  • First/Last
  • Best/Worst
  • Most/Least
  • Largest/Smallest
  • Longest/Shortest
  • Highest/Lowest
  • Busiest

Another way to jog your memory of what you’ve accomplished in the past is to think about what you’ve achieved in these different situations:

  • Your current job or most recent position
  • Your previous work experience
  • Any summer jobs or work-study positions
  • Your volunteer activities of any kind
  • Any temporary work you’ve done at any time
  • Your educational experiences, including internships, class projects, group projects, study-abroad programs)
  • The professional and industry organizations you belong to now or in the past
  • Any involvement in sports or other extracurricular activities
  • Any consulting or freelance projects you’ve done
  • Your social networking accomplishments and connections, including honorary societies and charities
  • Any events or conferences you’ve been part of

When collecting accomplishments for a job search, consider which areas indicate the kind of competency required for the position you’re seeking. What are the key components of your present job? What does the job call for in order to be done well?

This may include accomplishments related to:

  • Budgets/Finances
  • Promotions
  • Employee Development
  • Employee Recruitment
  • Employee Retention
  • Processes and Procedures
  • Deadlines
  • Revenue/Sales
  • New Clients
  • Information Technology
  • Cost Containment
  • Publications
  • Team Leadership
  • Product Launch
  • Presentations

I hope this blog post motivates you to start collecting and detailing those all-important professional accomplishments. My tips should make it almost effortless, so start today.

Then, when it comes time to update your resume, ask for a raise, lobby for a promotion, or just give yourself a pat on the back, your accomplishments folder will be right at your fingertips!

[photo source:]

Author: Mir Garvy

I’ve written resumes for 2,000+ job seekers just like you—and helped my clients land jobs with companies like Amazon, SAS, Google, Duke University, Travelocity, Cisco Systems, GlaxoSmithKline, Expedia, and IBM.