All too rare is the employee who keeps a sufficient tally of her accomplishments at work. While we might be great at our jobs—setting and reaching ambitious goals, pioneering new ideas, advancing our organization’s mission—we often get too caught up in the moment, or in thinking about the next frontier, to keep good records of what we’ve done.
Why should I document my accomplishments?
No matter where you are in your career, having a ready cache of great things you’ve accomplished will help tremendously with:
- Answering interview questions. One of the biggest faux pas you can make in an interview is not coming prepared with examples of past accomplishments to relate to the work at hand. Pick three or four great anecdotes from your stash to have in mind when you go in, and you’ll be ahead of the game.
- Campaigning for a promotion or raise. Why do you deserve it? The answer will be apparent if you come armed with a solid list of ways you’ve contributed to your employer’s success.
- Seeking support for a new project or initiative. You did so well before, you should be trusted and encouraged to blaze new trails.
- Preparing for performance reviews. Perusing your catalogue of triumphs will make it easy to prepare a brilliant retrospective for your manager.
- Easily updating your resume. If and when you find yourself looking for work, you’ll be able to burnish your existing verbiage and punch up your resume much more quickly and easily if you can refer to a pre-made accomplishments list. See this Idealist post for more on great resume building.
- Impressing fellow attendees (with due modesty, of course) at networking events. You’ll probably want to be more low-key here than in a pitch meeting with your boss, but it doesn’t hurt to have a fun accomplishment or two at the top of your mind when stepping into a crowd of folks who might be able to help you (or vice versa). Including praise for your coworkers or organization while you’re spinning the yarn is a nice way to stay decorous.
What accomplishments are best to document, and how do I articulate them?
A record of a worthy accomplishment is a bit like a well-structured novel: there should be some instigating drama, some ensuing action, and some change as a result. If you’re stuck for things to note or how to note them, try the Challenge-Action-Result formula:
- Think of a challenge that needed to be resolved.
- What obstacles did you have to overcome to resolve it?
- List the steps you took to resolve the challenge one by one.
- What happened as a result of your actions?
Or take a look at career guru Tim Tyrell-Smith’s how-to on writing a great accomplishment statement. Some key elements to use are action verbs, concrete metrics, and clear articulation of the impact you made.
If you’re just starting out in the working world, try applying the methods above to accomplishments you made while in school—academic and extracurricular achievements as well as volunteer and internship experience are all fair game.
How can I document my accomplishments?
Keeping a good list of your accomplishments is a little different than logging work experience on your resume. No doubt the two are related, but the key here is to show a relationship, not just points on a timeline: what have you done and how has it made a positive impact at your job? Consider:
- Maintaining a journal, spreadsheet, or online doc. Every time you hear yourself say “Winning!”, make a note of what you did and include the day’s date.
- Keeping a physical folder. Might sound old fashioned, but it’s a good place to stow the occasional hand-written thank-you note, annual report, meeting handout or agenda, or event program that will jog your memory about a job well done.
- Using Linkedin. Your profile is a great place to display your triumphs, and keeping it current will let people see you’re in the game. (Just make sure you don’t divulge any info that should stay within your org!) And if you feel comfortable, ask a manager or coworker to write an endorsement or recommendation for something specific you did well.
- Trying an app. WorkSmart, for example, allows you to note accomplishments and set goals, and sends “status reports” at your request.
- Tweeting, Facebooking, and blogging. If you’re already in the habit of using these tools to keep your circles updated on your social life, try infusing them with positive news about your work life as well. You never know who it’ll get around to, and you’ll have a record you can look back on later.
- Starting an online portfolio. Services like flavors.me and about.me let you easily create a digital scrapbook of your accomplishments that can be endlessly updated and shared. See this Idealist post for advice on how to structure and use a winning portfolio.
Lastly, remember that you yourself are in the best position to know what your best accomplishments have been—even if your manager keeps notes on your work, they won’t be as complete as what you can compile. You’re also the one in the driver’s seat when it comes to leveraging your accomplishments to the best of your advantage; no one else will do it for you. So start keeping track of all the great things you’re doing—and start today!