Estimated reading time: 5 mins
Whether it’s in a resume or in a job interview, knowing how to describe an achievement is a critical factor for success. Here are 7 tips to help you effectively communicate your great work!
Maybe you’re polishing your resume for that job you really really want, or even desperately need? Or perhaps you’re preparing for an interview? Updating your LinkedIn profile with recent successes? Then helping people to discover how amazing you really are will be a major advantage.
Why Don’t Many People Know How to Describe an Achievement?
Too many people underplay their achievements! Perhaps they don’t like blowing their own trumpet. They make diluted, underwhelming claims about their career successes. So much so that their resume doesn’t stand out. They don’t know how to describe an achievement! Perhaps it’s conditioned humility (especially true in my native UK!) or a lack of confidence.
Question is, do YOU? If not then you’ve got to do something about it FAST, as opportunity could be passing you by – snatched by the people who have learned to do it better than you.
Politicians are experts in knowing how to describe an achievement (even if they sometimes do dress up the success of others as their own). They have to be good at this, or they wouldn’t be elected. The very best politicians, who have acted with integrity and courage, give us (what I have identified as) seven keys to describing achievements.
Let’s have a look at what they are:
1. Clarify Your Involvement in the Achievement
Use powerful, positive words that describe your contribution. For example, ‘created’, ‘reorganized’ or ‘initiated’. These words evoke the sense of an objective and an achievement. Passive statements like ‘did’, ‘performed’ or ‘was involved in’ don’t indicate your level of involvement or your impact – they’re worthless, so don’t use them. Words that show that you actually made a difference are what count.
2. Describe a Start, Middle and End
When learning how to describe an achievement, mention the starting conditions, such as ‘poor performance’, ‘high costs’, ‘unpalatable risk’, and follow with a statement on what you made happen to overcome it (the project, change initiative, etc), and then cap it off with the result – was the desired outcome achieved? What you’re doing is telling story. And a story creates a more powerful, memorable narrative.
3. Quantify the Achievement
Use numbers and hard measures where you can. This is very important – the most critical element of the articulation. For example, say ‘saved $50,000’ rather than ‘saved operating costs’. The more specific you are, the greater the value of your statement of achievement. In almost all cases, a percentage value has a higher-impact than an absolute number. In some cases, what might look like a minor achievement, when quantified, it could be a major achievement as perceived by others. If you don’t have exact numbers, then give an estimate – providing that it stands the test of reason and challenge. But don’t over-exaggerate – if you get found out then it’s game over.
4. Don’t Forget Over-Achievement!
If in your achievement you set out to save $50,000, but instead saved $60,000, then make sure this is known. State the target and what you actually achieved, and how you bettered it. So many people forget to do this and it’s such a shame as this is truly gold-dust to sprinkle on your resume!
5. Be Bold with Your Accolades
Some achievements warrant special reward, so mention them. Perhaps you or your organization gained industry recognition with mention in the press? Or did you break a performance record within your organization? State this. Leverage the heck out of it. Don’t be shy and be specific.
6. Include details of challenging circumstances
If the achievement was tough due to business events, market conditions or any other challenging situations, then make sure you say what they were. Achievement through adversity rocks. It’s important to describe any challenges you faced because it makes the achievement all that more special. Think again about your achievements and consider if there were circumstances that made it difficult – you might not have thought about this yet. For example, if there were many layoffs in your organization whilst you were tasked with improving team morale, then make these conditions clear. Again, don’t be shy; be bold.
7. State the Effect of the Achievement, 360-degree style
Describe the achievement not just from your own perspective; also describe what it meant for your colleagues, subordinates, management and customers (where appropriate.) Not only does this describe your achievements in an organisational context, it also shows that you think in this way too. Hardly anybody does this, so adding this to your claims will give you a distinct advantage. Don’t forget to quantify the impact of your achievement for each of these groups of people too.
How to Describe an Achievement Example…
I have taken the above 7 keys and used them to create an example achievement. Read it through, and try to spot them.
I was awarded Employee of the Month in July because of my leadership in helping the customer services department, who were suffering from morale issues and continuously missing targets by 40%. I reorganized them into product teams, placing mentors in each team, which resulted in a complete turnaround – the department exceeded targets by 6% and reduced complaints by 15% within 2 months by using daily stand-up meetings to rapidly assign resources. My colleagues in this department are now happier than ever and feel on top of their game, and they say that staff attrition has reduced by 18%.
You should now be able to identify the components of this statement and how I have used the 7 keys to create it.
Now do you know how to describe an achievement?
Have you an effective or unusual way of describing your achievements? Then share your thoughts by leaving a comment. Know an 8th? Then please tell us by leaving a comment below…