It’s All About Accomplishments

“What have you done for me lately?”

One of my managers used to ask this on a weekly basis.  At the time, I didn’t realize how fortunate I was that he said it out loud.  Spoken or not, this is one of the standards by which we are all measured in the work world.  It’s true for business owners and employees, for those at the top and bottom of the org chart.  What we have accomplished matters to others.  And if it matters to others, it needs to matter to us.  Note: I’m not saying this is the ONLY thing that matters, just that it is important to be aware of what we have achieved. 

Therefore, I recommend we all maintain our own master list of accomplishments. This list serves as a source for resume content,  a reference for job interviews, for performance appraisals, or to review as  pick-me-up when feeling down.  The master  list of accomplishments is a living document that you maintain as the years go by, and one you will continue to reference as your career progresses. 

So what information do you include on your master list of accomplishments?

  1. Accomplishments/Achievements
  2. Date
  3. Organization

Accomplishments and Achievements

Let’s talk about each of these.  First, what counts as an Accomplishment or Achievement?  Sources to consider for accomplishments include:

–        Goals you achieved
–        Projects you completed
–        Awards you received
–        Articles you published
–        Documents you drafted
–        Teams you facilitated or led
–        Problems you solved
–        Challenges you overcame
–        Obstacles you worked around
–        Results you accomplished

List a short description, not just a name.  Make notes about the result you achieved and the steps you took. “Created marketing materials for Criminal Hearts theater production, including flyers, posters, postcards, website, and press releases” is better than “Project 2A marketing”.  Be specific.  Use metrics and measures where applicable. “Decreased defect count by 12% in 3 months” is better than “improved quality”.  

Some questions to ask yourself to remember accomplishments are:
 – What did you improve?
 – What did you increase the measure or value of? 
 – What did you decrease the measure of? 
 – What changed because you were there, at a particular organization, because of things you did while there? 
 – Did you help save the company or group time or money?


Write down the date you completed the accomplishment or achievement.  Write down what you can remember – year, month/year, month/day/year. 


As for the organization you worked for, with what company was the achievement accomplished?  Make a note whether this was paid work, volunteer, or an independent project for family/friends.  Include all of these in this list, e.g. perhaps you kept the books for your spouse’s business, or designed and decorated cakes for family and friend.

Don’t get hung up on how to phrase things for now.  Just capture your accomplishments and achievements.  The record is what’s important.  

Review your old resumes, status reports, reviews, certificates, and awards to help you.  Go back through your adult life and list all the relevant accomplishments that you can remember in some detail.

Now that you have a master list of your accomplishments, remember to update it every time you achieve something new. 

Next time you are writing a cover letter or updating your resume, or are preparing for an interview or performance review – take out your master list of accomplishments.  Identify the ones that are relevant, those that make the points you wish to make.  Then incorporate those into your document or conversation. 

And when someone asks you, “What have you done lately?” you’ll be prepared to respond.

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I hired Lori because I was feeling stuck in my job and needed to find a career that was more rewarding, more challenging, and more suited to me.  In the arts, it's difficult to find a job you enjoy that also pays enough to live on, but Lori helped me do just that! 

As we worked together, Lori always helped give me that extra nudge when I was having trouble taking the next step toward success and acknowledged and applauded me when I accomplished something that I'd been struggling with. 

Thanks to Lori, I got out of my 8-year rut at the same job and discovered a new career I love that brings me all of the things I want in a job--creativity, variety, challenge, learning, flexibility, teamwork, and cake.  With no professional experience but a desire to learn, Lori helped me find ways to become a cake decorator--first on my own and then, eventually, at a reputable cake shop.  Now, something I used to do just for fun has become something I make my living doing, and each workday flies by!

Emily Sweeney, Chicago, IL