DIY Resume Tips: 3 Steps for Collecting and Recording Career Highlights
Updated: Feb 16, 2022
While solving a strange problem years ago, I had a few revelations. My son’s basketball got stuck in our driveway hoop, and he was too short to push it out of the net. I couldn’t reach the ball either, so, after scratching my head a few minutes I grabbed a broom and popped the ball out. I got a few strange looks from people walking by -- just another quirky Portlander dressed in professional attire clumsily stabbing a basketball repeatedly, ducking out of the way as it grazed my cheekbone and then chasing after awkwardly it as it bounced into the street.
Problem solved, right? Not quite. Figuring the ball was stuck because the hoop was new and still needed to be broken in and the net stretched out, I shot the basket into the hoop. Of course, the ball got stuck again. So I grabbed my broom.
After three or four more broom jabs and countless shooting attempts, the net was sufficiently stretched and the ball sailed through with ease.
What were my revelations, you ask? Well, I was reminded of how much I enjoy shooting hoops, but I also realized that many of our daily challenges are solved in creative and unusual ways. We rarely give ourselves credit for these minor fixes, considering them another slow climb on this crazy roller coaster life, but I invite you to start paying attention to the outside-the-box ways you employ to remove the stuck basketballs that arise in your career.
The unconventional ways you solve problems in your job can make your resume stand out among competitors and make the case for ascending into a position with greater responsibility or preparing for a pivot into another field.
Next time you do or suggest something unusual that successfully solves a problem in your workplace, give yourself credit and make note of it. Below I’ve outlined a step-by-step process for creating a habit to collect these wins, big and small.
1. Start a Document on a cloud-based system like Google Drive to record your wins, which I have sorted into three categories: a.) Accomplishments, b.) Accolades, and c.) Metric-Based Objectives. I suggest using a cloud-based platform so that your “wins” are recorded in a place you can always easily access. When we leave jobs behind we usually leave email addresses behind that we can no longer access. Whether you use Google Drive for this purpose or not is irrelevant – just make sure it is a cloud-based tool that you can access with your personal email or other personal means of identification.
a. Accomplishments include any finished projects that stretched you as a professional or set you apart. Examples might include writing a grant that funded a much-needed project, managing a project that delivered a software update, or preparing a retail space to ensure safety from COVID spread for both customers and employees.
If there are measurable objectives that are worth mentioning, these examples will fit into Category C as “metric-based objectives.” The end of any project you are working on in general should still be recorded as an accomplishment.
Don’t neglect the unexpected problems that you have likely been solving (AKA stuck basketballs) that deserve mentioning. When you devise an outside-the-box solution that saves money or time, improves morale, eliminates one or more steps of a workflow process, clears up confusion, improves a client relationship, reduces on-the-job injuries or otherwise contributes to workplace efficiency, sales, peace of mind, safety and sustainability, take the credit you deserve. Write it out before you forget it and share the accomplishment with colleagues who may have collaborated on the solution.
b. Accolades describe any praise or distinction that you receive as a result of your worth. Accolades may show up as documented honors like awards, certifications or promotions or less formally as compliments from colleagues and supervisors. I’ve listed examples of both below: Documented accolade: Distinguished with Employee of the Year for two years in row as an office manager for Samson & Markowitz Architecture. Informal accolade: Praised by executive leadership for management of two-year project to convert hard copy medical files to digital records with Epic system and train all personnel to effectively navigate Epic patient portals.
c. Metric-Based Objectives are any goal to which you assigned a number. Sales goals are the most obvious examples, but they can show up in myriad ways that we often forget to document or even share with colleagues or supervisors. For instance, if you completed a one-year capital campaign project in nine months, shaved $2,000 from a $20,000 budget, and raised $150,000 you have at least three measurable objectives you can record – Completed capital campaign that raised $150,000 three months short of deadline while reducing expenditures by 10 percent. As a seasoned resume writer, I will tell you this as many times as I need to make my point stick – you need to record these measurable objectives because you will not remember them later. You think you will, but before you know it, you will be off to the next project, and these numbers will fade from your brain as quickly as dreams do from your waking mind. Document them (along with your Accomplishments and Accolades) in a place you can easily retrieve them when you need to update your resume. If you believe your resume is woefully short of measurable objectives, take some time to meet with your boss or another colleague to discuss strategies for integrating more measurable objectives into your work. Even work as qualitative-based as mental health or art can find ways to list quantitative results. If you see anything in your work that you want to improve or increase, you have the potential for measurable objectives – attracting or retaining more clients, decreasing or eliminating COVID transmissions, improving retail traffic in certain areas of your store, improving efficiencies in work processes, reducing waste, increasing engagement with website content, etc. Resume clients are sometimes put off when I ask for metrics from their work, saying things like, “Well, you really just can’t measure what I do,” but in most cases, I can find a way to assign some numbers to their accomplishments. The hiccup is usually their ability to remember those numbers.
If you commit to a simple process of setting measurable objectives and recording them on an ongoing basis, your resume will shine, your resume writer will adore you, and your boss is also likely to take note. As appropriate, take the time to add these Accomplishments, Accolades and Metric-based Objectives to your LinkedIn profile. I will discuss this more below in #3.
2. Start a series of file folders for collecting documentation of your wins. Sort them by the three categories I just described -- Accomplishments, Accolades, and Metric-based Objectives. Give each of these categories a single file folder and give each job title a hanging folder for each set of three folders. If you stay the same company but change titles, give yourself a new hanging folder and invest in three new single folders for each category. This sounds tedious, I know, but trust me – it’s more tedious to track down this information later for your resume writer when you haven’t found a way to document it. If everything you do in your work is digitized and kept on Google Drive, you can skip this step. Just make a point to create these digital folders on your Drive account in a simple-to-find folder. (If your work is proprietary and saving documents to a personal Drive folder is strictly prohibited, just make sure that you’re discreetly recording your accomplishments for your purposes in an accessible place.)
3. Make a monthly date to record your ongoing accomplishments, accolades, and metric-based objectives. This is the easy part but the one most likely to be ignored or put off by most people. Make a monthly commitment to record your career wins as they reach completion. You will never regret it. Not only will it make your resume a cinch to update when the time comes, you will receive a little ego boost each month to add a little spring to your step. As you do this, make a point to add at least one new accomplishment each month to your LinkedIn profile. This update only takes a few minutes and will give you a chance to synthesize the information you’ll eventually add to your resume. You may also be able to add new skills to your “Endorsements” section or take a minute to request a recommendation from a colleague who recently praised you.
This monthly date step is likely to have the ancillary effect of helping you see what overall career objectives you are and set new ones each month to knock out as you progress in your career. This can feel especially good when projects are feeling like they’re at a standstill or you aren’t feeling as engaged with your work as you once did. The need for mastery in our work is a key to career fulfillment but can (and should) be driven from internal expectations we place on ourselves.
When it comes time to update your resume, all of the Accomplishments, Accolades and Metric-Based Objectives you accumulate are just the kinds of “career highlights” that will make you stand out when you hope to advance or shift directions. The overall takeaways from your career triumphs will also put you more in touch with the activities and projects that result in feelings of sincere engagement, contribution, fulfillment and mastery.
Your collection of Accomplishments, Accolades and Metric-Based Objectives will also provide your resume writer with a sense of your strengths and motivations, making it easier to write a Career Profile (a mini bio that often goes at the top of your resume, sometimes called an About Me or Career Summary section). While I never intend to put “removed a basketball from my son’s hoop with a broom” on my resume, I may describe myself as a “results-driven professional able to devise creative strategies to maximize net efficiency.”
Kristin Schuchman, MSW is a career counselor, small business coach, and author based in Portland, Oregon who works with creative and mission-driven professionals. She writes resumes and coaches individuals seeking support for career indecision, next steps, work re-entry, advancement, and work-life-balance. She offers a free 30-minute Zoom or phone session and presently works with clients remotely. You can find her books The DIY Website Workbook and Jump Start: How to redirect a career that has stalled, lost direction or reached a crossroads on Amazon.