How to highlight your accomplishments when you don’t have any

Whenever we research how to write a resume, the advice givers always tell us to avoid just listing our “duties and responsibilities” at previous jobs – because this is a snorefest – and instead to focus on accomplishments. So, this might look something like “Increased sales by 500% in my first month” or “Improved customer service response time by 3000%” or “Was bestowed the title of Queen of the Universe by the company CEO,” or whatever.

But what to do if you don’t have any accomplishments? Not because you’re incompetent, but just because you never won employee of the month or Queen of the Universe for doing your job. You were good at it, but you always just missed out on top sales because that one woman two desks down always got top sales. And/or they don’t hand out plaques for receptionists, office managers, waiting on tables, etc. And if you don’t have access to numbers or metrics, it can be difficult to know how much you actually contributed.

Don’t give up. You still have accomplishments. You just might have to get more creative and dig a little to figure out what they are, and how to highlight them.

I came across this LinkedIn article offering some good advice, including a list of questions to ask yourself in order to figure out where you excelled. I found it potentially useful.

Start by answering these questions from the article:

What mark did you leave on this position?
What were you known for?
When you left what was the company missing?
Did you change anything that made a positive impact on the organization?
Were you promoted or given more responsibilities?
How does your work free others to do work that directly translates to added value?

You can also find the accomplishment in your day-to-day tasks and activities. For example:

Did you invite everyone out for a few birthday celebrations?
Then you “Led organization of team social events.”

Did you reorganize files and show some people what you did?
Then you “Designed and implemented improved filing system.”

Were you hired to oversee the installation of an IT system as part of a team that was given a $100,000 budget but only spent $90,000?
Then you “implemented and launched company IT system, saving $10,000 on the overall project.”

Do your best to quantify where you can. Instead of saying you “wrote articles for the company website,” say you “Wrote three weekly articles for the company website, increasing brand awareness and engagement and raising the organization’s online profile.”

Numbers are key to quantifying, but it doesn’t have to be a 500% sales increase. The examples regularly used in advice articles are always exaggerated for effect. It’s really hard to increase sales 500% unless you’re starting from zero. (Then it’s easy.)

But look at other numbers. How many people did you train, customers did you help, problems did you solve, articles did you publish, accounts did you manage? Look at these numbers and you might find something good.

You can also look at your employee reviews, if you kept them, and see if there is something in there that jumps out at you.

You’ll most likely discover that you actually have more accomplishments than you thought you did.

Finally, if you’re really having trouble, do your best to accomplish something in the future. If the reason you haven’t got any accomplishments is because you haven’t been going above and beyond, do that next time. Then you’ll really have something to brag about.

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