What’s Your Career Success Record?

It would be great if you could answer the question, “What’s your career success record?” by rattling off a long list of major contributions you had made to employer after employer during an illustrious executive career. Right. Maybe a few of you actually could do that in all sincerity, but what about the rest of us?

What Career Successes Have You Achieved Recently?

How do we answer our current employer’s inevitable question (either express or implied): “What have you done for us lately?” OR to put it another way, when coming from a prospective employer: “What have been your greatest successes that we should be interested in as your possible new employer?”

Often I work with clients who have trouble identifying the contributions they’ve made to employers over the years. In nearly all cases, I know it’s not that they haven’t made any worthwhile contributions. More likely, one or more of these 5 obstructive factors have come into play:

  1. They’ve completely forgotten some of the things they’ve done that benefited their employer(s).
  2. They didn’t realize at the time how important something was and didn’t make particular note of it for future reference, so they can’t recall the details.
  3. They think it would be bragging about themselves and are uncomfortable doing that.
  4. They didn’t do the whole thing alone and therefore think they can’t include it in their resumes.
  5. They completed their part of whatever it was, but the company pulled the plug on the overall project, so they think it’s not a successful contribution and isn’t worth mentioning in a professional resume.

Dispelling Those “Career Success Record” Inhibitors

If you’ve been guilty of allowing one or two of the above factors to inhibit you from claiming due credit for your valuable contributions, take heart. It’s not too late to mend your ways! To get you started on the right track, here are some suggestions for fixing the factors so they become non-issues in the future, whether during a job interview or a performance review:

  1. Understand that human memory is both a wonderful and an unreliable function. Write down anything you’ve done that you felt particularly good about, received verbal accolades from managers and/or colleagues for, etc. Keep the log where you can find it and access it when needed.
  2. Similar to #1: Make a note of things you are confident are important, but if you’re not sure, check with others who are in a position to know. Include the critical details in the log you’re keeping (just the key points–it doesn’t need to be a whole book).
  3. Recognize that employers who have a need you can fill–and fill well–have to know that in order to consider you seriously, and they won’t find it out by osmosis. You have to tell them. That’s not bragging; it’s giving them information they need in order to make an informed choice. Of course, use appropriate terms–it doesn’t have to be over-the-top, save-the-world language.
  4. Claim only the credit you are entitled to, naturally. If it was a team effort, you certainly don’t want to make it sound as if you did everything yourself. At the same time, you have every right to take credit for the value you did contribute as part of (or the leader of) the team.
  5. You did your part and did it well. That part was a success–it achieved the goal(s) set for you by management. The fact that the company ran out of money to complete the project or scuttled it for some other reason outside your control does not negate the potential value of what you did. There are legitimate ways to include this kind of information in your professional resume. Use them!

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