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Quantifying your achievements on your résumé
Rachel Farrell, Writer

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As a job seeker, you constantly hear that one of the biggest detriments to your job search is not quantifying your achievements on your résumé. Yet still, many don't understand what that actually means.

Admittedly, some positions are easier to quantify, such as a sales agent or manager. But even less concrete jobs, like an editor or administrative assistant can be quantified -- sometimes you just have to work a little harder.

"Quantifying achievements is essential to creating an impact as a job seeker. Whether we are making widgets or making multi-million dollar deals, we seldom take the time to carefully consider how each task we complete has a beneficial, ripple effect throughout our organization," says Kirsten McKinnon, a professional development coach.
"The first and often most challenging step is to fully acknowledge our workplace contributions. It's so easy to get immersed in the daily grind and not step back to take stock of the full impact of what we do. We can begin to take our strengths, talents and achievements for granted, resulting in the 'I was just doing my job' phenomenon," she says.

Richard S Deems, co-author of "Make Job Loss Work For You," suggests job seekers take the "So what?" approach to quantifying results.

"If you just tell me you're an editor of a monthly periodical I'll yawn and grab the next résumé," he says. "OK, so you're an editor -- so what? 'Well, I edit articles for a monthly periodical.' So what? 'Well, I get letters back from authors telling me they appreciated my editing work.' So what? 'Well, my superiors have noticed this.' So what? 'Well, they have asked me to submit several articles for a variety of awards and recognitions.' So what? 'Well, this past year I've received five awards for articles I've edited.' So what? 'Requests for reprints have increased by 41 percent.'"
To quantify your achievements, McKinnon says to remember that your role is part of a bigger picture.

"No matter how mundane the task, each plays a role in the ultimate bottom-line of an organization. Everything we do (or don't do) has an impact on our workplace. This concept can be simultaneously empowering and daunting as we recognize the importance of our role," she says.

Cheryl E. Palmer, president, Call to Career, gives the following suggestions for areas when trying to quantify your achievements:

Time or money saved: "If you instituted a process improvement that saved time and made a procedure more efficient, you can estimate the amount of time saved by comparing the amount of time that the procedure initially required with the amount of time it took after you improved the process. This can be stated in units of time like hours, days or weeks, or it can be stated as a percentage," Palmer says. "By the same token, you can quantify the amount of money you saved for your organization. For example, you might have saved $1 million by switching vendors and negotiating a better price. You can state the dollar amount or the percentage of money saved."

New business for the company: "Even if you are not in sales, you may still have contributed to the bottom line by referring new business," Palmer reminds. "You can estimate how much money you earned for the company. Or perhaps your work led to more sales. If you are in marketing, you may have created materials that were used by salespeople to increase sales. Quantify the sales that were generated after the marketing collateral you created was implemented."
Increase in customer satisfaction: "You may have been in a position to directly impact customer satisfaction. If your company measures satisfaction through customer surveys and you know that there has been a significant improvement in the customer satisfaction scores as a result of your intervention, you can quantify that increase and write it as an accomplishment on your résumé," Palmer says. "You could say, 'Boosted customer satisfaction scores by 30 percent in six months by instituting a process that resolved most problems with one call.'"
Staff retention rates: "Instead of saying something generic like, 'Increased morale in the office,' talk about the fact that you initiated programs that boosted staff retention rates. This is significant because it is very costly to replace staff," Palmer says. "You can either mention the decrease in turnover or the increase in staff retention. Human resources should have data on staff turnover that you can use to compare what the turnover rate was before you came and what the turnover rate has been during your tenure." 

If you're still having trouble attaching a number to your achievements at work, Heather Krasna, author of "Jobs That Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service," suggests considering the following questions about your job duties: 
1. What would have happened if you had done a bad job? How much money would have been lost; how many clients would have been disappointed; how many files misplaced?  This helps you see your impact, she says.

2. Ask yourself if your contributions improved your organization. "Are things more efficient than they were before you came along? If so, by how many days was the turnaround time improved? How much staff time was saved, in hours per week? Are things being done in a higher quality way? If so, how many errors per month were reduced? Did you win an award or recognition for the improvement? Do your best to add numbers or percentages," she says.
3. For every bullet point in your résumé, look for the nouns in the statement and ask if a number or percentage can be added. "For instance, how many phone calls did you answer?  How many records were in the database you managed?  Make sure to include context -- list the timeframe within which you did the work," she suggests.

5. If you don't already, start keeping track of your accomplishments as soon as possible, she says. "Go back to your job and start a tally of how many clients you see per day, then make a guesstimate of how many you see per month. Look at your client notes, or go through your calendar and compile your appointments. Tracking your accomplishments will help you in performance reviews, even if you aren't job seeking. Even if you left a job, you can often call your former boss or co-workers and ask whether a project you worked on led to a certain result. Did your recommendations get considered, or better yet, implemented? If so, have they led to the desired result?"

No matter what your duties entail, it is possible to attach a number to your accomplishments. Take the time to do it, and you could find yourself in the running for your dream job.

Last Updated: 18/02/2011 - 5:37 PM

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