Turning your experience into accomplishments and skills
Tuesday, August 31, 2021
Since you were old enough to start your first job or tackle school assignments, you've been accumulating the experiences needed to land your ideal job.
Sooner or later, you will be involved in a job search where you'll want to put your knowledge, skills and experience to work for an employer who fits you well. At the same time, employers will be looking for someone with the right skills and experience who will also be a great fit in their organization. Whether or not you'll land your ideal job will depend on how well you translate your experience into accomplishments and skills that match a prospective employer.
Whether you're a recent grad or an experienced professional, your objective will be the same: matching your experience and skills to those needed by your future employer. Here's how both experienced workers and recent grads can leverage their unique experience and skill set.
Translating Experience to Accomplishments and Skills
Tara and Davis are two candidates with similar levels of experiences, knowledge and skills. Both have maintained comparable performance levels while handling inbound customer calls in a busy customer care department. And both have applied for the same job opening.
Whose response is more convincing in answering a question about prioritizing and accomplishing tasks?
- Tara, who confidently says, "I know how to prioritize my work because I do this every day with my task list. I also do a great job in tracking all the important priorities in my daily work. I have to keep current on all the important parts of my job in addition to handling the inbound calls."
- Davis, who hands you yesterday's task list and says, "Here's a print out of my task list from yesterday. You can see how I assigned the different tasks A, B, or C for their priority, and see that I was able to accomplish everything on my list yesterday – in addition to my handling 31 inbound customer service calls in my role as CSR."
In her response, Tara made claims about her work with strong confidence, telling you that she can prioritize and track her progress. Davis used a different approach by offering proof of what he did (yesterday's task list) and then framed his accomplishments by giving you the number of calls he took while accomplishing the tasks.
Both claim skills. One offered proof.
Suppose Tara and Davis reflect the same approach as the example above in their résumés, LinkedIn profiles and job applications, as well as their answers to interview questions. Which one do you hire?
Key point: you must translate your knowledge and experience into quantifiable accomplishments and skills if you want to land the job. To learn more about how to do this, read my post on how to create a results-driven résumé.
Guidance for College Students & Recent Grads
By the time you graduate, you'll have learned about 700 skills translatable to the workplace – everything from managing a schedule to using productivity software to basic communication skills. These skills were learned and mastered throughout your childhood. You have everything from which to draw out these skills for a prospective employer. For example:
- That lemonade stand you and your friends put on your front lawn and ran for two months when you were seven is a great example for communicating your skills and accomplishments of entrepreneurship, sales, customer service, organization, planning and much more.
- How about the baby-sitting service you organized when you were 12? What did you do specifically that led parents to re-hire you? Or maybe you trained two friends to do the same thing, formed a babysitter's club and made up flyers to canvass your neighborhood.
- All those sports you played in school or in your neighborhood – what was your effect on the team? How did you help others get better?
- What did you learn from playing video games that led you to develop a few of your own?
- What did you do in your school projects that achieved a good result? What did you learn to do well from those projects?
The list is endless. Every part-time or summer job, major school assignment, club or team participation, internship, or overcoming obstacles provided you with translatable accomplishments and skills.
What to do with this. Build an inventory that allows you to capture your experiences, then translate them into measurable accomplishments and skills, and use them as the examples you'll give in a job interview, on your résumé, and in your social media profiles.
Guidance for Experienced Professionals and Skilled Workers
Your résumé, social profiles, and job applications should NEVER read like a job description's list of key duties. Savvy job seekers express their knowledge and experience by presenting their quantified accomplishments and the key skills they used to have success. NOBODY cares about a candidate's job duties when interviewing them. It's all about what the candidate has actually accomplished that matters.
So what should you, the experienced professional and skilled worker, do with this?
- For every job you've had since graduation, identify your top five accomplishments. What were your measurable results in each? How much, how long, compared to what standard/others? Turn each accomplishment into one or two sentences, then distill further into a single bullet point.
- Your current and first most recent jobs should have four or five accomplishments listed this way. Older jobs should have three accomplishments; jobs older than 10 years have one or two.
- Develop your example story that you'll use with each accomplishment. What was the situation and circumstances you faced, what did you do, and haw did it turn out? Your story adds depth and credibility to your accomplishment, and further proves your case.
- Consider as references those who can attest to your accomplishments. Send them your résumé and re-familiarize them with what happened, so that when they are called for a reference, they can confirm what you've told your interviewers.
Regardless of where you are in your career – just starting out, at the top of your profession, or looking to wind down – you'll need to master the art and science of communicating your accomplishments and skills and illustrate them with example stories, in order to land your next job.
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