Modesty is a virtue that doesn’t pay the bills.
Since 2011, I have not so quietly boasted about my career-related accomplishments.
Over the past seven years, I’ve landed 15 job interviews in 30 minutes, gone from underemployed dropout waitress to the top 1% of millennials and even designed a website for Flo Rida.
To date, my writing has been published in places like: CNBC, Fortune, Business Insider, The Economist, TIME, and many others. And I’ve been featured in outlets like: Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Inc and The Boston Globe — all of this despite not graduating from college or dropping out of an Ivy League school.
I am proud to say, since dropping out, I’ve consistently had a steady stream of work and have been able to dramatically increase my rates year over year (YoY), even in the middle of a terrible economic downturn.
I do not say this to brag. I say this to prove to you that you can do the same exact things I do — regardless of your age or current situation — as long as you’re motivated, persistent and resilient.
I achieved all of the above by relentlessly focusing on three key things:
- Producing results.
- Documenting those results.
- And sharing those results (cough: achievements).
Focus on just those three things, and I promise you, you’ll always be employed and handsomely paid for your work.
Surprisingly, No. 1 is usually the easiest for people.
It’s No. 2 and No. 3 that people don’t do — either because they believe modesty is the best policy, don’t know they should and/or think they aren’t doing anything worthy of being documented and shared.
To these three excuses, I say:
- Modesty is a virtue that doesn’t pay the bills.
- Now, you know.
- You definitely are doing something worthy of being documented and shared.
Why track my achievements?
If you still don’t believe me, here are a few more reasons (in no particular order) why you should document and share your accomplishments.
1. To land a raise/promotion.
If you want a raise, you’re going to have to provide value AND present that value to your employer BEFORE you ask for a raise.
This is why so many people fail at negotiation. They approach it all wrong.
You know you deserve a promotion/raise because YOU know what you’re doing all the time, but your boss probably doesn’t. And never expect your boss to just reward you because you look like you’re working hard. Fat chance.
If you want a promotion/raise, you need to showcase your previous results to prove you deserve one. The best way to do this is to agree to a few key performance indicators (KPIs) with your boss.
This way, after 3-6 months of meeting and exceeding your KPIs, you can confidently walk into your boss’ office with LEVERAGE.
Your leverage is your previous, consistent results for the business (AKA your achievements).
2. To interview better.
When you don’t document your achievements on an ongoing basis, you’re very likely to forget the vital details that show how valuable you are.
By doing this, you’ll be able to quickly impress recruiters and hiring managers with how much you’ve accomplished.
3. To write your resume fast.
Recently, I redid my resume, and it only took me one hour — maybe even less. That’s unheard of for me. When I created past resumes, it took forever.
So what did I do differently?
Well, the year prior, I decided to start tracking my achievements/results in a G-Doc and a Trello board.
I didn’t have to dream up bullet points because I had a long list of them right there in Trello and Google Drive. Easy breezy!
4. To combat a bad performance review.
Let’s say you receive an inaccurate performance review from your boss that makes you look bad.
Regardless of the reason, if you’ve been producing results for the business, and you’ve been documenting those results with screenshots, emails, feedback, etc., then the proof is in the pudding — you’re actually killing it — and you can easily prove this with your documents.
5. To prove your past experience.
Companies have no shame about firing you without two weeks notice (which is why I always wondered why employees are expected to give advance notice, but I digress).
And before you know it, everything you did in your previous role is obliterated. You lose access to company programs, software and equipment, and then you’re SOL.
The only way to get another job is to prove you’ve produced results at your last job(s). So unless you want to be unemployed for a while, document your freakin’ results on a consistent basis!
6. To stay motivated.
When I have a bad day, I take a look at my Trello board of accomplishments, and it makes me feel a lot better. Seeing my achievements and past results keeps me motivated when I’m down, and it can do the same for you.
It’s easy to forget the small (yet big) wins, when we’re caught up in the chaos, known as life, and so, we rarely take any time to celebrate them before we move onto the next challenge.
Celebrating your achievements helps you develop a more positive outlook on yourself and your life, increasing your self-confidence, which is quite important in the professional world.
7. To stay productive.
When you’re tracking what you’re doing daily/weekly, you’re forced to face the truth, which may just be that your productivity is tanking.
Obviously, you want to figure this out before your boss does, and a great way to do that is by documenting and reflecting on your day and/or week. What did you get done? What deadline(s) did you miss (or meet)?
What should I document?
Everything. Yes, everything.
Don’t be shy. You’ll be tracking this stuff privately so no need to hold back.
Also, you can always go through these with a fine-tooth comb (and a career coach) later. The more you have, the better, because while you might not consider something valuable, a recruiter might.
I learned this when I visited my college career center.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my resume wasn’t showcasing any of my valuable experience, and so, naturally, I wasn’t landing jobs. It wasn’t until a career coach (verbally) extracted my experience from me by asking damn good questions.
Consider the most commonly asked interview questions, and then reverse engineer accomplishments from them.
To get you started, here are a few suggestions of items to document.
Note: This list is far from definitive. Remember: Document everything.
- KPIs: Track all of your KPIs with whatever analytics’ tool(s) you use. Take screenshots of charts and graphs to prove it. Record how long it took to reach/exceed goals, how you did it and other important details.
- Mini testimonials: Collect (screenshot/copy) any and all good feedback from peers, superiors, clients and/or social media connections. You can use these as testimonials on your site and in interviews when someone asks you: What would previous bosses say is your greatest strength? Or other similar questions.
- Difficult situations: A common interview question is: Tell me about a time you faced a challenging situation with a coworker and how you resolved the issue. So if/when you have a challenging coworker situation on your hands and resolve it amicably, document it. Detail how you reached the resolution.
- Daily tasks: One way to quantify your resume is by stating the number of times you’ve done something in a given timeframe. This shows recruiters just how much work you can handle. So record all the tasks and projects you’ve completed/managed each day/week and how you managed to complete these things on time. No task is too small to document.
- Awards: Anytime you receive even the smallest of awards, document it. Nominee? Document it. Employee of the month? Document it. Recognized by a club or volunteer project? Document it.
- Outside activities: You can put stuff on your resume that doesn’t happen at work. Maybe you are the leader of an industry meetup group. Document everything you do for it.
- Professional development: Complete an online course? Write it down. Read a book? Write it down. Join a professional club or online membership? Write it down. Learn how to use a new tool/software program? Write it down.
How do I start tracking my accomplishments?
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed the first time you sit down to brainstorm and gather all of your past experience — especially if you’ve never done it before.
Things will get messy, but remember, this isn’t the final product. It’s just the very first step, which is always ugly at first.
There are a few different ways you could do this. There is no one best solution, so just do the one that feels right for you (of course, you could try each method as well).
1. Ask yourself questions.
I put this first because it might be the easiest way to recall your past accomplishments.
All you do is answer the list of questions below.
- Who did I work for? (Freelance and full-time or part-time jobs)
- What did I do for them?
- What posts did I publish?
- How many views, reads, shares, etc. did my posts get?
- Where was I featured?
- Where can I find “mini-testimonials?” Who have I impressed and why?
- What courses did I take?
- What books did I read?
- What tools did I use?
- What professional memberships/sites/groups do I use or am I a part of?
- What new skills did I learn last year(s)? How did I learn them?
- What challenges did you face this year at work? How did you overcome them?
- What processes did you improve or make more efficient?
- What did I do that was above and beyond my normal job duties?
- How did I stand out among other employees?
- Was I ever recognized by a supervisor for a job well done? When and why?
- Did I win any awards or accolades?
- What new processes did I implement to improve things?
- What problems did I solve?
- Did I ever consistently meet or exceed goals or quotas?
- Did I save the company money?
- What made me really great at my job?
- Who did I meet / network with?
- How was my performance measured, and did I reach/exceed any performance targets?
- What did your boss say he/she wanted you to achieve when you were hired?
- What do you feel you’ve accomplished, regardless of what your current boss or colleagues may think?
- Have you done something that got better results than your employer had been getting before?
- If asked what made or makes you really great at your job, what would you say?
When I did this for the first time, I had to go pretty far back in time because I waited so long to do it.
To refresh my memory, I opened a G-Doc and created 12 headings — one for each month of the year. Then I typed everything I could think of into that G-Doc — including even the bad things that happened that year.
If you want an idea of what this looks like, here you go:
You may be wondering if I remembered all this stuff from scratch.
Fortunately, I work online so I could dig through my digital history to see what I’d been up to. It wasn’t the fastest process, but it worked for me.
- Social Media (To see what I posted about throughout the years. I usually post about my achievements on these networks.)
- Google Drive
- Emails: Look for any thank-you emails or emails detailing any projects or achievements.
- Previous resumes and portfolios
- Performance reviews
- Productivity tools, like Timing
3. Ask your superiors, peers and mentors for feedback.
Ask your internship supervisor or boss to review your resume, if you have a good relationship. It can be eye-opening to hear/read what other people think your accomplishments are or what you did that was most valuable to them.
How do I track this on an ongoing basis?
This process is not a one-and-done type of thing.
It’s SO much easier, if you briefly write down what you did at the end of each day in your journaling/document app of choice.
I prefer Google Docs, and just organize it by folder. For example:
- Jan 2017
- Jan 1-7 2017
When big things happen — like getting an article published or exceeding my KPIs on a big project — I document this in a Trello board I call “My Life.” Here’s what it looks like:
The nice thing about Trello is that you can take screenshots and download metrics reports, etc., and upload them to a card.
For example, whenever we did our monthly marketing report meeting, I would download the PDF file and upload it to my Trello board, titling it: “May Monthly Marketing Report.”
Remember, it’s important to have proof for this stuff because you’ll need it when you go to build your resume and portfolio.
Now, what do I do?
Reflect on your experiences.
Now, it’s time to reflect on your past experiences. I use labels in Trello to color code how I felt about each experience.
The labels I use are:
- Identity Capital: This is stuff that is good for your resume and talking about in interviews. It’s your tangible experience.
- Held Back: Were you held back at a job or two? How so?
- Important: When important stuff happens.
- Pivotal Person: Did you meet someone who was pivotal to your career?
- Pivotal Moment: Did something atypical happen that changed your path for better or worse?
- Pivotal Achievement: This is referring to a huge achievement that helped you leapfrog ahead in your career.
Using these labels helps me figure out what type of experiences I want to avoid in the future.
I’ll ask myself: Did I like doing what I had to do to get that achievement? If the answer is no, I remember to steer clear of similar situations in the future.
Try to connect the dots, and make sense of the big picture.
Look for strengths and weaknesses.
Notice what you love, what you hate and what you tolerate.
Pay attention to what you love and/or dislike about your superiors, coworkers and culture.
Look for patterns and trends.
Your career is constantly evolving, but it’s important to make sure it’s going in the direction you want. If it’s not, you know it’s time to do something about it.
Read these resources.
That’s the end of this post, but if you’ve been following along and completed this project, I recommend you keep going, and complete these articles’ exercises as well:
- How to Quantify Your Resume Bullet Points
- How to get Started Creating an Online Portfolio
- How to Write a Case Study
And here’s that Trello template again.