Thursday, June 6, 2013

Highlighting Your Accomplishments, Pt I

I was recently contacted by a reader who said he works in the retail sector unloading trucks and merchandising. He said he had some performance awards and was utilizing them but asked about what kind of accomplishments he could derive from the actual work he does?

I admit to being an incurable optimist, who thinks you can derive something useful from even the most mundane of experiences and something positive from unfortunate events. Most people, if they are and have been conscientious employees who want to do more than just show up for work, can find accomplishments in their work history with which they can accentuate and elevate their candidacy when compared to so many others. For whatever reason, be it laziness, ignorance or anything else, most people don’t make extra effort, which is always an opportunity for you to shine just a bit more. There may be small things that are hiding in plain view, but you won’t notice them unless you know what to look for. Let’s see if I can help to point you in the right direction and identify items you may, until now, not have considered to be useful.  
Be aware that an accomplishment must be verifiable and reference checkable. Fabricated items (lies) will catch up with most people at some point and can seriously damage your potential for future career advancement. If you’re a sales person, for example; finding and highlighting accomplishments will be easier than for the reader who unloads trucks and has merchandising responsibilities. But most people can find something in their work history, and for those who are young and have yet to develop a career track record of success, I contend that even in that case there are possibilities. 

In the case of the reader’s question, merchandising in a retail environment, for example, is not just about stocking shelves, it also can involve the planning, placement and arrangement of products in a manner that will maximize their visibility and display them in the best manner possible. Companies often pay for advantageous product placement. Were you responsible for a certain line of products and their placement? If the answer is yes, perhaps you were able to demonstrate that the sales of the products you are involved with had increased sales numbers as a result of a placement strategy you were responsible for. Did you have any budgetary responsibilities or were you directly liaising with the customer or client? If there is some information related to these activities that impacted your employer’s business in any way in a positive light, these are accomplishments. 

If your work involves loading / unloading trucks, which is a function of logistics, warehousing, shipping & receiving, then perhaps there is a monetary value assigned to the goods you are responsible for handling. Might there be a ratio you can refer to, of broken or damaged goods as a result of handling; has your performance improved turn-around and transfer times? Are you working with sensitive or hazardous materials? Any improvements quantified by numbers and percentages to back up any claim you make provides you with something solid to use. 

Without specifics, I cannot be more helpful but I think you can begin to recognize that, unless you sleep on the job or spend the day watching the clock, you can find something you’ve accomplished with which to notate. An engine running on less than all cylinders is far less than it could be, business organizations operate no different and, at a time when companies are trying to maximize their performance, trying to do more with less, if you can demonstrate that you can add value you can likewise attract more attention. 

Granted, some may interpret the examples I’ve listed above as belonging more in the category of responsibilities, but I suggest they can be explained away as something straddling the fine line between a responsibility and an accomplishment. However, if you can’t claim any in-your-face, tangible accomplishments, these kind-of sort-of items can be helpful. It may take only a few small things to help to set yourself apart and provide an impression of examples of your character and work ethic, and this is what will help to separate you from others, who are listing only a chronological work history and responsibilities (yawn).
If you have accomplishments or this information helps you to find some you hadn’t considered, then capitalize on them. If you don’t, find something else to gain an edge - and there are other things. Next time we’ll talk about a few of those other options.

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