Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Accomplishment Stories

After several days of being sick, including a horrendous 2.5 day long migraine (perhaps a new record for me), I'm back to normal and have returned to my job search stuff. 

I have written my professional objective and my "exit statement" (i.e., why I left my last job--that is to say, grad school, in my case) and identified my top skills.  I have also put together an annotated list of projects I worked on at my last job (from my performance reviews and documents I had on file), which has been really helpful for understanding what the hell I did for 6 years at that job.

I've now also compiled a list of 24 potential "accomplishment story" topics that I can use as resume bullet points, interview examples, and so on to demonstrate times that I have used various skills, faced various problems, and been awesome in specific ways.  The guide I'm using suggests having 10-20 accomplishment stories prepared when you go into interviews, so it looks like I'm probably in good shape.  (I think my major skills are covered, but I won't know until I start linking individual accomplishment stories to specific interview questions whether I need to add stories to cover different kinds of specific questions.  I expect that other than the dreaded "weakness" question and the like, I should be fine with this list.)

I have not fully fleshed out these accomplishment story topics yet, but I have a general sense of what I will say about each of them.  I will probably prepare actual stories for many, if not all, of these topics, but even if I do not go to the trouble to write out stories for all of them, it's helpful to have such a good sense of my major accomplishments in my career. 

After writing the stories, I will select the ones that are must-shares--ones that make me sound so good that I have to use them in my interviews somewhere.

And even before writing out the stories, I think I'll be ready to update my resume.  (And my LinkedIn profile and the like.)  Woo!  My resume is already in pretty good shape, with accomplishments rather than just boring job descriptions, but it'll be tricky to collapse so much work history and educational experience into 1 page.  But I'm sold on the idea that a 1 page resume is the right way to go (in my industry, at least).

It's interesting--the approach the guide I'm using takes means that by the time you're ready to write your resume, you're probably 70% of the way ready to start interviewing as well.  So even though this process has felt slower than job searches I've done in the past (which is partly because it actually has been slower--I have been operating at a less panicked pace because I'm not under financial pressure; I've been kinder to myself about taking it easy when I'm sick; I've spent a lot of time introspecting about myself and what I want because this represents a career change for me rather than just a search for a new job, and as you'll recall, my last career change turned out to be a bust; I've needed to familiarize myself with how to find a job in the 21st century; etc.), it probably isn't as slow as it feels because I'm making progress in many areas at the same time rather than operating very linearly from one task to the next.  For example, in the past, I updated my resume first so I could start applying for jobs immediately, then started preparing for interviews.  I'm liking the more strategic, integrated approach I'm using this time, even if this skills/accomplishment story stage has felt daunting.

An upcoming big stage that sits in my comfort zone is researching potential employers using online databases, etc.  I am more of a marketing research person than a market research person, but still, my issue here is less in making myself do it (or doing it incompetently) than not spending way too much time doing it.

An upcoming big stage (which overlaps with the market research one) that feels quite intimidating is talking to people about potential employers (what you might call networking or informational interviewing or whatever other phrases people use in place of "talking to people").  But the guide does give some structure to this that I think will make it a bit less difficult and anxiety-provoking in practice than it would otherwise be. 

I also just finished reading the workplace thriller Paranoia (which I heartily recommend), and I really loved reading about the intense coaching our protagonist received prior to interviewing at the competing technology company he was sent to spy on and how the interview itself actually went.   The advice the executive coach gave him pretty much dovetailed with what I've been reading in my job search books.  Stay positive, people!


Debbie M said...

Fascinating. Twenty-four accomplishment stories? I have two.

Every time I've heard this tip before, the examples have always been along the lines of "I saved the company $1 million over the last six months" so it seemed irrelevant to me.

I see some brainstorming on this in my future.

Sally said...

Right, not many of my stories are in the "$1 million in 6 months" category, but I've read examples in my job search books that are pretty mundane, so don't worry about that.

In other news, a 1-page resume is impossible with 6 jobs, so I'm shooting for a standard 2-pager now. (Or standard 2-pagers, as I've decided I need at least a couple different versions for different job types.)

Debbie M said...

I have a giant uber resume with everything in it, and then I cut it down to two pages (occasionally one) of relevant stuff for whatever job I'm applying to.

I'm up to 15 accomplishment stories now, at least 12 of which are good.

Sally said...

Nice job!