How to catalog your accomplishments

Doing your homework now will pay dividends in the future.

How to catalog your accomplishments

Angling for a well-deserved raise? Got your eyes on a dream job? That first step to greener pastures starts here: Make a catalog of your accomplishments.

“The process of trying to get promoted or applying for a job, or going through a performance review, can be really stressful,” says Joshua Zerkel, director of worldwide account management and training at Evernote, a California-based productivity software company. “One thing that can make it less stressful is having the resources and backstory ready to go—it can make you feel empowered.” Accomplishments make your resume stand out, too.

But don’t overthink it, Zerkel says—it can be a pretty easy process if you know how to approach it. Follow these tips to build a catalog of achievements to impress any manager at any stage of your career.

Define your accomplishments

An achievement is a big picture deliverable versus a job duty, says Alfred Blake, assistant director of undergraduate entrepreneurship programs at Rutgers Business School—Newark and New Brunswick in New Jersey. It’s the difference between saying, “This year I engaged 5,000 customers and converted 30% to the premium subscription” and “I called 5,000 customers.”

The best accomplishments to highlight in your catalog are those that demonstrate your core skills and those achievements that were most meaningful to you, says Laura Poisson, senior vice president of ClearRock Inc., a Boston-based executive coaching and outplacement firm. Tying them into how they contribute to larger business objectives and goals keeps them relevant.

Managers want to hear about an action that you took in the face of a challenge, which resulted in a successful outcome, Poisson says.

Poisson says examples might include:

  • Supervised and coached scientists and senior scientists that resulted in high-impact, low-turnover team.
  • Led the implementation of a B2B e-commerce solution that streamlined the purchasing organization’s planning and buying functions saving $2.2 million annually.
  • Raised $17.6 million in gifts, pledges and planned gifts over the past 10 years, including a $4.25 million gift of real estate in 2009, the largest ever received by the institute.

Select a tool to store information

When storing your information, do it so it’s natural and accessible, Zerkel says. For some this means printing and keeping a file; for others it’s an electronic spreadsheet, online document or portfolio. Even a handwritten journal or spreadsheet could be useful—whatever is best for the way you work.

Apps like Evernote can also help people keep information organized and handy. “It’s all about finding the fit. Have a central spot where you keep everything and can refer back to it easily,” Zerkel says.

Give details and get organized

Looking at the accomplishments you’ve noted, think back over the past year and see what stands out. Include details about how you achieved those milestones.

For example, if you created a record-breaking fundraising campaign in the past year, include information about how you developed your strategy, who you tapped for ideas, how you delegated the work and any other information that shows how you made it happen, as well as any congratulatory notes from others. Keeping this information together can help you replicate your success in the coming year.

If you’re storing information electronically, include all the above information and use tags to sort projects by employers, positions you’re applying to, or specific skills your achievements might highlight, Zerkel says.

“Coming from a background of a professional organizer, it’s not something to overthink or over-organize,” Zerkel says. Experiment to find what works best for you, add the background details and keep it ready for whatever your next step may be.