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Ten Career Wins Most People Don't Claim On Their Resumes

I write about bringing life to work and bringing work to life. Full bio

I was a Fortune 500 HR SVP for ten million years, but I was an opera singer before I ever heard the term HR. The higher I got in the corporate world, the more operatic the action became. I started writing about the workplace for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1997, but it took me ages to find my own voice. Now I write for the Huffington Post, Business Week, LinkedIn, the Harvard Business Review, the Denver Post and Forbes.com and lead the worldwide Human Workplace movement to reinvent work for people. Stop by and join us: http://www.humanworkplace.com


Your next manager doesn’t know you yet. Your Human-Voiced Resume will be your possible next manager’s introduction to you. Why not put your biggest triumphs out there in order to start a conversation?

Once you’re in the job interview you can be sure to say “Of course, that project was a team effort.” Everyone knows that anyway, but if it makes you feel better you can say it one more time!

I’m Done With That Kind of Work

Even if you’re no longer in the field where you had your biggest career wins, aspects of each of them can make a hiring manager’s heart beat faster. Think about the ‘right-brain relevance’ of your career accomplishments to the new managers you’re approaching.

Maybe the function and the industry are different, but certain key themes — saving a huge customer, pushing an idea to fruition against bureaucratic resistance, or teaching people to do something they’d never done before — will resonate with any manager in pain.

Your proudest Dragon-Slaying Stories from industries and functions you left long ago are still powerful indicators of your abilities. Don’t hide them under a bushel!

It Was So Long Ago

Can you include a Dragon-Slaying Story in your resume if it happened at job that no longer appears in the resume? Of course you can! Tell that Dragon-Slaying Story in the Summary at the top of your Human-Voiced Resume. Here’s how that might look in the Human-Voiced Resume Summary for a job-seeker, Patricia:

I’m a Product Development Manager who loves to bring simple, powerful personal finance solutions to market and manage them to lead their categories. My first big launch was the private-label Visa card for Sears, which became the gold standard for retail credit card products. Now I’m looking to join a forward-looking financial services firm that sees product opportunities in its online business.

That Sears credit card was a gazillion years ago, but people in the industry still remember it. The quick mention of it in your Human-Voiced Resume Summary is a conversation starter. People in senior-level positions in Patricia’s industry are old enough to remember that Sears Visa card (we made up the example for this story) and will want to talk with Patricia about it.

Like a common interest outside of work or a common ex-employer, well-known industry stories are great ways to bond with people who don’t know you yet.

Now the Impact is Clear

We spend years in our careers doing what we’re told and what our sturdy instincts instruct us to do. Sometimes the impact of our actions isn’t obvious at the time. Now that we are older and have altitude on our paths, we can reframe our past experiences to show the power in them, even if it wasn’t clear to us when we did the work. Here’s what Joanie, aged 24, said in her resume about her three years of summer camp counselor experience:

Camp Granada

Camp Counselor, Summers 2011 – 2013

I supervised seven-to-11-year-old campers, stayed with them in our bunk and organized their activities during the day. We did arts and crafts, canoeing, swimming, chores and hiking trips.

Now that Joanie has had time to think about those formative experiences (formative for her and the little campers, both) she has a new slant on her summer-camp experience:

Camp Granada

Camp Counselor, Summers 2011 – 2013

As a Junior Counselor for one year and a Senior Counselor for the next two years, I taught self-confidence, conflict resolution and problem-solving skills to young campers ages 7-11 through water activities, hiking, arts and crafts and daily chores.

I Wasn’t Qualified

“I wasn’t qualified to do what I did” is a terrible reason to leave a career triumph off your resume. You weren’t qualified — but you still did it!

My Boss Considered That His Win

The last item on our list is the one that gives most job-seekers pause. Even when they did something incredible — saved the day with a huge customer, came up with an amazing product idea or devised a new process that saved time and money — they often hesitate to include the triumph on their resume if they think their boss would claim it, too.

Forget your old boss. This is your resume. It’s a new day, and if you can tell the story about how you came, saw and conquered, tell it! Your boss can tell his or her own story. Now it’s your turn!


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