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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


I was at the Department of Motor Vehicles renewing my license and a woman in front of me was having trouble. She turned to me and asked “Can you help me fill out this form?”

“Sure!” I said. “What’s the problem?”

“Whenever I have to fill out a form, I panic,” she said, laughing. “I’m six years old all over again.”

The lady was confused about how to complete a form to replace her lost driver’s license. I helped her get the form completed and turned into the staff member on duty. Her statement stuck with me.

Lots of us revert to to our six-year-old state when we have to report ‘official’ information. When we see a form, we think of all the forms we’ve completed. We stress about filling the form out correctly.

When we’re job-hunting, the same fearful outlook can take over. Most people don’t claim their biggest career triumphs on their resumes. They don’t think they’re allowed to – but of course they are! If you did something, you own the story forever. You get to claim it on your resume, and there’s no reason not to!

That’s why when we collaborate with our clients on their resumes,  we tell them “This is a branding document. It’s not a legal document. You get to share the information you want to share. Your old boss isn’t here. He or she isn’t looking your shoulder. If you did something, claim it!”

Most people understate their accomplishments. They flatten and deaden their stories to sound more “professional” in their resumes. They end up sounding like every other job-seeker. They leave out the best parts of their most amazing stories and waste space with boring business jargon.

You can liven up your resume and make it a lot more powerful by telling your favorite Dragon-Slaying Stories right on the page, in abbreviated form. That will bring you to life for the hiring manager who’s reading your resume. You won’t be another anonymous job-seeker then!

Here are ten things you probably aren’t claiming in your resume — but you can, and you should!

its is your life it is your career it is your path

My Undercover Triumph

Maybe your old boss didn’t know about your greatest accomplishment at your last job, because your boss never asked you what you were working on and didn’t listen when you tried to explain. That’s okay! Describe your triumph on your resume anyway.

You did it, so claim it! It doesn’t matter whether anyone at your old job recognized you for what you accomplished. As long as you can answer questions about your career wins, go ahead and include them.  You earned that privilege!

It Wasn’t Really My Job

Lots of people have great career accomplishments that they don’t include on their resumes because the work they did wasn’t in their job description. Maybe it was somebody else’s job — maybe even their boss’s job. Maybe you were told not to work on a project, but you did it anyway to be helpful. Did you do it? If you did, then claim it now!

I Didn’t Get Paid For It

Volunteer assignments can be give you powerful Dragon-Slaying Stories, but lots of people don’t include their volunteer work in their resumes. It’s part of you, so tell the story! Human managers want to hire living, breathing humans like you. Give a manager something to latch onto in your resume – tell us what you got done outside the office as well as in it.

It Was Only One Time

Some of our best stories happened in an hour’s time, but we say “I only that did that thing one time — I’m not really proficient in it” and leave it off the resume. That’s crazy. Our client Neal created an online community for his ex-employer and attracted forty thousand members to join, but he told us “I’m not looking for that kind of job” and left the online community off his resume.

We encouraged him to put it back in, even though he’s not looking to build another online community anytime soon. That doesn’t matter — Neal branded himself for the jobs he wants, and his online-community-building experience is powerful whether he wants to take on another similar project or not.

Neal got a call from a Marketing VP within two days of updating his resume. “We’re talking about doing some online community projects in 2016,” said the Marketing VP. “Funny that we’re meeting just now. Timing is everything, right?”

I Don’t Want to Take Credit…

Job-seekers say “That project was a team effort. I don’t want to take credit.” They hedge and minimize their involvement in big initiatives. When we get them on the phone and dig into the particulars, they’ll tell us about the databases they built and customer communication plans they designed, but then they say “But I don’t want to take credit!”

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