BY ERIN EWART
Recently we asked our clients to share an accomplishment they were proud of from this year. While people are often initially stumped in reaction to this question, soon the answers started flowing – projects completed, new jobs landed, personal goals achieved (and even an appearance on Jeopardy!).
There was so much positive energy as everyone shared the things they were proud of; I wish I could have bottled it up and captured it!
It’s sadly rare to have these kinds of conversations, because we are all naturally programmed to focus on what doesn’t go well: what we wish we’d done differently, or how we didn’t get it exactly right or achieve every single thing we set out to do. This “negativity bias” is hardwired in all of us and can be hard to overcome.
What that means is that we all need to make a consistent and intentional effort to remember and celebrate the things we have accomplished. Research has shown the importance of documenting successes and that celebrating even small wins boosts our sense of confidence and leads to more success down the road.
This all sounds great, but the reality is that most of us will not take the time to document our accomplishments unless we actually make concrete plans to do so.
I’m guilty of this too, and so this year I’ve implemented a quarterly planning day during which I force myself to sit down and document all the things I’ve accomplished in the last three months, along with what I’ve learned and what hasn’t gone as well.
I always start off daunted by the blank sheet of paper, but soon things start to flow and I get in the groove, listing accomplishments big and small, professional and personal.
It never fails to energize me, and I always end up remembering things I had completely forgotten about – even though they happened within the last quarter! It’s amazing how quickly our wins fade away, and how even a few weeks later we can completely forget about what we’ve done as we move on to the next thing.
So before this year comes to a close, let’s all commit to not forgetting our wins!
I strongly encourage you to make some time in the next few weeks to brainstorm and write down your accomplishments, whether you are job searching or happy in your current role. Then make a calendar appointment for yourself to do it again in another three months, or even sooner!
There are a few important reasons to track your accomplishments regularly:
1. It helps you remember what you enjoy and what you’re good at: getting insight into our own strengths is an ongoing process, and it’s challenging because we often do things so automatically that we don’t see them as unique or special. Capturing your successes provides a window into what you value and what you consider to be important – in this process, you’re the one who gets to define what your accomplishments are, not anyone else. After you make your list, look for trends: what common threads tie together the experiences you’ve identified, and what can you draw from that?
2. It provides fuel for your career development and advancement: performance reviews, resumes, and interviews all center around documenting and sharing your accomplishments in detail. If you haven’t taken the time to do this along the way, it will be much more difficult to accurately reconstruct these examples – so do yourself a favor and capture your wins now, even if you’re not sure when or how you’ll use them yet.
3. It boosts your confidence and helps you see your impact, especially when times are tough: had a hard day at work or in your job search? You can go back to your list and remind yourself of the successes you’ve had and how you’ve made an impact in your work. It will help you remember what you have to offer and that what you’re experiencing is just a temporary setback.
“Great,” you may be saying, “I’m 100% bought in to this idea, but how do I actually do it?”
I hear you – it’s hard to know where to start! So here are three ways to get going:
1. Do a brain dump: set a timer for 10 minutes and try to list as many accomplishments as you can, aiming for at least 15-20. Include both personal and professional accomplishments – both are important and can provide good insights! As you do this, think back on the year and any big themes. Did you make any major changes? What projects were you focused on? What goals did you set at the beginning of the year? What happened in your personal life? Don’t censor yourself or worry about whether something is too “small” or not relevant. Just capture as many ideas as you can to start.
2. Review “artifacts”: go through your emails, calendars, social media posts, performance reviews, and other important documents to remind yourself of the major things you worked on this year and how you spent your time. This should trigger more ideas and will also help you capture details about each accomplishment that you can record and eventually use in your resume or interviews if you choose, using the STAR format. Moving forward, try to get in the habit of doing this exercise on an regular basis. You can keep a running document or list where you add things as you think of them, or even create an “accomplishments box” or folder to save important emails or documents. Check out some great tips on these tactics and other ways to track your accomplishments here and here.
3. Ask others for feedback: ask colleagues, friends and family members what they recall you focusing on and talking about over the course of this year. Often they will pick up on things you may have forgotten about, and it’s always interesting to hear them reflect back to you what you’ve been talking about this year!
As we wrap up this year and look ahead to a new one, I also encourage you to give yourself a more comprehensive end-of-year career review, using these four questions we developed. If you’ve captured your accomplishments, you’re already a quarter of the way there!
Once you go through this exercise, I hope you’ll commit to recording your accomplishments more often, ideally on a quarterly basis. Block off the time now, and consider doing this activity with a friend or a small group, so that you’ll all hold yourselves accountable.
I promise it will be one of the best gifts you can give to yourself and your career.
Happy holidays, and best wishes for a great year ahead!
Are you looking for support in recognizing your accomplishments? We love helping social impact professionals own their successes through our individual and group job search coaching programs! Contact us to learn more or get started.