by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
This article is adapted from the book, You Are More Accomplished Than You Think: How To Brainstorm Your Achievements For Career And Life Success.
New Year’s resolutions are often trivialized because they are seldom maintained. This year, consider a process a bit more meaningful than declaring New Year’s resolutions. Instead, recognize the relationship between goals and accomplishments and conduct an annual review of both.
Goals are the flip side of accomplishments. You can achieve accomplishments without setting goals, but if you set goals and follow through, you are virtually guaranteed accomplishments. Accomplishments are the indicators that we have met our goals, and goals give us the motivation to have accomplishments.
A year-end review of accomplishments can help you set goals for the year ahead. Reflect on the year just completed and consider how it went. Or you might prefer to do it at the beginning of the new year so you can set goals based on what you have left to accomplish from the previous year.
If you need prompts to recall your accomplishments, see our Accomplishments Worksheet; my book,You Are More Accomplished Than You Think offers even more prompts.
Many people update their accomplishments inventory in conjunction with updating their resume annually. Executives polled by Accountemps, a temporary staffing service, said they believe only half of managers would be ready to send out application materials if they were to unexpectedly lose their jobs. “Those who keep an ongoing record of professional achievements are better positioned for the job search because they can more readily recall details of past responsibilities and accomplishments,” said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Managing Your Career For Dummies (Hungry Minds, Inc.). “This is particularly important for professionals who have been with the same employer for many years and, as a result, have not actively looked for a new position in some time.”
Questions to Ask Yourself as You Review Accomplishments
These questions will facilitate the process of reflecting on your accomplishments:
- What new skills/competencies have you developed, and how have you applied them?
- What new learning or expertise did you apply to your accomplishments?
- What goals have you met that you set for yourself at your last review?
- What obstacles have you overcome? What unexpected developments got in the way of accomplishing what you wanted to?
- What did you learn from your accomplishments and/or your failure to accomplish some of your goals?
- What has been your single proudest accomplishment of the year?
- To what extent do you feel you’ve grown since your last personal review?
- Have you made a difference in anyone’s life?
- How have you improved your level of performance in the last year? Give examples.
- In what areas did you truly excel and in what areas do you feel you still need to improve?
- Overall, to what extent are you satisfied with the level and quality of accomplishments you achieved?
Adding Value to Future Accomplishments
Perhaps you’ve identified a solid set of accomplishments, but perhaps you wonder if you can raise the level of your accomplishments. Chances are you can if you choose to. We’ve seen that, on the job, people who do only the minimum required of them by their job descriptions are not as accomplished as they might be. Do more than your job description requires. Take the initiative. Make your job your own. Communicate with your boss, however, to ensure your going above and beyond aligns with organizational goals.
If you see something that needs to be done, either do it, or propose a way to do it. Don’t wait for someone to tell you to do it. Can you increase the quality of your deliverables to your constituents (boss, customers, co-workers) so they better meet needs? Is there more you could be doing to help your organization reach its desired business results? Can you make your work more efficient or cost-effective? Are you keeping up with change; could you be doing more to meet evolving needs? Could you be doing more to keep up with growth and/or contribute to growth? Could you be doing more to assist your colleagues?
Setting Goals to Achieve by Your Next Personal Review
Perhaps your accomplishments seem paltry. Maybe not many of them pass the “so what?” test. Maybe they don’t support what you really want to be doing with your life and career. Perhaps you just don’t feel as proud of them as you’d like. Maybe you feel you can do more.
On the other hand, you may be thrilled with your accomplishments, but you’d still like to set goals — perhaps to do more of the same, perhaps to strive to improve because there’s always room for improvement.
Here are some questions and prompts to help you set goals for the next time you review accomplishments:
- What did I not accomplish since my last review that I would like to accomplish next time?
- What obstacles stand in the way of my accomplishing what I want to? What would it take to remove those obstacles and reach my goal?
- What resources can I marshal to reach my goal?
- What learning or expertise do I need to develop to reach my goals?
- How can I apply past experience and past accomplishments toward reaching my goals?
- Should any of my goals be broken into smaller goals or steps?
- Do any of my goals need to be accomplished sooner than the time of my next personal review?
- How will I plan my time for reaching my goals?
- Are my goals measurable? What metrics do I want to apply to know I’ve reached my goals?
- How will I keep myself accountable and on track toward reaching my goals?
- What types of accomplishments would give me the greatest personal pleasure and pride?
- What types of accomplishments would most help me advance in my career?
- What do I most want to accomplish by the time of my next review?
- Which goals would it not bother me if I didn’t accomplish by the time of my next review?
- What goals do I want to accomplish that require assistance or participation from others?
- Which goals am I most motivated to accomplish?
- What would it mean for my life and career to accomplish each goal on my list? How will I benefit? How will others benefit?
- Will I reward myself for reaching my goals? How?
Final Thoughts on Career Goals and Accomplishments
You may want to set goals with a series of milestones. What do you want to accomplish in the next week? Month? Year? Five years? Ten years? By the end of your life?
You can certainly set pie-in-the-sky, bucket-list life goals. For years, I’ve wanted to write a novel and become fluent in Italian. I’ve done little toward accomplishing those goals, but just having them on my list guides me in knowing what I need to accomplish if I want to feel completely satisfied when I leave this planet.
Read more about brainstorming, tracking, and leveraging career accomplishments in Katharine Hansen’s book, You Are More Accomplished Than You Think: How to Brainstorm Your Achievements for Career and Life Success.
Career and Work Accomplishments Section of Quintessential Careers
Find expert job-seeker accomplishments tools, resources, samples — free expert advice about maximizing career accomplishments in this section of Quintessential Careers: Career-Job-Work Accomplishments Resources for Job-Seekers.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine, an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.