Remember The Power Of Your Past

In any job search, be it for a new employer or a client or customer you'll do work for, your past tells your story.  Your resume, company past, what have you, says what you are capable of, who trusts you, and what you've done.  If you communicate it right, people see what you're capable of – and if not, then working for them probably isn't going to be your concern.

To succeed in your career, you need to communicate the power of your past achievements, because they show you have a foundation for success.  You have to show competence, skill, and knowledge in the form of results.  When you show these things, and can discuss them in interviews and the like, then you convince people you're worth employing or providing services.

Communicating the power of past achievements is often more difficult than people realize, because they tend to actually look down on their past efforts, or not see their power entirely.  In my experience, more people doing a search for jobs or clients play down their abilities than exaggerate them.  Odds are you, the reader, are more likely to put yourself down than puff yourself up.

A few examples I've seen in my own life:

  • Concern over describing a job providing care for an elderly relative.  How does that fit on a resume?  How about "Elder Care" – which far better communicates the skills and endurance such a part-time job needed.
  • Feeling that call center work didn't display any useful skills – when it displays knowledge, patience, and powerful people skills.
  • Disgust at having a series of temp assignments as opposed to a full-time job in this tough economy.  This also displays endurance, persistence, and willingness to survive and succeed.

It's time for you to look at your past achievements and how they can lay a foundation for future success – and future work.  So how do you change your perspective?

  1. Evaluate your past jobs, assignments, and even hobbies and ask how you're describing them.  Are you describing them in a way that communicates how much you did, or are you just throwing a few words out there – or worse, putting them down?  Are you just an "artist" or a "graphic designer"?  Are you just an "interpreter" or are you an "interpreter for engineering, program, and design documents"
  2. Are you showing the depth of your work?  Are you calling out the specifics in your resume when you describe a position, or just tossing out generalities?  If you're a programmer, call out the oddball databases and technologies you worked with.  If you're an administrator describe the many countries the people you deal with come from.
  3. Are you showing how your past work helped you get where you are (even if it is as a bad example)?  Does your resume or client pitch back up the skills you display?  If you were laid off and then changed careers, did you note in your resume, under your new career, how you successfully transitioned to that career?  Make sure it tells your story.

Learn to communicate the power of your past.  You'll probably find you've done a lot more and achieved a lot more than you're giving yourself credit for.

So next, I want you to take out that resume, CV, or client pitch and look over how you're describing your past activities.  Are you showing your power, or are you just throwing out some words and not doing yourself justice?

– Steven Savage