How to Turn Basic Duties Into Powerful Achievements on Your Resume

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Jacob Meade

Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW, ACRW)

Jacob Meade is a resume writer and editor with nearly a decade of experience. His writing method centers on understanding and then expressing each person’s unique work history and strengths toward their career goal. Jacob has enjoyed working with jobseekers of all ages and career levels, finding that a clear and focused resume can help people from any walk of life. He is an Academy Certified Resume Writer (ACRW) with the Resume Writing Academy, and a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) with the Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches.

It’s easy to get stuck when writing achievements for your resume’s experience section. Depending on your industry or profession, you may struggle to quantify or come up with any work achievements if your role was more task-based. These concerns are valid, but they shouldn’t prevent you from being able to write powerful, results-based bullet points for your resume. The trick is understanding how to flesh out details for each of your job duties, so you can then take the full measure of your positive contributions.

Getting Started

If you’re just starting a job section on your resume from scratch, your best jumping-off point may be the job title because many can be easily converted to a simple verb phrase for a person’s core work function. For example, sales managers manage sales. Customer service associates serve customers. High school teachers teach high school. Consider whether you can switch your job title to an apt verb phrase for your role. If not, choose whatever standard duty first comes to mind.

Connect to the Big Picture

Many job seekers have no trouble coming up with at least a couple of job duty statements for each role on their resume. The problem is they don’t develop the descriptions any further. This is like saying that in “Return of the King” Frodo carried a ring. The statement is  true enough, but it’s hardly the whole story. Job duty tasks are just small parts of a much bigger picture in which you played a key role. Speak to that big picture on your resume, and you’ll have a better chance of catching the attention of hiring managers.

To start developing your chosen job duty statement for your job description, imagine you’ve just mentioned the tasks to an inquisitive friend who works in a very different field. Imagine the clarifying questions they’d ask, and then jot down your answers. These questions may include:

  • Who else was involved in this job duty? What other groups or departments?
  • When or how often did you perform this job duty?
  • Where did you do this duty, or what region or area did it impact?
  • How did you do this duty? With what approach or strategy?
  • Why was this duty important to the broader organization?

For example, applying these questions to a sales manager role might create the following statement:

Led and motivated a 15-person sales team to generate $6 million annual sales in a three-state territory. 

This statement is a robust job duty statement that provides specifics beyond “managing sales.” It’s also a great opening line for the job description section and sets the tone for adding your accomplishments.

Document the Changes You’ve Made

Your next step is to look at each individual part of your new job duty statement, and imagine your inquisitive friend asks, “Did you change this at all? By how much?” In this context, the word change is very broad and can mean you did any number of things to make a positive difference — increased, decreased, enhanced, turned around, clarified, created, or mitigated. Continuing our sales manager example, their friend might ask them how they improved the sales team, or increased annual revenue, or developed the sales territory. And their answers could look something like this:

  • Renewed the sales team’s focus on weekly check-ins with key customers.
  • Increased annual revenue from $6 million to $7.3 million.
  • Grew market share in sales territory by 7%.

As you can see, the resulting statements are simple and factual, but also impressive. They allow the sales manager to zoom out from their daily duties and express the real scope of positive impact they had on their organization.

Try this exercise for each of the relevant jobs in your work history. You may be surprised how easy it is to turn a modest job duty into a powerful set of statements on your experience. For any jobs that still give you trouble, keep these additional pointers in mind:

  • It’s great to quantify your achievements with hard data, but not always possible. Don’t worry if you can’t plug in numbers for every single bullet point on your resume. But keep in mind that it’s always fair to give estimates as long as you label them as such with the word approximately or the tilde (~) symbol. For example, Grew market share by ~7%.
  • All too often in the working world, you’ll do the legwork for positive change that doesn’t come to pass due to factors outside your control. But for the purposes of your resume, you can still take credit for the work you did by starting the bullet point with a phrase like “Positioned” or “Laid foundation for.” This phrasing method can be especially helpful for describing jobs you only held briefly, since hiring managers will already understand by the work dates that your scope of achievement was more limited.
  • What broader business initiatives or companywide changes occurred during your tenure at any given job? Is it safe to say your work contributed to these broad transitions? (Chances are that it is.) If so, mentioning this can make for a great final bullet point in your job description. Completing our sales manager example, they might close out their job description with a line to the effect of: Work contributed to a period of steady profit growth and market expansion for the business.