What Accomplishment Is (and Isn’t)—and Why It Matters

What have you accomplished lately on the job?

Notice I didn’t ask what you’ve done lately. That’s an entirely different question. I’m asking what you’ve accomplished.

Here’s where I’m going with this.

Decades ago, when I first started in business, I was hired by a multinational bank. The person in charge of inducting us trainees said, “Every month, now that you have a job, pull up your resume and update it.”

I thought his advice to us new hires was . . . interesting. But his point was this: Use your resume as a tool to hold yourself accountable. Make sure you can say you’re accomplishing things on a regular basis.

I took that advice to heart. Today, I advise all my clients to do the same—right after I explain what real accomplishment looks like.

Effort vs. Accomplishment: An Important Distinction
Effort is important. It’s a big differentiator in the workplace. But if it doesn’t produce a concrete result that correlates with a major goal, it’s not an accomplishment.

Imagine you’re a salesperson. In a given week, you make a lot of calls and talk to a lot of people. But talking to people isn’t the goal. The goal is to sell something.

Imagine telling your boss, “I had a great week because I made 200 phone calls.”

Interviewers aren’t interested in hearing how hard you worked, either. They’re laser focused on results. They want to know: Did you improve processes? Increase efficiency? Improve your team’s performance? Grow revenue?

In other words, how exactly did you help advance your organization’s goals?

Candidates who can point to meaningful accomplishments (which they’ve made a habit of documenting) are far likelier to be called back for the next round of interviews.

Accountability Is a Discipline
An accomplishment mindset isn’t enough to get a job candidate across the finish line. And it’s not enough to get you promoted.

To propel your career, you must hold yourself accountable. That means making a habit of reviewing your accomplishments so that, over time, it becomes a discipline. This will lead to bigger, better achievements and open the door to new opportunities.

Here’s what I advise all my clients to do:

  • List your accomplishments in a weekly email to the boss.
  • Update your resume monthly.
  • Prepare a list of outstanding accomplishments for your yearly performance reviews.
  • Putting your accomplishments in writing is politically expedient, to be sure. (Nothing wrong with reminding your boss of the value you bring!) But more importantly, it’s a great way to motivate yourself and push forward.

    [pull quote] Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. – Jim Rohn

    Success Depends on the Standards You Set
    To build a career defined by accomplishment, you need to hold yourself to a higher standard. Does your personal standard involve making 200 sales calls, or closing a sale?

    If it’s the former, you need to raise the bar. Change your focus from doing to accomplishing. Commit your time, energy, and talent to advancing larger goals. If a week goes by, and you struggle to name a single accomplishment (which happens to everyone from time to time), make up for it the following week.

    Aiming for accomplishment is a lot like setting a weight-loss goal. You know it won’t be easy. Some days will be better than others. But you’re passionate about the end goal, so you keep going. Over time, it becomes a lifestyle. People begin to marvel at what you’ve accomplished. That’s when good things start flowing your way.


What Accomplishment Is (and Isn’t)—and Why It Matters

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