Lily Whiteman is a federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-paying Federal Job,” and a trainer of career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is IGotTheJob.net. Ask your career questions by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by Twitter to @Lilymwhiteman.
Whether you’re describing your achievements for job applications, interviews or activity summaries submitted to your supervisor, you’ll increase their wow power by quantifying them.
Why? Because by supporting your achievements with statistics, counts and other metrics, you’ll make them sound more objective (whether or not they are) and therefore more credible, and more massive and therefore more impressive.
No matter what your field is, with a little thought, you will be able to quantify at least some of your achievements. When considering how to do so, start by thinking in terms of:
Money: Have you received merit-based promotions? How big is your budget and have you helped increase or stretch it? How much money have you saved your organization by, for example, streamlining its structure or processes, increasing productivity, negotiating or partnering with other organizations, contributing to resource allocation or correcting billing errors? What is the total value of the cases you manage or the products you procure or protect?
Time: Have you made it easier or faster for staffers or the public to accomplish a task, such as accessing online information? Do you meet or beat tough deadlines, and why are these deadlines difficult to meet? How many work products do you produce in a given time period, such as per week or month? Or how many work products, such as articles or patents, have your produced in your career? And how many years of relevant experience do you have?
People: How many staffers do you supervise and/or how many senior executives or political appointees do you support? How many staffers have you recruited? How many staffers or members of the public adhere to a regulation you helped write or access a publication, website, speech or social media site you produced? Have you increased the reach of those or other products? How many people attended a press event, webinar, hearing, training, conference or other event that you managed or spoke at, and why was this event important? Did a large percentage of attendees/managers praise the event on evaluations or via oral or emailed comments?
Geography: How big is your jurisdiction? How many offices or facilities do you manage and where are they? Do you represent your organization to other organizations at important gatherings?
Precedent: Do any of your achievements qualify as precedent-setting: the first, the fastest, the biggest, the most, the best, nearly so, or top tier? Your achievements need not be as grand as a first ascent of a Himalayan peak for you to rightfully claim a superlative. Perhaps you initiated from scratch new trainings, designed a trail-blazing employee reward system, or completed an audit or report in record time — or even created a new online filing system.
Caveats and more suggestions
Don’t volunteer potentially damning numbers. For example, if you fear age discrimination, don’t reveal that you have three decades of experience.
Instead, consider emphasizing your expertise by stating that you have 15-plus years of senior-level experience or that you have in-depth experience in X and are an expert in A and B. Even though hiring managers will be able to estimate your age from your college graduation dates, which are required in federal job applications, they may be impressed by your experience before they take the trouble to do so.
If you can’t cite exact metrics, estimate metrics or use terms like “significantly increased.”
By concisely summarizing how you accomplished your achievements, explaining how they have benefited your organization and citing objective positive feedback generated by them, you’ll further increase their impressiveness.
Here are some examples of quantifying skills.
See Achievements Go From Fizzle to Sizzle
Quantifying them, Describing their Organizational Benefits and Citing Positive Feedback
|Implemented new online hiring system.
|Selected and managed the purchase and implementation of agency’s state-of-the-art $15 million online hiring system, which doubled the number of applications to agency openings, significantly increased the quality of applicant pool; and helped the agency meet its diversity goals.
|Manage all of Office of X’s social media accounts.
|As manager of all of Office of X’s social media accounts, I grew the number of the Office’s Twitter followers from 10,000 to 50,000 in six months by increasing postings from once a week to almost daily and by accompanying each posting with an eye-catching photo. The Office’s Director of Communications has repeatedly described my social media achievements as “outstanding.”
|Helped organize a conference on H1N1.
|Identified U.S.’s top 10 experts on H1N1 research and recruited them to speak at international conference on H1N1 research sponsored by NIH. Conference was attended by 200 international researchers, 10 NIH office directors, and received excellent evaluations from attendees.
|Serve as media spokesperson for X agency.
|Serve as media spokesperson for agency’s Department of Environmental Research, which distributes $200 million in research grants annually. I typically answer about ten questions on controversial issues weekly from local and national media outlets, including The Washington Post.
|Run retirement trainings.
|Single-handedly overhauled agency retirement trainings in 2013 and delivered new version of trainings to 300 agency employees in 2014. Over 85 percent of attendees rated trainings as “Excellent” in evaluations. Received a grade increase largely because of this achievement.
|Staff IT help desk.
|Solve hundreds of IT technical support calls per month on network used by 2,000 agency staffers. Specialize in troubleshooting vexing problems involving remote users.
|Helped write new safety regulation for miners.
Wrote key sections of new regulation mandating training for XXX truck drivers at X,000 surface mines throughout the U.S. Since the law took effect in XXXX, truck accident rates declined by XX% at surface mines.
|Serve as speechwriter.
|Write at least two speeches per month for Director and Deputy Director of Office of X. Speeches are typically for large audiences at international events, association meetings and university events. Speeches are streamed on agency’s website, and are each typically watched by more than 5,000 viewers.
|Wrote agency’s quarterly reports.
|For 2 years, wrote all of agency’s quarterly reports, which were scrutinized by agency director and distributed to all 535 members of Congress.
Produced all 24 quarterly reports on time. (Previously, almost all of these quarterly reports were at least one week late.) Speeded report production by initiating procedural changes that increased the efficiency of the delivery of quarterly accounting information from agency accountants to me.
|Helped produce a video on agency X’s activities on brain research.
|Wrote the script and led a team of three video experts to produce a video on agency’s activities under President Obama’s Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. The video received 5,000 hits on YouTube during the first month it was posted.
|Created agency’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Program.
|Created agency’s first Alternative Dispute Resolution program, which annually saves the agency $2 million in legal costs.
|Help move some of agency’s offices from Washington DC to Arlington, VA.
|Co-led office consolidation, which was completed in three months—seven days ahead of schedule. Consolidation involved moving 700 employees, their equipment, and the agency’s computer center from Washington DC to Arlington, DC.
|Served as technical advisor to EPA water quality group.
|Served as top technical advisor on urban water quality to the Deputy Assistant Director of EPA’s Office of Water Quality. My recommendations were incorporated into technical advisories on water quality that were distributed to 10 U.S. cities—each of which has more than 100,000 residents.
|Received an x Fellowship award.
|Was one of 50 of 1,500 engineering graduate students awarded the prestigious X Fellowship, which included a $20,000 award.
|Created information security program.
|Developed from scratch the agency’s information security program, which protects the integrity of shipping and financial data in the production of 11 billion widgets per year, and personnel data on 5,000 agency employees.