Career transition is a big part of the leadership journey. Companies change direction, mergers and divestitures happen, Boards vote leaders out, markets shift, and new opportunities avail themselves. Great leaders are ready for those changes in their professional life.
Career transition is something I’ve known about and helped coach since 2008 when the last big recession hit the job market. I’ve coached hundreds of professionals in making solid, effective career moves.
Interestingly, there is one element often missing from an executive’s resume when time comes to tell their story to potential new companies.
That element is a statement or statements about key accomplishments. An accomplishment is different from a job responsibility. The ‘responsibility’ comes from a job description e.g. ‘I was responsible for…’
Well written accomplishments do much more. Kudos to my long time friend and workforce expert, Rick Gillis, for introducing me to this powerful concept many years ago.
As Rick says, “Accomplishments have a beginning, a middle, and an end.” An example is “I led a team of 100 certified professionals, managing a portfolio of assets valued at $150,000,000.” You have headcount, function, and, most importantly, dollar impact.
The impact is not limited to actual dollars, but can include percentages saved, gained, grown, or reduced. Metrics can include manhours, volume, inventory, price, scale, and market share.
By writing powerful accomplishments, your story as a leader gains value; value that can be significant in the eyes of a potential employer.
The Hunt for New Leadership
When my client companies look for new leadership, I always encourage them to hunt for people who have already performed at the new, higher level. If you want a company to grow from $3MM to $10MM, don’t hire a $3MM executive. Go for someone who has already performed at $10MM. Then they can help you get there.
How can you figure that out? Look for stated accomplishments that contain the $10MM indicators, not the $3MM level. If you’re the leader trying to get recognized as a good fit, sell your accomplishments before job duties. Beef up your resume or CV with accomplishment statements demonstrating value add via specific metrics of value.
In addition to functional accomplishments, think also about your leadership accomplishments. Decide on key competencies that can also be quantified as an accomplishment statement. Then be ready to share those too.
According to Sunnie Giles’ study published in HBR of leaders around the globe, leadership competencies can be divided into 5 categories:
- Strong ethics and safety: having high ethical and moral standards, clearly communicating expectations
- Self-organizing: setting goals/objectives without micromanaging the process
- Efficient learning: flexible with changing opinions, openness to new ideas and approaches, creating a safe trial and error environment
- Growth nurturing: commitment to ongoing training, dedication to creating the next generation of leaders
- Connection and belonging: communicating openly, sharing wins, and failures.
While these are undeniably the ultimate leadership skills for any individual, the question here is how to put leadership skills on a resume, and prove the recruiter you are a team player who can lead?
The magic answer is to blend the accomplishment statement with the leadership competency. Describe your key leadership traits with corresponding measures of how that created value in your current or former role.
Use it to convey ways you can help the new company by bringing them that value.
The world is in desperate need of good leadership. Whether in government or the private sector, strong leadership is the key to solving cultural and social problems. If you know how to lead, I mean really lead, we need you stepping up wherever you have the opportunity.