Back in the day, accomplishments at work were only accomplishments if they got acknowledged by a supervisor. While sometimes satisfying, this system had two major disadvantages: First, it depended on your supervisor's definition of an accomplishment, regardless of whether you agreed with them. And second, your accomplishments were only recognized if your supervisor bothered to do so. Sadly, not all supervisors have good human relations skills.
The net effect of this situation was to lower your opinion of your own accomplishments. Don't believe it? Think back to the last time you wrote a resume. How hard was it to recall your achievements in your most recent job, let alone for jobs you held in the past? If the list doesn't spring to mind immediately, that indicates how little impact your accomplishments have had on your own sense of success at work.
This lack of respect is a threat to you, and to your career. It undermines your self-image and, ultimately, your confidence in your abilities. Worse, it hurts your image with co-workers -- if you're only as accomplished as your supervisor says, colleagues won't notice the work you actually do, depriving you of control over what happens in your career. And frankly, given today's job market, this is a very dangerous position to be in.
What can you do about this situation?
Throw out supervisor-defined accomplishments and focus, instead, on your personal "career victories." What's the difference? A career victory is different from an old-fashioned accomplishment in several ways:
You set a goal, and you determine what constitutes reaching it. For example, "I will improve my work skills by completing outside courses, or I will increase my output on-the-job by learning how to use that software program."
They can happen at work, in school, a professional association or a volunteer activity. A career victory is not limited to what happens at the office; it describes what happens to you – the self-improvements you realize by reaching goals you've set – in any venue.
They're not dictated by what best serves your supervisor or employer. A career victory can do that, but its real purpose is to reinforce your self-esteem and advance your career. You decide what type self-improvement is best, and you pick the best way to achieve it.
They don't depend upon your supervisor's recognition, or their willingness to commend you in way that improves your image. A career victory is a success that you recognize, and it's a well deserved pat on the back that you give yourself.
- A career victory is defined by you.
- Career victories occur wherever you say they do.
- Career victories occur however you say they do.
- Career victories occur whenever you say they do.
Although this concept may seem a bit strange at first, achieving career victories is something anybody and everybody can do. They are a democratic activity. And, unlike traditional accomplishments, where recognition is controlled by the biases and limitations of your supervisor, career victories are an equal opportunity form of celebration.
Of course, while feeling good about yourself is rewarding, what about using career victories to your professional advantage? Try keeping track of your victories in a "career record" – a sort-of diary that describes work-related successes. This isn't a resume, but it can make writing a resume much easier. Listing your self-improvement goals and what you did to meet them can help you see your workplace progress (whether or not it's recognized by your employer). This can be invaluable when you're sitting a job interview and struggling to brag about yourself.
As you learn this new measurement of self-worth, there is one important thing to remember: Focusing on career victories doesn't mean that your work contributions are any less important. In fact, the opposite is true – career victories are meant to help you be your best at the office. The only difference is that supervisors are no longer in control of what you can and cannot call success