6 Ways to Show, Not Tell Your Career Impacts

6 Ways to Show, Not Tell Your Career ImpactsThere’s a reason we all remember “Show & Tell” from our pre-school and elementary days: 65% of us are visual learners, while the rest are a mix of auditory and kinesthetic learners (University of Alabama). Even when reading documents such as resumes and LinkedIn profiles, remembering to show, not tell is a critical strategy that can help elevate your brand and grab your readers’ attention.

As a client of mine struggled to quantify his achievements in our phone interview, he suggested that I just say something like, “Created measurable value through cost-conscious planning” on his resume. The problem is that this phrase tells the reader your track record rather than showing it to them. When you describe yourself as fill-in-the-blank, you’re telling your reader something. When you demonstrate or prove something through language that evokes action, senses, or emotions, you are essentially drawing a picture for your readers, which is what it means to show them.

Let’s look at some ways you can show, rather than tell in different career communications tools and during your career management or job search activities:

Show, Don’t Tell in Your Resume

  • You can prove your value in numerous locations in a resume, but a few of the most critical spots are your tagline, your summary, your position descriptions, and your achievements.
  • Taglines are perfect snapshots of your career impacts if you follow a simple formula: action verb + result or problem solved + context. For example, “Captured $250M in Cost Savings & Positioned $1.3B in Sales to Avert Division Closure.”
  • A similar strategy works within the body of your resume’s summary. Rather than make vague statements such as “results-oriented team player,” be specific about the results you achieved and how you achieved them. Try showcasing a mini achievement like, “Jumpstarted a 20% efficiency gain by leveraging a coaching approach to shape a new 35-member group into a high-performing team within 6 weeks.” Hear the difference?
  • Position descriptions in the body of your resume are also smart places to embed details that show your impact rather than simply reciting it. A statement that lists all the functions you are responsible for doesn’t paint a clear picture of the true scope of your role, while a comment like this does exactly that: Rebuilt a declining department from the ground up to out-perform sales objectives for the first time in 3 years.
  • Similarly, your resume’s bulleted achievements are also great places to showcase your career impacts. These statements give you a smidge more space to do so, though limiting your impact stories to 2-3 lines is generally advisable. Typically, a self-written resume will say something like, “Managed software development lifecycle for 3 products,” when a more powerful demonstration of your skills would say something like, “Set the stage for $17B in new product revenue, shepherding full lifecycle Agile software development for a financial services application utilized by 3 billion consumers.”

Show, Don’t Tell in Your LinkedIn Profile

  • Your LinkedIn headline is one key place where you can insert a very short “show me” detail, if you keep in mind the 120-character restriction LinkedIn imposes. Even short headline details like, “Drove 97% system efficiency gains” or “Carved out $340M in savings via strategic divestitures” will be attention-getting as they populate throughout the LinkedIn platform.
  • Another key locale for career impacts in your LinkedIn profile is your summary section. You have more space for achievements here – a glorious 2,000 characters – so you have no excuse not to make good use of them. Try including a CAR (challenge | action | result) story in your summary by briefly outlining an important challenge you faced, the actions you took to address it, and the quantifiable results your efforts accomplished. This might look like, “Restored profitability to an account with an 8-quarter revenue decline. Cultivated $8M in new business, expanded account into 4 new product lines, and reinvigorated lapsed stakeholder relationships.”

Show, Don’t Tell in Your Cover, Follow-Up & Thank You Letters

  • Forget using a long series of adjectives or adverbs in your job search letters. Instead, use mini CAR stories or short bulleted achievements to drive home your point without resorting to “tell” language. Rather than say, “I believe my new business development and relationship management strengths would benefit XYZ Company,” try, “With a track record of driving $78M in automotive, industrial, and scientific verticals while penetrating 3 additional verticals (government, healthcare, and education) and 22 new accounts valued at $108M ….”

Show, Don’t Tell in Your Elevator Pitch

  • You have an elevator pitch (also known as a personal commercial), right? Hopefully you have 4 of them in 10-second, 30-second, 1-minute, and 2-minute varieties for use in different networking circumstances. And in each of these you can insert “show me” details to strengthen your self-marketing.
  • Include your biggest-picture impact in your shortest commercial since you will layer these together. Add additional mini impacts with each version of your pitch to weave 4 sets of “show me” details together into a very powerful sequence of commercials.

Show, Don’t Tell in Your Executive Bio or Marketing Brief

  • Your strongest networking tools are big picture documents such as a bio, marketing brief, or networking resume. Resumes are very weak door openers and as such, make poor networking documents.
  • Regardless of which type of networking tool you use, make sure you include your Why-Buy-ROI, which, by definition, includes at least a few “show me” details.
  • All 3 of these documents include space for an introductory or summary paragraph in which you can highlight tagline-like accomplishments or mini CAR stories.

Show, Don’t Tell in Your Job Interviews & Raise Requests

  • Whether you’re interviewing for a job with a new company, trying out for a promotion with your current company, or advocating for a raise, your chances of success rise proportionately as you include specific “show me” stories that draw attention to your track record of current and past successes.
  • Because verbalized CAR stories can include more details than those typically included in career communications documents due to space constraints, you can spread your wings and tell a more complete story up to 1 to 2 minutes in length. That gives you a lot of time to delineate your story with action phrases or language that evokes feelings or the interviewer’s senses.

Take the time to develop a small “library” of CAR stories. In doing so, you’ll automatically have details on hand the next time you update your resume or LinkedIn profile, craft a cover letter, or apply for a new job. Show, don’t tell your readers what you’ve accomplished and you’re much more likely to get the interview and the job.

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About Cheryl Lynch Simpson

Cheryl is a Career, Job Search & LinkedIn Coach and Master Resume Writer. She has helped clients in >35 industries on 6 continents and has earned 24 global resume writing nominations and awards.

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