The three most important things to feature on your resume are the responsibilities you had in your prior roles, the accomplishments that indicate your ability to execute, and any takeaways or learnings that point to your talents and skills. Using these three topics as a framing device for your resume helps you tell a consistent story throughout your career.

But this model is also a unifying tool for the rest of your job search, from enabling you to set smart parameters for your job search to framing how you talk about yourself in an interview.

Here’s how to apply responsibilities, accomplishments, and takeaways to your entire job search so you can target the right roles and tell a strong personal story.

Your job search direction

Framing your entire job search around the idea of responsibilities, accomplishments, and takeaways starts at the very beginning with what you look for out of your next gig. Before you continue to blast out applications to any job that seems interesting, consider what you want out of your ideal role.

Looking for a new job isn’t just about finding a salary. It’s also about finding a place where you can continue your climb up the career ladder. So consider your job search parameters. What do you want to be responsible for? Is it managing a team, supervising a project, or just getting to use a new skill you learned? What do you want to achieve? Is it praise and recognition, the admiration of customers and clients, or end results you can point to as examples of your best work? What do you want to learn? Is it a new direction for your career or are you looking for incremental growth on your current career track?

Understanding the responsibilities you want will help you better read job descriptions and decide if a job is right for you. You won’t apply to jobs you’re not qualified for or even interested in. Instead, focus in on the most relevant opportunities that line up with what you really want to do. Rather than landing a job that has all the things you hated doing at your old gig, you’ll find one that has you doing something newer or more interesting.

smart job search

Understanding what you want to achieve will help you focus in on companies that give you the kinds of opportunities to reach your career goals. You’ll narrow your field of companies to the ones that best reflect how you’re motivated, whether intrinsically or extrinsically. Whether you’re looking for a high-speed, competition-driven job with performance-based compensation or one that lets you feel you had a positive impact on the world, knowing what you want to achieve will help you land in the right work environment for you.

And understanding what you want to learn helps you look for roles that move your career forward rather than have you working the same thing you did at your last job. Keep on an upward trajectory with your next role or make a shift within your field to focus on a skillset you’re more interested in. Seeing a path of growth and learning in a potential job will help you identify companies you can either stay at long-term or use as a serious bolster to your career. It also helps you avoid taking your career in the wrong direction -- either backward or laterally, a mistake that can result in severe job dissatisfaction in the future.

Your application documents

Each job you list on your resume should include at least one major responsibility, one impressive accomplishment, and one important thing you learned. They should be catered to the job you’re applying to so that they’re relevant to the hiring manager. But, beyond that, you should also use this model to guide the rest of your application documents.

Your cover letter should go beyond “I’ve done all the things the job description asked for” to include ways you’ve excelled and what you’ve learned that will make you a strong asset for the team. Portfolio pieces or work samples you include should correspond directly with the responsibilities and accomplishments you included in your resume and cover letter. Any supporting documents should show how you’ve progressed and learned in your prior work experience.

Let your application documents tell a unified story. Most job seekers fail to present a single narrative to the reader of their application. It shows a lack of attention to detail and it’s a failure to capture an opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Having your resume tell the story of a brilliant writer, your cover letter tell the story of a smart marketer, and your portfolio tell the story of a great designer only confuses your reader. Focusing on the same responsibilities, accomplishments, and takeaways across your application will help you present yourself as well-rounded and skillful.

Your self-promotion

When talking about yourself in an interview, it’s important to frame your experience around more than just what you did in your last job. Too often job seekers focus solely on what the tasks were responsible for at their prior jobs and leave the rest unsaid.

Having done a set of tasks is no proof that you’ve actually done a good job. It’s also no indication that you’ve learned something new from that experience. So when you talk about having worked on projects requiring Photoshop skills, point to specific projects you took on, what the goals were, how you successfully achieved them, and what the impact was on your team or company. Show a pattern of taking on responsibility, accomplishing or exceeding the defined goals, and using each project to build toward something bigger or better.

Using the concept of responsibilities, accomplishments, and takeaways as the driving force behind your job search, you can present a unified front in your job search. From the jobs you look for to the way you put together your application and how you talk about yourself in interviews, the end result is the image of a professional who knows what they want and what value they can offer to an employer. That image makes you all the more easy to consider as the best hiring option on the table.

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