Part of our resume writing series:
Honors, Awards, and Accomplishments
In a competitive academic and job market, many students or recent grads find themselves lost in the shuffle, especially when other applicants have similar academic or work histories. Academic and work accomplishments are what set you apart from the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other candidates vying for the same seat in college or that job you really want. Admissions directors and hiring managers know that past achievement usually predicts future performance. They also know that achievers are self-starters, motivated, and an asset to their school or company.
Remember, admissions directors and hiring managers have dozens of resumes to review on a daily basis. In that sea of paper, accomplishments are what capture and retain their interest, so to make certain that you get noticed, highlight your academic or work-related honors, awards, and accomplishments.
What is an accomplishment?
Accomplishments are relevant honors, achievements or awards that you earned for exceeding average standards in either academics, athletics, or in a work environment. Some examples of accomplishments are:
- Honor Roll inclusion for high grades
- Awards won for specific activities or subjects (i.e., Most Valuable Player (MVP), Fine Art Award)
- Inclusion in student-related achievement publications (i.e., Who’s Who in American High Schools)
- Perfect attendance awards
- Work related awards (i.e., Top Sales Performer)
- Promotions to leadership positions in your job (i.e., Shift Supervisor)
- Volunteer related awards (i.e., Volunteer of the Year)
As you can see, the key is to provide an admissions director with relevant academic honors and achievements that highlight your particular background. Be sure to include other honors and awards as you see fit.
What is not an accomplishment?
Any regular activity that does not include attainment of an award, scholarship, or other means of recognition should not be listed as an accomplishment since your ability to be extraordinary has not been measured by an organization. Examples:
- Performing daily tasks correctly
- Promptness for meetings
- Being congenial or friendly
- Attending school on a daily basis
Describing your accomplishments
When describing honors, awards, or accomplishments on your resume, it is important to maximize the use of language and wording in order to get your point across in the strongest way. Keep the following tips in mind:
1. Avoid writing vague self-serving statements on your student resume by using quantifying data.
Weak: High School Senior with good grades
Strong: High School Senior consistently named to the Honor Roll, 2000-2004 Member of the National Honor Society
2. Avoid accomplishments that have nothing to do with your future career goal, your current job search, or those that do not enhance your candidacy.
Don’t use: Beauty contest “Miss Congeniality” winner
Use: Won Award at High School Science Fair, 2002
3. Be specific with details to capture and retain interest.
Weak: Won Award for Best Art.
Strong: Earned Excellence Award for Art Work (pen & ink drawings), 2008-2010
Weak: Helped customers in showroom.
Strong: Increased sales by $5,000 during summer by helping clients in showroom. This resulted in sales to 8 out of 10 customers.
Featuring honors, awards, and accomplishments on your resume
Accomplishments, no matter how stellar, will do little to enhance your chances of getting into school or getting a job, unless they are properly showcased in your student resume or entry-level resume. If you bury them within your daily duties or general academic information, they may not be seen. Remember, admissions directors and hiring managers have many resumes to review. If it’s hard for them to find important information on your resume, they may pass on your candidacy.
You should emphasize your academic, work, or volunteer recognitions by creating a specific honors, awards, and accomplishments section of your resume. Make sure to provide the following details when including your accomplishments:
- Date of recognition or award
- Purpose of award and accomplishment it recognizes (i.e., Academic, athletic, job related)
- Significance of award (i.e., What did you have to accomplish? Only one who received the award? )
- Scope of the award (i.e.: National, regional, or local)
As you can see, there are a variety of ways to market and display your academic and career accomplishments.
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