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The importance of recognising small wins in your career journey

If you have a large goal in mind – perhaps landing that dream job, or breaking into a competitive industry – it can be super easy to develop tunnel vision.

But while it is important to commit yourself fully to an end goal, the reality is it usually takes many smaller steps to get there. And if you fail to recognise your achievements along the way, it might actually hurt your career prospects (not to mention your happiness levels).

So what’s the best way to pinpoint your achievements so far, and frame them in a way that might impress employers?

Career achievements? But I don’t really have any

When you’re young, it can seem like there’s nothing noteworthy to put on your CV or mention in a job interview, says Jamie Newall, a senior graduate talent development consultant at Deakin.

‘I reckon on a weekly basis I would have a conversation with a student who tells me they don’t have any experience, or any relevant experience,’ she says.

‘But they do because they’ve been working casually for the last three years at a café or at Kmart or whatever it is, and that is incredibly valuable. What they’ve gained is the value of customer service, and that underpins any opportunity they would be putting themselves forward for.

‘It’s about being able to see the value they have within themselves first before being able to convince someone else.’

Other achievements to put on your resume

Don’t discount other wins in life, such as that time you captained a sporting team, volunteered, got involved in a student society or travelled overseas, Newall says.

Framed in the right way, any of these experiences could help prove your mettle and make you stand out from the pack. For example, that working holiday may have helped you hone your budgeting skills and resilience, while also giving you the opportunity to become immersed in a different culture.

Likewise, you might draw on that time you turned a negative situation into a positive, such as transforming your poor grades into high distinctions.

It doesn’t have to be great and grand,’ Newall says. ‘It can be something that you’ve achieved personally that took a lot of dedication and commitment to achieving.’

'It’s about being able to see the value they have within themselves first before being able to convince someone else.'

Jamie Newall,
Graduate Employment Division, Deakin University

Don’t want to brag? It’s all in the approach

It can be tempting to downplay our achievements if we’re worried about sounding like we have tickets on ourselves.

However when you’re competing against others to land that job interview or scholarship, hiding your attributes will do you no favours, Newall says. But that doesn’t mean it has to become a brag-fest.

You need to be really genuine to who you are,’ Newall says. ‘It’s about telling a story really, it’s not boasting in a way where you’re parading yourself around and talking about amazing you are.

‘You’re doing that in a genuine way where you’re talking about what it was that you did, what you were able to accomplish and how that’s going to allow you to add value. ‘

How to break the end goal down into small steps

‘I think that we get so impatient with ourselves and we want everything and we want it now that we don’t enjoy the journey that we’re on in order to get there,’ Newall says.

For example, if you’re applying for a job, it starts with getting a really strong application together, and perhaps updating your LinkedIn profile.

Step two is developing and improving your interview technique. Next will be developing the skills you need to be successful if you do land the position.

‘You do need to think about what it is that you’re trying to achieve and the different steps along the way, and as you achieve each one, recognise that,’ Newall says.

‘Apply for roles and then you start to get invites into an interview, that’s an incredible achievement. Whether you get the job at the end of it or not is kind of the bonus, but absolutely recognise that you’ve done a really great job in getting yourself to that point.’

Reward yourself for the smaller career achievements

Hopefully you will eventually hit your goal. But in the meantime, give yourself a pat on the back when you hit your smaller targets.

For example, if you apply for three jobs in one week, you might hit the beach for the afternoon or catch a movie with a friend.

‘It is still really important that we live our life and don’t forget about the friends and family and everyone else that we have around us that is there to support us,’ Newall says.

‘It’s about perhaps doing some social things, having some fun, and not letting whatever it is that you’re trying to achieve completely take over your life.’

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Jamie Newall
Jamie Newall

Senior Graduate Talent Development Consultant, Graduate Employment Division, Deakin University

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