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There are resume tips that say that one should focus not on job descriptions and tasks done in that job but on achievements. Like so:

  • Stop using your job description as your resume text.
  • Stop writing your job duties.
  • Stop writing excessive content.
  • Start including the actions that delivered results.
  • Start writing your accomplishments and benefit to the organization.
  • Start writing strategic and concise content.

Passive language / Doing: Negotiated contracts with vendors Action language / Achieving: Slashed payroll/benefits administration costs 30% by negotiating pricing and fees, while ensuring the continuation and enhancements of services.

However, I don't see how I could do this in my situation. I am a software developer, working in a team of software developers. Have been promoted from junior level recently, but nowhere near the senior or architect level. What I do in my job is implementation of new functionality for our software according to the specification. It's the architect that designs functionality and all I can do is come up with my implementation. I haven't been given any tasks where I could really make a difference, like design a significant piece of functionality or invetigate and fix serious issues that affect software globally. That's what senior devs and architects are there for.

So what I do is I do my job. I do it well, but that's it. My only achievements are doing my job well. So I don't really have any achievements, and therefore my resume would be empty. Even if I think I might have went out of my way and done something above what's expected, I don't get any feedback from the customers who order that software from the company I work for. At the end of the day, if the company pays me money to do what I do, it must be BENEFICIAL to them. In other words, simply doing my job well is in itself a benefit to the company, or else they would let me go, wouldn't they?

Start including the actions that delivered results. -- in my job, coding is the action that delivers results, and that's just job description.

I can see how project managers and sales people can do things like raise sales by 30 percent and improve processes in their company but I don't see how a regular level software developer can make any significant difference in a large company. And that's who I am. So how can I turn my job description into achievements in this kind of situation?

  • Did maybe something you suggested lead to implementing a new coding convention? Did you get promoted for constantly providing the best result in the shortest time? Did you do anything different than the average person having your job? – DonQuiKong Feb 24 '17 at 10:47
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    Please add a location tag to this question. – Mister Positive Feb 24 '17 at 12:15
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As you didn't give a location, I'd like to give some general advice: tailor your CV to the position of your choice. That means make sure you follow the standards of your country/region and the company in question. My CV would be borderline illegal in the US and a US CV would be super-weird where I live (Central Europe).

Random advice on the internet is mostly given by people who make money off of giving you this advice. And they cannot sell their advice twice to the same person, so it's in their best interest to sell you different advice next year. However, the only judge that matters is the company you apply to. Make sure you read what they expect. You cannot really go wrong with proven advice from 5 years ago instead of the latest unproven hype. Because nobody in HR will read your CV and be like "oh my god, this is so 2012". This is not fashion. A solid CV does not go out of style.

The only thing I would agree on is that you should describe what you did, not what your job description said. But I think that's obvious.

So check out what your target company expects. Then try to make your CV look best inside those parameters.

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    Inappropriate, perhaps. Illegal? Unlikely. – Brandin Feb 24 '17 at 17:58
  • yeh, i want to hear how a CV can be anywhere near illegal too! – bharal Feb 25 '17 at 0:54
  • Lets just say my European CV would land in the trash in a second in the US and vice versa. More Info. "Borderline illegal" was a bit strong, but certainly against company policy and professional ethics. – nvoigt Feb 25 '17 at 7:24
  • @bharal a CV that impersonates someone else, or makes false claims of legal certifications for regulated fields (i.e. a doctor). Basically any CV that is fraudulent or damaging to other people. – user7360 Jan 4 '18 at 3:02
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I am a software developer... I haven't been given any tasks where I could really make a difference

The most common mistakes software developers make on their resume is focusing purely on their hard skills. So you've basically assumed you didn't achieve anything because there isn't a clear hard skill used to achieve it.

Allow me to break down what you said and try to express each as an achievement, and guess what. It's all soft skill achievements and you should be proud of yourself. It's a real shame you don't see it this way.

working in a team of software developers. Have been promoted from junior level recently,

"Joined the software development team as a junior level developer, and was later rewarded with a promotion to intermediate developer".

You could qualify the above with numbers and ask your supervisor why you were promoted. They'll have something positive to say about it.

What I do in my job is implementation of new functionality for our software according to the specification. It's the architect that designs functionality and all I can do is come up with my implementation.

"Earned the trust of the senior architect to implement his/her design specifications as new functionality in our software."

How many specifications have you implemented so far? How many architects have you received specs from? How long does it take you to implement a single spec?

These are numbers that can be added.

I haven't been given any tasks where I could really make a difference, like design a significant piece of functionality or invetigate and fix serious issues that affect software globally.

"Set a personal goal of becoming a senior architect where I could work on new designs and investigate serious issues. Getting promoted was my first step towards that goal."

How many tasks did you complete before you were promoted? Did your promotion come with a raise, did you receive any new responsibilities, how much more work do you do now after being promoted? By what factor are specs more difficult after being promoted?

People absorb achievements easier when there are numbers. Achievements are subjective but numbers help turn them into factual claims.

So what I do is I do my job. I do it well, but that's it. My only achievements are doing my job well.

You need to think of achievements that benefit the employer, and not yourself. You seem to be focused on "my achievements" rather than "achievements for others".

I can tell you, that if you did your job well, then you benefitted your employer and helped them to achieve more. It's the definition of what an achievement is. It's to do a good job and that's why they hired you.

At the end of the day, if the company pays me money to do what I do, it must be BENEFICIAL to them.

YES! You hit the nail on the head, and then walked away from it.

BENEFICIAL to them is exactly what you want to share, and YES they spent money on you. That's the entire point here. It's not about how it benefited you, but how it benefited your employer, because at the end of the day you're asking someone else to spend money on you. That's what job seeking is.

It's all about money, and you want your resume to say that past employers who spent money on you saw a financial return (as money in another form). The idea is that your past successes will translate into new successes at a new job.

In other words, simply doing my job well is in itself a benefit to the company, or else they would let me go, wouldn't they?

The discussion here is your resume, and how achievements play a role in getting you an interview. What you just said, just explains why they don't fire you. It's a different discussion.

I can see how project managers and sales people can do things like raise sales by 30 percent and improve processes in their company but I don't see how a regular level software developer can make any significant difference in a large company. And that's who I am. So how can I turn my job description into achievements in this kind of situation?

I absolutely agree with you here, and the problem has more to do with who's giving resume advice than questioning the advice itself. The majority of resume columns you read talk about sales people, and their achievements because they represent the majority of corporate workers. They are the broadest audience, and if you're going to write articles about resumes. You write for them.

That leaves a junior developer feeling small and insignificant in the bigger corporate picture.

Ask yourself: "Who decides who gets an interview, and will my achievements compel them to call me?"

The above is an important point here. A resume is relative to who is reading it. If the HR person makes interview decisions, then you need to compel that person to call you, but if the senior developer decides who gets interviewed. Well, you need to compel them differently.

You want your resume to communicate that your hard skills and soft skills uniquely qualify you for the achievements you made before, and if they hire you that you'll continue to achieve similar results for them.

I can't tell you what your achievements are, but you have them and that's the point of this answer.

If you can ask your boss for some personal advise. Ask him what he thinks your achievements are, and I think you'll be surprised by his answer.

  • But have to be careful, such rewording reads a bit misleading and easy to see through (and can actually form negative impression) for anyone seriously inspecting a more technical CV. – George Jan 4 '18 at 14:00
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Take those tips with a grain of salt. They seem very situational specific and somewhat out of context. stating your job description and your title is NOT a bad thing. However this should not be the main focus. I believe that's what those hints were refering to.

example :

Software engineer - [company] - [from - to]

During this time I was responcible for X,Y,Z. In order to accomplish this I had to make use of the coding languages A,B,C. I mainly focused on my skills with B, However during this job the combining of my skill and knowledge of these languages lead to to creating a better product. My most interesting project I've done at [company] is to create a [bla bla] that works with [bla bla]. I made sure to communicate frequently which helped decrease risk and allowed us to respond quickly to any unforseen errors.

Right there I violated the first 2 donts already. However it was mainly focused on what you did there and how you applied it. Try writing it in such a way. Possibly try writing towards competencies. Where you explain how well you communicated and took initiative to ask questions.

Don't explain the results of your efforts, explain the efforts themselves.

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What resulted from your work?

Did you contribute to a blog, CMS, ecommerce solution, etc? Thats what you did - and that is not written in your job description.

You did not just write code - you wrote code that did things

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You may be "just doing your job" but the way you do it is important. Don't take this for granted. Here are things you could mention:

  1. Getting things done on time. Do you deliver when expected? Not everyone can make this claim unfortunately. Being part of a successful team is equally important.
  2. Is a large percentage of your work unsupervised? Getting things done without constantly being reminded is important.
  3. Learning new things. How fast are you picking up new technologies? Learning them on your own is a big plus.
  4. Taking on additional responsibilities. I'm guessing you may have done this as a result of your promotion. That's an accomplishment worth mentioning.

I don't know about your area, but if you're doing good work, you should be building a professional reference within your team. Having someone who will acknowledge your claims will go a long way.

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