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Showcase Your "Home Run" Accomplishments, by William S. Frank

This is the most popular article on www.physiciancareernetwork.com for good reason. It's one of the most important and useful learning tools I've written.

Before writing this article, I spent at least three hours with each individual client explaining these principles. With these directions, it's faster and simpler. I know you'll enjoy the self-discovery process and create the best, high-impact resume you've ever had. 
Grand slam home run Written records of your work results, achievements, successes, and accomplishments are the heart of your marketing campaign. They explain the essence of your "track record." Sooner or later, you'll be asked about your clinical triples and your home runs—or else your business field goals and touchdowns. So writing them down on paper prepares you in advance.

Reasons to Document Your Work Performance

  1. To gain self-awareness.
  2. To lift your spirits and get you feeling very confident about yourself—ready to tackle the marketplace.
  3. To show that you have completed many projects that are difficult and worthwhile.
  4. To give specific, measurable, concrete examples of your contributions.
  5. To differentiate yourself from competitors and show how you're clearly head-and-shoulders above them.
 
  You will use your written accomplishments in at least three places: the resume, marketing letters and face-to-face meetings. At the start of this exercise, many physicians—even senior doctors with years of practice, teaching, or management experience—say something like, "I didn't really accomplish anything, I just was a good doctor." Most doctors don't think about their work the way most business people do. . Physicians see what they do as an ongoing process, not a serial set of projects, so it's natural to feel that way. Yes, you did your job, but you did a lot more besides. You were accomplishing things even when you didn't know it. You may have hundreds of accomplishments. Some may not be in medicine. It's just a matter of digging for them those accomplishments with the right frame of mind.
Many times we take ourselves for granted. But we shouldn't, because what we can do easily might sound downright impossible to the average reader.
 
 
 
 
"We look back on our life as a thing of broken pieces,
because our mistakes and failures are always the first to strike us,
and outweigh in our imagination what we have accomplished and attained."
—GOETHE, Maxims and Reflections
 
 
  Duties and Responsibilities Versus Accomplishments
Your duties and responsibilities refer to the general scope of your job, such as "hemodialysis" or "neurosurgery" or "practice management." Accomplishment statements give specific examples of tasks you finished and the good, useful things that resulted. The following chart shows the difference:

Duties and Responsibilities Accomplishments
Was Chief of Medicine 1997-Present. Terminated two low performing physicians, yet increased patient volume six-fold in three months despite reduction in force.
As Medical Director of Cardiovascular Services, supervised cardiac catheterization laboratory. Increased admissions to Mount Saint Elsewhere Hospital by 31.6% while making cardiologic admissions 27.3% of total annual admissions, 1984-present.

Placing an internal jugular catheter for cardiodynamic monitoring isn't an accomplishment. It's a skill. But doing that 1750 times without a complication is an achievement.
Being an excellent manager isn't an accomplishment. It's a core competency. But establishing a new internal medicine practice in a crowded healthcare market that is "down" 19% and building it to annual revenues of $375,000 in three years is.
Maintaining productivity is not necessarily an accomplishment, but maintaining productivity under adverse circumstances, say, keeping volume and outcomes unchanged despite using a leased truck-mounted temporary facility in the parking lot while the cardiac catheterization laboratory is rebuilt after a fire, is. See how this works?
 
  Where to Find Your Successes
To find your accomplishments ask yourself if you have:
  • Identified new markets
  • Invented or improved something, including patient outcomes
  • Achieved more with fewer resources
  • Saved money
  • Reduced costs
  • Saved time
  • Solved a long-standing problem
  • Achieved a technical breakthrough
  • Improved "sales" by increasing volume—say by establishing outreach clinics or programs
  • Made headlines or did something newsworthy
  • Improved staff or team morale
 
  If you can't remember your successes, then think of problems you've solved. Take a sheet of paper and divide it vertically into three columns, and title with the following:

Problems
I Faced
Action Steps I Took Results
Poor data processing caused patient care problems and critical delays, especially with new hospital admissions, owing to slow entry and slow recovery of patient records. Led medical staff campaign to discard current medical records system. Led joint committee of three (COO, CIO, self) to select and purchase comprehensive electronic medical records system operating onsite in Mount Saint Elsewhere Hospital and medical staff offices. Negotiated 12% discount on purchase price. Achieved instantaneous access to all old patient records, improving patient outcomes and decreasing malpractice risks for practitioners and hospital. Saved $925,000 in purchase costs.
Team care in psychiatric unit variable, with variable, less predictable outcomes. Used evidence based medicine techniques to establish unit-wide best practices system of monitoring and analysis. Shortened average lengths of stay by 2.3 days across diagnoses. By improving follow-up, decreased recidivism of substance abuse patients by 8.5%.

Don't be afraid to take credit for what you've done, especially in the early stages of this project. Most of us undersell ourselves. We tend to claim too little for ourselves, not too much.
Job-hunters and career changers hesitate to take credit for an entire project, especially when they managed the project or had others help. Don't worry about that. If you write "Increased daily procedure volume by 41% by selecting and installing open MRI in new offsite outpatient imaging center," the reader will assume you had help with the project and didn't do it alone. So don't be shy. Speak up!
Whenever possible, try to show how what you did contributed to hospital, organization, or practice profit. This shows that you were thinking about the bottom line, and sometimes that's more important than what you actually achieved. Patient care is critical, but without profits, it isn't sustainable.
However, not everyone saves the organization $3 million per year or improves productivity by 182%. Some docs really do "just do their jobs." Still, you can find accomplishments that "sound impressive," and for the purposes of this exercise, that's what counts. So look for things that sound difficult to do, even if they weren't that hard for you.
A physician client said to me, "I just did my job—and I must have done something right, because I never got sued in twenty years." I said, "That sounds like a big accomplishment to me."

Dig Deep Into the Past
It's easy to forget important accomplishments in one's career. When I went into partnership in the Career Center on America Online, for example, they asked me for a resume, which I wrote overnight.
I included CareerLab's size and revenue, publications I'd written, and major offices I'd held. Several days later, after mailing the resume, I realized I'd left off the most important aspect of my career—the 20,000 hours I'd spent as a career consultant. No mention of counseling. That was a real eye-opener. In many respects, we know ourselves so well we take our greatest gifts for granted.
The way to avoid this is to cross-check your accomplishments against your core competencies. If you claim "Research" as a core competency, for example, be sure to list several research-oriented achievements on your resume. Do the same for all other core competencies.

Core Competencies for Physicians
Every mid-career professional has 6-12 big areas of capability. In the past they were called skills, but today's buzzword is "competencies" or "core competencies." A recruiter of employer may ask you to name your core competencies. If so, they're asking you to identify a few of these general areas of capability. Take time to check the top 6-12 that apply to you, then prioritize them. Which is first most important to you, second most important, and so on? If you have competencies that aren't named, add them to this list.

  1. Art
  2. Business Management (cost reduction / revenue increase)
  3. Communication
  4. Community Service / Social Responsibility
  5. Computer / Information Technology / Informatics
  6. Conflict Resolution
  7. Construction / Facilities
  8. Consulting
  9. Counseling / Caregiving
  10. Entertainment
  11. Finance
  12. Human Resources Management (recruitment, training, retention)
  13. Leadership / Managing / Administration
  14. Legal
  15. Library / Records / Knowledge Management
  16. Media
  17. Negotiating
  18. Operations
  19. Patient Care
  20. Planning / Strategic Planning
  21. Political Skills / Schmoozing
  22. Presentations / Speeches
  23. Quality Assurance / Quality Control
  24. Research & Development
  25. Sales and Marketing / Advertising and Public Relations
  26. Science / Innovation / Patents
  27. Special Skills [Pilot, etc.]
  28. Teaching
  29. Technology
  30. Writing / Editing / Publishing
Use your list of competencies to help you remember, identify, and develop your work accomplishments. Your achievements should mirror your competencies, and vice versa. Example: if you check "Leadership" as a core competency, then your resume should show several leadership home runs. Otherwise, why is it listed?
 
  Seven Helpful Hints  
 
  1. Use before-and-after comparisons. For example: "Before I introduced learning portfolios to document Physician Assistant students' progress, grading on performance was subjective and difficult to justify. After the portfolios were put in place, each student's entire course work and experience were recorded." Such before/after statements are easily turned into written accomplishments, like this: "Introduced learning portfolios to document Physician Assistant students' progress, making grading uniform, understandable and justifiable."  
 
  2. Add numbers, data, details, facts and percentages.  
 
 
DON'T SAY: DO SAY:
Long report 250 page status report
Very short time Two hours
Large practice 9500 patient general ophthalmology practice with $4.5M annual revenues
Managed staff Managed 18 person office staff
Medical Equipment "PALMAZ-SCHATZ balloon expendable stent," or "Gambro Polyflux hemodialyzers," or "MedTronic EnPulse and AT500 Pacemakers"
 
 
  3. Condense long sentences into short ones.  
 
 
DON'T SAY: DO SAY:
Was IT physician liaison of Mt. Saint Elsewhere Hospital (958 beds) to ElectroBioMedical Informatics Corporation, the second largest electronic medical records hard- and software supplier in the world, charged with custom design and installation of comprehensive integrated records system for all departments and all in- and outpatient sites and medical staff offices. Total budget was $2.24 million. Was IT liaison on $2.24 million project to purchase and install computerized medical record in all in-/outpatient and office locations, Mt. Saint Elsewhere Hospital, a 958-bed facility.
 
 
  4. Be relevant. If you redecorated your office, that's irrelevant (unless you want to be an interior designer). If you redecorated your office for $10,000 less than last year time, that's significant, especially if you can explain how that also improved patients' response to you and your practice.  
 
  5. Avoid glowing generalities, statements that fall into the category of "able to leap tall buildings in a single bound." If not supported by facts, figures, numbers, and details, they aren't believable.  
 
 
DON'T SAY: INSTEAD ...
"Work well under pressure" Give a specific example of a pressured situation where you performed well.
"Thrive in fast-paced environment" Give a concrete example of an accomplishment that demanded fast-paced activity.
"Real decision-maker" Give one example of a decision you made that brought desirable, measurable results.
"Achievement-oriented" Fill your resume with specific, measurable achievements.
"Outstanding leadership skills" Give an example of a project that you led that produced outstanding results.
"Success-oriented" Document several big successes.
 
 
  6. Be realistic. An achievement statement should sound difficult, but not impossible. If it sounds "too good to be true" and you take credit for it, it may damage your credibility.

Also, there's a thin line between sounding good and bragging. Sounding good is fine but bragging isn't. One client told me he had sold his duck logo (a piece of artwork on a business card) for $3,500. I could tell the art was inexpensive "clip art," so I disbelieved him and never again fully trusted what he said.

 
 
  7. Add struggle. This may seem to contradict the advice just given, but it doesn't. I've seen too many resumes full of bulleted-accomplishments that lack impact because they lack "struggle." They sound too easy. The example below isn't medical, but it makes the point very clearly.

"Reduced operating costs 4%," is fine—but sounds as if it could've been achieved with one phone call to a vendor. Therefore, it sounds weak—or if not weak, it doesn't sound nearly as strong as it could if "struggle" were added.

Whenever possible, add the agony of the process. Show the dragons you slayed, describe the 14,000-foot mountains you climbed without oxygen, and mention the bushels of broken glass you tiptoed across to complete your task. Don't exaggerate, but don't minimize, either. Let's reword the above accomplishment, adding struggle:

    "In midst of strong, ongoing opposition from consultants and peers on senior management team, reduced vendors from six (6) to three (3), negotiated sharply discounted raw materials prices, and cut operating costs 4%, a savings of $228,000 per month."
This is much more powerful. It sounds as though some work went into it, as though there were obstacles along the path. If there were obstacles in the path of your accomplishment—and there always are—tell the reader what they were.

After you've drafted your "triples" and "home runs," read them from the viewpoint of struggle. If they sound too easy—like you could've completed them on your cell phone by the pool—go back to the drawing board. You're not finished yet. Next.

:: Go to Part Two. :: Return to index of articles.

 


"In all human affairs there are efforts, and there are results, and the strength of the effort is the measure of the result."
James Lane Allen

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