Tasks – Achievements – Outcomes What’s the Difference? Why Does it Matter?

What’s The difference between a task, an achievement, and an outcome? Why is that difference important for anyone seeking work?

Let’s say I’m writing a resumé for my neighbour Terry, who tells me he fixed a crack in the wall last year. (That’s a task.) If the context of this task was a routine maintenance, good on Terry for fixing the crack in a timely fashion and demonstrating good care of the premises. All of us have necessary tasks in our work, and the better we perform them, the better the world works.

As we go on, what if I find out that cracks in the wall have been a recurring problem and Terry eliminated that recurring problem? Now we have context (recurring problem) and an implicit benefit (eliminated). This is the start of an achievement statement. As we talk further, I find out that Terry was part of an investigation team called in to resolve cracks in the wall that had been recurring over 6 months, and that the team successfully found the cause of the problem, such that there have been no further cracks for 18 months? Now we have a task (investigation), a quantifiable context (investigative team, recurring cracks, 6 months, 18 months) and an outcome (no further cracks).But what if I then find out that Terry is a nuclear safety expert and the cracks had been occurring at a nuclear plant? (Now that I’ve given you the whole context, are you paying attention?)

At this point I could write an achievement statement with context, and including some tasks using the STAR, PAR or some other magic formula:
“As part of an investigative team of Nuclear Safety Experts (capitalized and perhaps bolded to catch your customers’ attention even though we already told you his job title was Nuclear Safety Expert), conducted meetings with cross-functional teams with multiple stakeholders, performed root cause analysis on the causes of recurring cracks at the ACME Nuclear, yada yada yada…identified and solved the cause, wrote documentation on lessons learned, performed knowledge transfer…” (are you asleep yet?) (outcome implicit).

There’s nothing left to ask about this experience. We can pattern-match the tasks to the advertised job. But our eyes are glazing over from the specialist risk analysis/project manager jargon.

Focus on Outcomes
Instead, what if we cut to the chase by applying the Portable You formula for achievement statements: “What did you do? Why does it matter?”

In crafting our achievement statement, let’s invoke one more guideline:The higher (more critical, more responsible) your position, the less you should focus on tasks, and the more you should focus on outcomes.

“As part of a team, diagnosed and successfully resolved a recurring safety problem at ACME Nuclear, enabling the uninterrupted safe operation of the plant during a period of peak power demand in 20nn…”

We just cut to the chase. We don’t care how Terry achieved the outcome nearly (fixing the cause of the cracks) as much as we care about the outcome itself (uninterrupted and safe operation during a period of peak power demand). We now also understand an implied outcome (end customers would have suffered if the plant had had an accident, or been taken out of operation).

This is a statement that makes Terry’s potential next customer want to know more – “How did you do that?” This is a model for the type of statement you want to put in your LinkedIn profile. We are not all nuclear safety engineers, but most of have had work that includes tasks, achievements and outcomes.

Related Post: Still Using Fairy Tale Bullets in Your CV?

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