6 Paltry Bullet Points

You'd probably never guess this from reading my blogs, but I'm not very good at self-promotion. I hate updating my resume. I suck at interviews. "Focal reviews" at work make me cringe.

As it happens, my company is changing its review period to be in line with some financial reporting cycle or other (don't ask me which one; I love what I do and I'm thrilled to be contributing to the company's bottom line, but the financials confound me), which means we're going through a "mini-focal" right now. (We already did one back in March, or May, or July. I've already blocked it from my mind—and that one wasn't even too painful, since I was a new employee.) For this one I was asked to come up with a list of six major accomplishments since March... and it was a struggle.

It's not that I haven't accomplished anything (see the previous post in this category for one thing among several); it's that when I try to talk about these things, I feel silly. Tooting my own horn on my blog is one thing—somehow, I feel like y'all understand there's a self-deprecating wink, or a ridiculous grin, or some exaggerated-for-comic-effect chest beating involved, and that I don't take myself too seriously. Tooting my own horn for my official employee record feels too serious. There's no room for winking smileyface emoticons, so it all just comes out sounding blowhard-y.

I know this is how one "gets ahead" in the working world. I know that selling myself is generally essential to getting a decent salary in the first place, and then augmenting it on a regular basis. But it makes me uncomfortable.

I did manage (finally) to come up with six bullet points for my manager, who then suggested that I emphasize something that I thought hadn't really been worth mentioning in one of them. (Yeah, because why would you mention the amount of research and analysis—which you were uniquely suited to perform—that went into the project? Because you're an idiot who thought just anybody could have done it.) I edited the bullet point and sent it back to my manager, but the whole list didn't even require the reader to scroll.

So, why am I mentioning this now? Because someone else on the team also prepared a list of his accomplishments... and accidentally e-mailed it to the entire team instead of just to his manager. (The e-mail aliases for the manager and the team are alphabetically adjacent, and the auto-complete burned him.) Dudes, his list of accomplishments was three pages long. It included actual paragraphs as well as bullet points. It had categories. It gave me a serious inferiority complex.

The good news, if there is any, is that I think this person joined the team after the last focal, so this one for him is a "true focal", not just a "mini focal." It's possible he was asked to be much more thorough than the rest of us, to submit something more than a list of six accomplishments. Even if he wasn't, would I change anything in mine? Probably not. I'm (1) too lazy, and (2) too glad to be done with it to drag it back to life now. Yes, it'd be nice to get a raise. Yes, it'd be nice not to have "Lori is not working up to her potential" marked on my report card focal review. But right now, I think those six paltry bullet points are all I can manage. I'll try to work up some chest-beating bullet points with summary paragraphs next year.

no horn blowing
11.20.06: Edited to add this photo of a sign I saw in NYC this weekend. It seemed appropos. :)

Posted by Lori in work at 6:49 PM on November 16, 2006


I find it useful to note which days I want to report to my husband that I had a good day in which I felt like I was a really useful engine. Sometimes I manage to toot my own horn the next day by mentioning to a superior who may not have noticed how much I liked the success I had in (whatever). You may want to modify this by keeping some kind of continuing file of successes, and using them either to create your bullet points or add a paragraph of things you did that were super. Of course, this assumes that you get the Really Useful Engine feeling and that it corresponds with things you should be putting on your accomplishment list.

Posted by: sconstant at November 16, 2006 10:45 PM

If I had asked for six bullet points and you gave me three pages, I'd think you had a very serious misunderstanding of what a bullet point was.

It's to bad humility isn't prized in our society. I really can't see living a whole useful existence without it. (I once earned my humility badge, but they took it away from me because I wore it.)

At the same time, it's good for others to see your worth. When we are able to value things we see in others we can then value them in ourselves.

Yep, it may be a scary thought, but someone just might need you as a role model.

Posted by: Stephen Simon at November 17, 2006 10:56 AM

Girl, I am so with you on this issue! At my last job, we had to give ourselves "kudos" in each staff meeting (which was weekly...yikes!) for something great we did over the previous week. I absolutely hated it and, after about two years of this, eventually began praising myself for getting to work on time! I'm quite okay with others evaluating my performance, but just can't seem to do it myself. Besides, I always tell myself, shouldn't my superiors KNOW if I'm doing a good job or not? Why should I have to tell them??


Posted by: Josie [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 17, 2006 2:30 PM

Oh man, I totally got burned by a variation of this when I first started working at mm: I did a bunch of work, then a new employee arrived, was assigned to work with me, and wrote up a report making it sound like HE had done all of the work. But of course I couldn't complain, because it would sound like whining. Note: if I were a guy, I might have been able to complain and not get blasted for whining. I realized too late that I should have been telling everybody what great work I was doing...sometimes I freakin' HATE office shenanigans.

Posted by: valerie [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 17, 2006 4:17 PM

Yeah, it's tricky. I understand that managers who have a lot of people reporting to them need those reports to remind them of all the things they did all year -- and I had one great manager who said, "this is your chance! who else is better qualified to point out your contribution than you?" -- I just have trouble doing it. (Lucky for me, my last couple managers -- including the great one above -- had been paying close enough attention to be able to remind *me* what I'd done.)

Josie: I think the point of the group kudos was to make sure you actually did something worthwhile each week. ;) I'd have the same problem with it, though -- it's quite possibly the worst way to motivate me, right down there with telling me I HAVE TO.

Val: That totally sucks... and I hope it didn't bite you too badly. Luckily, your assessment of your own work (and your colleague's assessment of his) isn't the only feeback that matters. We're not doing it for this "mini-focal" but for every major one I've been involved with, I've been asked to give feedback on people with whom I worked closely (and we can volunteer feedback if we aren't asked). I was asked to give feeback on you several times, and I was sure to mention how great it was that you were fixing all the crap bugs that no one else had been willing or able to fix before. :)

I'm with you on the whining thing, though. For some reason, when men do it, it isn't considered whining. It's considered sticking up for yourself.

Posted by: Lori [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 17, 2006 4:37 PM

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