18 Actioning your future

Employers are often more interested in what you have done, rather than what you just know. Your actions are a key part of your story we discussed in section 7.7.2. A simple technique for emphasising the action in your stories is to lead descriptions of your projects, education and experience with carefully chosen verbs, see section 7.7.4 for examples.

18.1 Your actions define your impact

Your actions define your impact, see figure 18.1. What stories you can tell of your actions to date? What verbs best describe how you achieved a result or had an impact? What was the context, action, result and evidence (CARE) we discussed in section 7.7.2 of each (short) story?

What action have you taken and what stories can you tell about the results and your impact? What are the best verbs for highlighting your actions? Your actions define your impact by Visual Thinkery is licensed under CC-BY-ND via Angela Maiers

Figure 18.1: What action have you taken and what stories can you tell about the results and your impact? What are the best verbs for highlighting your actions? Your actions define your impact by Visual Thinkery is licensed under CC-BY-ND via Angela Maiers

By leading with verbs you will highlight what you have actually done and how you did it, rather than what you know. See the verbs first section 7.7.4 of chapter 7 debugging your future.

18.2 What you will learn

By the end of this chapter you will be able to:

  • Emphasise your actions when describing your education, projects and experience
  • Reflect on
    • what skills you already have
    • what skills you need to develop
  • Demonstrate those skills explicitly and quickly in job applications

18.3 Breakpoints

Let’s pause here. Insert a breakpoint in your code and slowly step through it so we can examine the current values of your variables and parameters.

* PAUSE ⏸️

Quickly scan your CV, covering letter or application form for VERBS:

  • Where are the verbs?
    • Are verbs buried deep in long sections of prose or do they prominently lead descriptions of your activities?
  • Have you over-used certain verbs (like worked or assisted for example) or been repetitive (like developed)
  • How can you increase the variety of verbs you have used (without exaggerating or lying)?
  • Which verbs are stronger than others and why?
  • Are there any categories of verbs you can’t provide evidence for, such as leadership (see section 18.6) or influencing (see section 18.11)?
  • What activities or projects could you do that would help you develop these missing skills?
* RESUME ▶️

18.4 Team verbs

Some verbs to demonstrate how you have worked and communicated with others in a team.

  • administered
  • advised
  • assisted
  • coached
  • collaborated
  • encouraged
  • explained
  • instructed if you helped others
  • interviewed
  • organised
  • participated
  • attended
  • presented
  • recommended
  • recruited
  • suggested
  • volunteered

18.5 Engineering verbs

Verbs to demonstrate your engineering and technical skills.

  • adapted (e.g. new features)
  • added (e.g. new features)
  • analysed (e.g. the requirements)
  • architected
  • assigned (e.g. bugs to team members)
  • automated (e.g. builds and tests etc)
  • built
  • branched (e.g. git)
  • configured
  • designed (e.g. greenfield software development )
  • cloned (e.g. git)
  • debugged (e.g. brownfield development)
  • developed
  • deployed
  • documented
  • experimented
  • gathered (e.g. requirements)
  • implemented (e.g. an algorithm)
  • installed
  • integrated (e.g. different systems)
  • made
  • merged (e.g. git)
  • migrated
  • modified
  • solved
  • specified
  • upgraded
  • tested

18.6 Leadership verbs

Some verbs to demonstrate how you have used your initiative and taken the lead:

  • established
  • created
  • decided (you’ve had the power to make decisions)
  • devised
  • directed
  • facilitated
  • introduced
  • launched
  • led
  • managed
  • mentored if you’ve helped less experienced people
  • motivated
  • supervised

18.7 Improving verbs

Verbs that demonstrate how you have improved a situation by taking resposibility for something:

  • delivered
  • completed if you finished something
  • edited
  • enhanced
  • generated
  • increased make sure you quantify it, see section 7.7.2
  • refined
  • resolved a conflict
  • saved money, time, resources etc
  • transformed

18.8 Scientific verbs

Verbs that demonstrate your analytical and scientific skills

  • assessed
  • calculated
  • discovered
  • estimated
  • evaluated
  • identified
  • interpreted
  • investigated
  • measured
  • modelled (in a computational or mathematical sense)
  • proved
  • quantified for example in benchmarking
  • researched
  • reviewed
  • tested

18.9 Winning verbs

Verbs for demonstrating your achievements and honours

  • achieved
  • attained
  • awarded
  • nominated
  • recommended
  • selected (you were chosen for something)
  • mastered
  • won

18.10 Organising verbs

Verbs to demonstrate your planning and organisational skills:

  • arranged
  • prepared
  • scheduled
  • organised
  • planned
  • produced making things, not just software
  • revised

18.11 Influential verbs

Verbs that demonstrate how you have influenced and persuaded others:

  • bought if you’ve had purchasing power
  • guided
  • demonstrated
  • illustrated if you have graphical skills for example
  • influenced could even include social media influencing
  • liaised
  • negotiated
  • marketed
  • mediated
  • promoted
  • presented
  • publicised
  • sold an idea, product or service
  • written

18.12 Summarising your actions

Too long, didn’t read (TL;DR)? Here’s a summary:

Actions speak louder than words, or as suffragette and political activist Emmeline Pankhurst frequently said “Deeds not Words,” see figure 18.2. Your CV needs to emphasise your deeds and actions using words, those words are verbs.

“Deeds not words” was the rallying cry of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. Emphasise the deeds (actions) on your CV by using carefully chosen verbs. Public domain image of Emmeline Pankhurst by Richard Gordon Matzene restored by Adam Cuerden on Wikimedia Commons w.wiki/3bPa and adapted using the Wikipedia app

Figure 18.2: “Deeds not words” was the rallying cry of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. Emphasise the deeds (actions) on your CV by using carefully chosen verbs. Public domain image of Emmeline Pankhurst by Richard Gordon Matzene restored by Adam Cuerden on Wikimedia Commons w.wiki/3bPa and adapted using the Wikipedia app

Leading with verbs is a simple but powerful technique that enables you to provide evidence (rather than assertion) for the skills and knowledge you have. Choose your verbs carefully. Which verbs are missing from your CV? These verbs can help you identify gaps in your professional and personal development.