Shrink The Pond

Lets pretend we found this line about halfway down your resume:

Assisted with quarterly financial reporting.

When I sit down to review or revise a bullet point, I always start with the verb.

Assisted is used here to convey the fact that you helped somebody else, presumably your boss, with quarterly financial reporting.

It's very likely that you wrote that line because... that line is exactly what you did. And that's good! Financial reporting is a serious business, and you are a team player. So the line seems to work just fine.

However, whenever I see a verb like "assisted," I have to ask: how did you assist exactly?

To which you might reply:

Well, I was in charge of reconciling accounts payable, and ensuring that all of our vendors were up to date on what we owed them, when it was due, etc.

Brilliant! You literally just said you were in charge of reconciling accounts payable.

Here is where the analogy from the title comes into play:

It's better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond.

In this case, we shrunk the "big pond" of quarterly reporting into the smaller pond of accounts payable.

We replace the old line with this one:

Led accounts-payable reconciliation for quarterly financial reporting.

This line switch is a win-win:

  • More detailed description, yet still concise
  • Portrays you not as an "assistant," but a leader (which you are!)

Bonus Round

For fun, let's try growing the pond and see if anything else emerges.

Ask yourself: what larger activity was this quarterly reporting part of?

Well, we had to start doing that last year because a larger company was trying to acquire our startup and the reporting was a legal requirement.

Interesting. So let's try this:

Led quarterly accounts-payable reporting to support parent-company acquisition.

How's that for a humble brag?

Limiting the scope of your bullet points places more importance on your individual skills and responsibilities. It adds detail and makes you sound more impressive.

Expanding scope can paint a more ambitious picture.

They both focus the details on what makes you impressive. Win win.

"Assist" isn't a bad word, by the way. You just found it in the wrong pond.

If you found this page helpful, you might like this exercise too.

© 2020 Ryan Prinz