Get Your Professional Swagger On: Tell An Accomplishment Story

Talk About Your Accomplishments

We know that promoting ourselves is critical to career advancement and career satisfaction.  And being able to do so comfortably during networking events, job interviews, and performance reviews can really pay off.  But how do you do it without coming off as an obnoxious self-promoter?

The key is learning how to talk comfortably about your wins in a way that shows you have the goods, is appropriate for a particular situation, and focuses on what matters to your particular audience.  

A good way to think about and craft what you’re actually going to say is by creating a story. We all love stories, and they are easy to remember. One popular way to structure your winning stories is by using the Challenge—Action—Result or CAR formula. To do this, think about:

  1. A challenge or problem you faced in a particular situation
  2. The action you took to resolve it
  3. The result or outcome

This can help you put together your accomplishments in a structured way. Then you can practice your stories so that you can deliver them naturally in whatever situation you find yourself. You’ll also want to insert them in the conversation, naturally as well, depending on the situation.  

Let’s take the example of using one of these stories in a job interview.  When preparing, think of stories to demonstrate each of the major skills for the job as well as stories that demonstrate the type of employee you are and your personal brand.  

Think about how you helped your employer solve a particular problem, grow, save money, work more efficiently, move into a new market, or whatever represents an achievement in your field.

Let’s suppose you are interviewing for a position with a nonprofit. Here’s how you can use an accomplishment story to answer one of the most common interview questions: “What are your strengths?”  

Suppose you state that your greatest strength is organizing events. Here’s an example of a  CAR story demonstrating that strength.

  • (Challenge) My organization took on a last-minute project to raise funds to help 15 underprivileged girls have a happy holiday season. We had just a week to pull it together.
  • (Action) I took the initiative to lead this challenge and orchestrated a fundraising event to raise funds for gifts from employees and volunteers.
  • (Result) We raised more than $1,500 in that short period.  I get chills thinking about it because it is one of the things of which I am most proud… 

A story with this CAR structure can also be used informally in networking situations or stated more directly or formally in a performance review. To ensure you have good story material, it’s important that you keep track of your accomplishments and keep them organized. You may want to organize them for different purposes and in different categories for your personal or professional life.

If you still cringe at the thought of “blowing your horn,” it might be helpful to know that sharing your accomplishments can provide critical and differentiating information that proves you’re credible and good at what you do, which can help colleagues, managers, or future employers make wiser hiring decisions.

As author Peggy Klaus writes in her classic book, Brag!: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn without Blowing It, an attitude and story approach like this will help you to more effectively and comfortably “brag and get away with it.”


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Resumes for Dummies 2019