Using Your Career Accomplishments to Communicate Your Strengths
Clarifying Your Career Accomplishments
Whether you are looking for a job or wanting to advance your career within your current organization, it is essential to recognize, capture, clarify and communicate your accomplishments to decision-makers. The foundational tool for communicating your accomplishments is the S.T.A.R story.
- Situation – a brief synopsis of the situation you faced
- Task – the problem you needed to solve as a result of this situation
- Action – what you did to make the problem better
- Result – the outcome of your actions.
You may also hear these referred to as P.A.R. stories (Problem, Action, Result), where the situation and task are combined into a single step. These stories provide the foundation for creating a powerful résumé, for answering interview questions and even for introducing yourself to the CEO if you find yourself stuck on the elevator with her.
Creating Accomplishment Stories
Let’s start with this key tool. Later articles will address how to adapt this information for specific career-related communication tools, such as your résumé, your 30-second commercial or for the interview process. I recommend that you keep a file, either electronically or on paper to capture these stories as they come up when they’re fresh in your mind, the data to substantiate the results is more readily available and so you won’t forget.
In general, you want STAR stories that demonstrate your signature strengths and that communicate key qualities that employers are looking for. These would include communication skills, initiative, leadership, problem-solving, teamwork, etc.
When describing the situation that was the precursor to your accomplishment, you want to be succinct, but to provide just enough detail that your audience gets a sense of the importance of the problem. For example:
- A key competitor introduced a new product that was being reviewed favorably by the press.
- There was a shortage of a key component for your company’s manufacturing process.
- There was an increase in post-operative infections at a single surgical center.
- There was a decline in donations from a major foundation.
The task is the specific problem you needed to solve as a result of the situation. For example, your task might be to:
- Defuse the post-announcement press generated by competitor’s new product.
- Identify alternate sourcing for the scarce component.
- Isolate the source of the infection and implement a plan to resolve it
- Strengthen the relationship with the foundation board to secure ongoing support.
When describing your action, you want to choose strong verbs that allow your audience to imagine you at work. You also want to describe your specific role in the process. Rather than saying you “assisted” in a larger action, say exactly what you did. It can be difficult to talk about yourself, but you need to actually be able to say, at least when you’re communicating orally, “I did this,” not, “We did this.” Otherwise, your audience can’t really tell what your role was, or even whether your role mattered. On a résumé, of course, the pronoun is implied rather than stated. For example,
- Led multi-disciplinary team to secure and analyze competitor’s new product to provide company spokespeople and sales force with counter-arguments to competitor’s claims.
- Researched and secured contract with alternative supplier of scare component.
- Identified source of increased infections by analyzing data on changes in staff, procedures, and sanitation products that preceded increase in infection rate.
- Planned and implemented foundation board dinner to express appreciation for the foundation’s past contributions and to heighten their awareness of important results the foundation’s contributions made possible.
When describing your results, you want to try to quantify results where possible. This might include the use of dollar figures, percentages or other metrics. For example,
- Customer orders resumed at pre-announcement rates within 2 weeks.
- Met sales goals for quarter and increased market share by 5% as competitors’ production was backlogged.
- Reduced post-operative infections to pre-incident rates.
- Strengthened partnership with foundation board and restored funding to previous levels.
Future blog articles will discuss how to adapt your STAR stories for a variety of career communication needs. Keep an eye on our website for more information.
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