Have you picked up a copy of Brag! The art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It, by Peggy Klaus? The word “brag” strikes fear into the hearts many students. They don’t want to come off as “better than” others. They fear being offensive and confuse “brag” with “boast.” As an advisor, I tell them, “Get over it! If you don’t learn to brag about yourself, no one else will do it!”
Don’t like the word “brag”? Change it! Use: Promote instead. It is your job to sell your skills and the ways in which you can add value to potential employers. And, it all begins with your accomplishment inventory or your list of power stories.
Whatever you call it, spending the time to develop one will pay BIG dividends. This inventory is fundamental to all future professional development endeavors. As a student seeking internships and ultimately, a great career opportunity, your list contains key components of your elevator pitch, the elements of powerful resume bullets, examples for cover letters, part of the narrative you tell in your LinkedIn profile and stories to tell in interviews.
Everyone has examples of accomplishments! Writing about them helps to clarify how your actions made a contribution. Employers want to know this quickly! Candidates who get hired are those who can show the ability to hit the ground running and add value.
To get started, use one of many the acronyms that have been created to help structure your story. Some examples include:
- CAR: C = Context A = Action R = Result
- PARK: P = problem you needed to solve A = Action R = Result K =Knowledge (what did you learn from this)
- STAR: S = Situation T = Task to be accomplished A = Action R = Result
Here is an example based on a fundraising effort for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life of how this moves from story details to a resume bullets and an interview example
Context: Enthusiasm for and experience with Relay for Life and Clarification as philanthropic event for the American Cancer Society
Action: Door-to-door recruiting efforts addressing value of ACS
Result: Formed not one, but three teams, Exceeded fundraising goal by $2,000
- Formed three teams of ten students within one-month period to race in annual fundraiser supporting American Cancer Society
- Exceeded fundraising goal by $2,000 by hosting bake sales, soliciting local businesses for donations, and seeking support from extended network of friends and family
Interview example for the question “Tell me about a time you demonstrated leadership”
“I was actively involved in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life fundraiser in high school, so I was thrilled to see that Relay for Life already had an active presence on the UMASS campus. As a first year student, I decided to form a team of ten students from my residence hall.
I went door to door speaking with students about the importance of ACS and the event. My efforts resulted in the formation of not just one, but three teams! I was also able to lead the team in exceeding our fundraising goal by $2,000 by hosting a bake sale, soliciting local businesses for donations, and seeking support from extended network of friends and family.”
Focus some time now on developing your inventory. Organize it around the Top 10 Skills Employers Seek or by keywords, skills, and tasks you find from industry specific research. Add to this each semester. Keep it in a safe place and leverage it in all future professional development activities.
At the Isenberg School of Management at UMASS – Amherst, students in a required career course complete this inventory in the very beginning of the semester. Sure, it’s work and for many, it’s the first time they are forced to think about these stories in detail. Yet, despite the hard work, these students report how much more confident they feel once this is complete. The final proof is in positive interview experiences that lead to internship offers!