by Joel Garfinkle
I’m a big believer in documenting your achievements, but I realize that it can be hard to talk about yourself and your successes in a positive but professional light. Just the idea of sitting down to write about and take credit for work makes many people uncomfortable.
In my presentation “Career Advancement: Release Untapped Potential in Your Underutilized Leaders,” I outline the various ways you can coach hidden talent to truly shine and put their best foot forward when discussing their achievements.
I often suggest you think about your successes as miniature stories, with a setup, a plotline and an outcome. It can be a lot easier to talk about yourself with a bit of structure to your outline. If you need a place to start in breaking down your own accomplishments, read on for some of my tips.
Step No. 1: The overview
Write a brief overview of the problem you faced or project you managed. Think about it from a company perspective: what was the issue at the outset? What was the negative situation or state, or the undesirable outcome, that you were looking to improve? Whenever possible, explain the financial or time implications of the problem you were tackling.
Mention when a certain aspect of the operation was unreasonably expensive, time-consuming or a source of frequent errors in the organization. It’s best to outline the problem in measurable terms.
Set the stage for the actions you took by describing the issues in a way that will resonate with the audience -- in this case, people invested in the smooth operation of the business. When they see the problem for themselves through your description, their minds will begin turning with the various ways they would have tackled it, and they’ll be interested to hear how you came to approach the issue.
Step No. 2: The approach
List the key actions you took to address the problem or the specific approaches that were the scope of your project. Explain how you were thorough in taking on the problem or project, and be sure to take every opportunity to highlight your role in finding the solution.
This isn’t about details, it’s about using the situation to illustrate your strengths. Think about the various skills, experience and talents you have that came into play in tackling the issue or project. You might even consider mentioning avenues that might have seemed obvious, that you investigated before abandoning, and why.
Think about taking the reader (or listener) on a journey through the steps and get them invested in the story.
Step No. 3: The results
Detail the measurable results that underscore the financial impact your accomplishment had on the company. You set these up in your first step; make sure you use the same terms of reference to show how you’ve improved the company’s bottom line. Remember to use financial terms whenever possible. This is how you really shine as an employee who brings value to the organization in simple, quantifiable terms.
Your example of your leadership and your success in completing the project, or overcoming the project is exactly the sort of story that interests your audience most -- it’s a success story that involves them, too. This will really resonate with senior leadership, who are always thinking of the company in hours, dollars and cents. As a bonus, it will likely be easier for you to outline your accomplishments using this unemotional method without feeling boastful.
Still not sure this method will work for you? Concerned about “tooting your own horn” or seeming too egotistical? Try the above steps with your least exciting, most basic achievement. Chances are you will find that documenting the results in detail, using simple financial terms will not only look surprisingly impressive, it will be easier to write. Give it a try, and after a few attempts, it will become less daunting.
Adding a bit of emotional distance by writing this way can not only make the process easier, but create better, more compelling results. Documenting your accomplishments will be easy to add to your regular monthly or quarterly habits. Be sure to make it a regular task in your career advancement routine to keep your skills in documenting sharp.
Joel Garfinkle provides corporate training, webinars, and executive coaching. He is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S. He has worked with many of the world’s leading companies, including Google, Amazon, Starbucks, Deloitte, Eli Lilly, the NBA , and The Ritz-Carlton Hotels. Garfinkle is the author of 11 books, including "Getting Ahead." More than 10,000 people subscribe to his Fulfillment@Work newsletter. If you sign up, you’ll receive the free e-book “41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!” You can view his video library of over 100+ easily actionable 2-minute inspirational video clips at his YouTube channel.