How to Talk About Your Accomplishments



BY JEN OLENICZAK BROWN

Whether you are looking for a new job, getting a promotion (or looking for one!), or simply excited about what you’ve accomplished, discussing your accomplishments with others can be a daunting or amazing thing. Daunting – what if they think I’m bragging? Amazing – who doesn’t like to celebrate awesomeness?

While I have really strong feelings around calls to “be humble” (essentially, as long as you care about other people and their accomplishments, don’t worry about talking about yours!), discussing accomplishments can be tough to navigate. And a bigger question that many of you might be wondering – what makes an accomplishment an accomplishment in the first place?!

First: who are you talking to and why do you want them to know? Are you expecting some kind of affirmation? Things get tricky before you even start talking. If you are telling someone to make them jealous or angry, you’re telling them for the wrong reasons. If you’re telling someone because you a proud and you want to share – amazing, go for it! In professional cases, you want to be able to talk about (or write about!) your accomplishments for potential promotions, self-evaluations, reviews, and job interviews. When you think about that audience, know that as long as you aren’t doing it for a negative or jealous reason, you’ve probably got your audience rooting for you.

Next, think about a specific situation. Accomplishments are like goals – they need to be specific or you’ll have no idea how to discuss them! If you have a situation in mind, you can then start to establish the guideposts of the accomplishment. To be more specific: think of a challenging situation. In that challenging situation, what was the specific action that you took to overcome that challenge? Now, how did you know to do that specific action? And finally, what is the outcome?

For example, recently I was working with a client that was very combative about our workshop and development plan. I decided to over-communicate why I was making the decisions I was making – not just telling them I was doing it, but also my thought process of why and what I thought the outcome would be. I did this because, on occasion, I will make decisions and not explain them as much as I should, and clients might think I’m applying a “one-size-fits-all” approach. I know some people like to be included in my thought process. The result was an excited client that had more buy-in than most, and they turned into a repeat client.

Make sure to hit these points when you’re thinking about your accomplishments – it also allows you to maintain a structure when you’re thinking about it – if you’re zeroing in on the parts mentioned, you’ll have a foundation for relaying your accomplishment.

When you’ve got things worked out in your head, think back on your audience and what you hope to accomplish. Are you responding to a question about what you’re proud of or telling someone a story? What do you want the listener (or reader) to do with this information? Keep in mind, you can’t make someone communicate in a certain way – you can only control how you respond to the communication they choose to put out. If you’re looking for affirmation or excitement from a friend or family member, and they are not known for being extremely complimentary, you might want to let them know you are looking for their excitement. In professional situations, you’re probably answering a question – to what end? Is this part of a performance review or interview? If so, think about how that accomplishment changed you and how you interact with the world around you. My previously mentioned accomplishment made me spend more time assessing clients in onboarding. How did your accomplishment change you?

And always remember – most of the time, people are rooting for YOU. Don’t get in your own way, and remember to also root for yourself!


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