Bragging Done Right: Tell an Accomplishment Story

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


Here’s an example (fictional) of how you might use a CAR story in a networking situation:

Molly was IT manager interested in working in the environmental industry and decided to network at an environmental industry event.  After meeting someone who works in the industry, she used a brief accomplishment or CAR story to give her new acquaintance a sense of how she might fit into the industry.  

Molly first gave some context to set the story up. “I’m really interested in learning more about work in the environmental industry.  I have a personal interest in recycling and recently enjoyed working on an environmental-related company project.”  

Molly continued and used her CAR story.  “A recent client company was struggling with the best way to use technology to improve the company’s environmental efforts [challenge]. I was able to develop and lead a solar-IT project [action], which helped reduce their energy costs by 25 percent.”[result]   I would love to do more of this kind of work.”

A story with this structure can be fleshed out for an interview or stated more directly in a performance review.  Be sure to keep a record of your accomplishments to ensure you have good story material. After creating your stories, the next step is to practice delivering them naturally and smoothly.   

If you’re still uncomfortable with the thought of “blowing your horn,” it might be helpful to know that sharing your accomplishments not only helps you but others as well.  Accomplishment stories can provide that critical information proving  that you’re credible and good at what you do, which can help colleagues, managers, or future employers  make wiser business decisions.  


Phaedra Brotherton, CPRW, JCTC, CDF, principal of Resumes and Career Strategies, is a certified professional resume writer and job and career transition coach who partners with mid-career and executive association and nonprofit professionals to create powerful career marketing materials and job search strategies.  To learn more, visit www.resumesandcareerstrategies.com or contact Phaedra@resumesandcareerstrategies.com.

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