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Writing Achievement Stories (Worksheet 2.2)

What is an Achievement Story?

An achievement story is the most effective way for you to demonstrate your skills, experiences, and successes in a way that others can quickly understand and remember. For an achievement story to be yours, it must result from a specific activity in which you had a key role in achieving a clearly identifiable and measurable result. It is not YOUR achievement story if you were only peripherally involved in the activity or if you only make a generalized statement about what you are good at doing.

Why are your Achievement Stories important?

Writing multiple Achievement Stories is a critical step that enables you to accomplish the following:

  • Demonstrate what you bring to the table by showcasing your best skills and experiences without focusing on a particular industry.
  • Describe your skills and experiences in ways that others can understand how they could translate to other industries and situations.
  • Create powerful stories that enable others to remember you when they become aware of opportunities that need your skills and experiences.
  • Explore new career directions that you might not have considered.

What are the three components your Achievement Stories must include?

There are three basic components to an Achievement Story – Subject, Story and Achievement. Career professionals may refer to this by using other acronyms, such as:

PAR: Problem – Action – Result
S.T.A.R.: Situation – Task – Action – Result

Basically, all achievement stories contain the following three components:

  1. Subject – A one-sentence statement that describes the issue or problem that the story will be about.
  2. Story – A detailed description of everything you did that enabled you to achieve what you did.
  3. Achievement – A succinct paragraph that summarizes what you were able to achieve or accomplish, i.e., the result?

How to write your Achievement Stories

  1. Start by creating a Word document and format it using the Column command with two columns or you can use the Table command with two horizontal cells. Whichever format you choose, make the right-hand column about 2” wide. Alternatively, you download and use the Achievement Story Template formatted as a table. (Use the link below to download the template.)
  2. Subject – Start by writing a simple one-sentence statement that describes the essence, the issue, or the problem that this particular achievement story will be about.
  3. Story – Explain, in detail, everything that was involved in leading to the achievement. Include those actions you took that contributed in some way for you to realize the achievement even if there was no direct link between the action and the achievement. Start at the beginning and describe in steps what you did first, what you did next, and then what you did after that. Keep asking yourself “and then what did I do” until you finish the story. If your next step included an assessment of alternative actions, include an explanation as to why you chose that particular action. Be as detailed as possible.
  4. Quantify – A very effective way for readers or listeners to grasp the significance of what you did is for you to quantify your story. Use percentages, actual numbers, or reasonable estimates, such as “more than,” or “in excess of,” if you can’t be precise.
  5. Achievement – When you’ve finished describing the details, summarize your story into one paragraph containing NO MORE than two or three sentences. The story should capture the essence of what you achieved and demonstrate your strongest skills and the ones that you prefer to use most often. When you are talking to people, you might only mention the Subject first and then state the Achievement. You WANT them to ask for more details.
  6. When others ask for more information on some aspect of your Achievement Story, you will be ready to quickly respond to them with a reasonably short and succinct answer. Trained interviewers will often ask you to explain some aspect of your achievements in more detail as a test to see how well you respond.

How to highlight your skills

  1. Review your detailed descriptions and circle, highlight or underline each action word (verb). These are your skills. Write the skill word in the right column. If you did something that doesn’t include a verb but the text infers an ability or skill, enter a skill word or words in the right column that illustrates what you did using two or three words at most.
  2. Review the right column for consistent patterns of skills that you use most often. These skills usually indicate the ones you prefer to use because they are easy for you, you enjoy using them, and you’re knowledgeable about how to use them effectively and to your advantage. Consistent patterns of your skills usually indicate your key strengths and are what makes you unique and sets you apart from others.
  3. Your Achievement Stories will reflect the skills you already have and those you learned or developed by achieving what you did. Plan to write as many Achievement Stories as you can but you must write at least four or five because you need to demonstrate a pattern and be able to communicate more than one achievement when you are networking or in interviews.

How to get started writing your Achievement Stories

Click the link to view an example of an Achievement Story in a non-work situation: Worksheet 2.2 – Achievement Story Example

Click the link to download a Word document that uses a simplified table format you can use to prepare your Achievement Stories: Worksheet 2.2 – Achievement Story – Simple Template