Canadians may be less apt to brag about professional achievements than our American counterparts, but modesty could be holding us back from getting the job.
According to LinkedIn’s @Work study – which explores generational, cultural, and industry-specific changes in workplaces around the world – 29 per cent of Canadians say they’re proud to talk about professional achievements compared to 40 per cent of Americans.
In fact, over half of Canadians surveyed say they feel like they’re bragging when they talk about their achievements, with 55 per cent adding that they’d rather talk about their colleagues achievements than their own.
But knowing how to talk about your achievements without feeling like you’re boasting is key, whether you’re interviewing for a new job or reviewing your performance with the boss, says Eileen Chadnick, an executive coach and founder of Big Cheese Coaching.
“Your track record and accomplishments are testaments to what you can do going forward,” she says.
Yet often in workshops where she’s coaching groups, the majority will struggle with putting their strengths down on paper.
“I don’t know if it’s just about modesty … it’s also an unawareness – we’re so busy on the treadmill of doing the work (that when we finish) our last accomplishment, we’re off to the next task,” says Chadnick.
Taking the time to reflect on your wins, big or small, should be a practice working professionals add to their repertoire.
Chadnick and other professional coaches often advocate a method called SAR – situation, action, result – (also referred to as STAR with the ‘T’ standing for “task”) to package anecdotes for highlighting skill sets during interviews.
“I use S.A.R.S, (the final ‘S’) stands for ‘so what?’” says Chadnick.
Start with the situation: anything from navigating a potential misunderstanding, to standing up and rallying a team behind a certain cause or project. Next, look at the action: What did you do? Why did you do it?
And then, what was the result?
“What happened? Happy clients, happy boss, saved money, saved the day …whatever that may be,” says Chadnick. “And then the ‘so what?’ – this is really important.”
Use the anecdote to explain how this highlights your strengths: Does it make you seem resourceful? Does it show you can think outside of the box?
“Explain what this means for your potential employer: ‘if you hire me, here’s what you’ll get,” says Chadnick. “The ‘so what’ helps you come up with narratives to talk about (your strengths). If you don’t have the situation, and the little stories to back that up – it might feel brag-y.”
She points out that a good interviewer will often ask for stories, instead of looking to hear “well, I’m an out-of-the-box thinker or creative,” so keeping some sort of file, notebook or envelope with all these little “SARS” will help jog your memory when it comes time to sit down for an interview.
“The number one rule in every interview is to be authentic and honest. When you are not able to tell your story and your accomplishments, you’re not really being authentic because you’re not showing who you are,” says Chadnick.
“But you need to do it in a way that feels right for you. Doing it through stories that are true, and accurately portray your strengths, can be more comfortable.”