From my initial days as a fresher in the corporate world, as I started on projects and day to day work, I came to realize that structure is essential. It is something that everyone values as it gives clarity, helps make decisions faster and process information better. As I moved on to my second year in the company, I got an opportunity to try for a competitive sales role (for 3 months) in the same company, in Africa! However, I came to realize that both in terms of my resume and my interviewing skills, I was unprepared to showcase my work. This was not due to a lack of accomplishments or eligibility, but more because I did not have a structure that highlighted my work in the best possible manner. I could convey my past projects and accomplishments, but it was not reflected as efficiently as needed. I realized, that while being vivid and fluid brings vital color to a conversation or a resume, a method to the madness helps put best foot forward, capture all your work and helps others grasp your thoughts upfront.
Making things organized is the key to moving things faster. I was introduced to the S.T.A.R. concept soon after, and I can vouch for the fact that it lived up to its name. It is a method that can be used for any accomplishment or task by divvying it into 4 sequential points that can each be lengthened or shortened as needed. If you are not already familiar with the method, I’ve detailed the components below:
S: Situation - What was the situation/context or the problem statement?
T: Task - What was the key target or goal you were driving towards?
A: (you guessed it!) Action - What did you do to achieve the target?
R: Results - What was the measurable benefit/outcome(s) of the task (numbers are key here)
A good rule of thumb is to always start the statement with a verb (Managed, Revived, Organized etc.). You can follow this for daily communications, projects and reports, end of quarter evaluations and ultimately in building resumes and even in answering in interviews. I now apply the 4-point star literally anywhere I need to present my work!
It is easier to use the S.T.A.R. in projects, reports, and even interviews since there is leeway that allows you to explain a situation, task, action and results in more than just a couple of lines. However, I bet you remember from my previous blog that a resume is best kept short - where you can preferably pack everything in a single page. Here’s how you can summarize your accomplishment while using the STAR method:
There is a saying - If I had time, I would write you a shorter letter. I love that saying. Because time is valuable, and a summarized communication (be it a resume or an email) values and respects the reader’s time. While elaborating on a structured story is a tempting thing to do, shortening a story to a line or two takes time and effort. Nevertheless, it is a challenge can be tackled with practice and skill.
For instance, I recently came across an application for our internship program that had a lengthy accomplishment statement for a substantial achievement (the name and the written content is modified for privacy). Even though it was probably an impressive accomplishment, it was unclear how the intern helped make the situation better as it lacked structure and the important components needed to assess it.
“Chief Editor in Department: My department had no magazines launched for many years due to money problems, and we had no sponsors. I became the chief editor of the magazine this year as the HOD saw my potential in my 1st year as a sub-editor. With my team, I helped relaunch the same under a new brand name and design and also got sponsorship to fund the magazine. We launched and circulated this new magazine in our college fest and lots of people bought it.”
Now, let’s implement the STAR approach to the statement in 2 simple steps
- Recognize and break it down into its sections:
S is - Department magazine is dysfunctional for 3 years
T is - Reviving the magazine
A is - The chief editor motivated a team of 2 and bagged an external sponsorship of 25K to create the magazine
R is - It circulated a record 1000 copies in their college fest, where that number is a clear achievement point, and shows where the person's efforts ended.
- Pull the section together to form a cohesive story:
“Chief Editor, Economics Dept. (2016-17): Revived our department’s magazine, from a 3-year slump, by acquiring an external sponsorship of Rs.25K. Motivated & led a team of 2, creating and circulating a record 1000 copies at our college fest."
While it may take 3 or sometimes more iterations to get your S.T.A.R. story tight and in order initially, once you do get the hang of it, it will be a great asset not just on your resume but anywhere you want to call on your past achievements- big or small- to make an impression!
We will continue to refer the STAR method in our coming blogs, as we break down the components of the resume structure, and layer it with the S.T.A.R. approach, in addition, to create an impact across all of your resume’s core sections. As a bonus, look out for our tips on resume content customization for various applications (based on the skill requirements, role, industry etc.)!
In the meanwhile, now that you know what the STAR approach is and how to use it, we have a simple activity for you on this method! Pick any statement describing your past accomplishments in your resume (or) a question you answered in an interview. Now based on this blog, apply the S.T.A.R. technique and mold your statement (or) answer to include all its elements. Share your updated answers with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and you’ll get an evaluation plus additional suggestions from us, to make you resume have the greatest impact! For further resume related services, please visit www.corporatereadytest.com/resume and get your resume scanned thoroughly, all for a nominal price!
"If you are facing the right direction, all you have to do is keep walking"
Manish N Gaba
(Pic Courtesy – Glen Carrie from Unsplash)
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