Written by Amie Case, Career Center Communication and Design Assistant, Bachelor of Science, Professional Writing.
Need an easy way to keep track of all your professional and career-related accomplishments?
It’s easy! Start a brag folder (also called a sunshine folder, I-love-me file, or master list).
A brag folder is a great way to remember details from your experiences for future reference. Although you may think you will never forget the specifics of a challenging and important project, a year from now, the details of that outstanding accomplishment might be difficult for you to recall.
By keeping a record of your accomplishments, both career-related and personal, you will be able to illustrate your experiences more powerfully on your résumé and during interviews. While the résumé includes a summary of the accomplishment, the interview enables you to provide more details by telling the story of that accomplishment.
Where do I start?
Collect your brag folder contents in one location for easy access. Before you develop your folder, ensure that the method you choose will be easy for you to maintain:
Offline: You can use an ordinary handwritten journal, notebook, or a file folder or large envelope to gather clippings, cards, and memos.
Online: You can use a word processor or other electronic documentation method. If you don’t want the hassle of backing up your file (and you need to back it up in multiple locations each time you make an addition), you can just create an email folder and send yourself emails.
What do I include?
Nothing is too great or too small to include in your folder. If you have weekly meetings with your supervisor, and you discuss completing a simple task, jot down the specifics to add to your list. If you did something that you know was a personal challenge for you, make a note of the steps you took to overcome the challenge.
Need help jogging your memory to start your brag file? Here are some examples of material you could include:
- Situations, challenges, problems, and tasks in which you took action and achieved a successful result
- Qualifications and talents that add value to your performance
- Proof that you can successfully perform job functions
- Current and previous work experience to include summer jobs, work-study, temporary, and volunteer positions of any kind
- Educational experiences to include internships, group projects, and study-abroad programs
- Conferences, events, organizations, and societies in which you have participated
- Interests and extracurricular activities
What should I write?
Details make your accomplishments believable and convincing. Consider grouping your accomplishments into three categories: STAR, CAR, or PAR.
Sample STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Results) statement:
Because my department trained new employees by having them shadow and ask questions of other employees, many new hires felt confused by conflicting opinions and unclear expectations (Situation).
My supervisor asked me to create a training manual that would include comprehensive instructions for all of the procedures used in the department (Task).
I made a list of the procedures that needed to be included, wrote instructions for the procedures that I perform, interviewed each employee, resolved conflicting information, and created a training manual complete with a table of contents, clearly divided sections, images of forms used, and an FAQ page addressing the most common concerns and confusions (Action).
Since the training manual enables new employees to learn the procedures more quickly, the employees are able to assume responsibility more quickly and with higher level of confidence. The previous job shadowing method of training often took a couple of weeks before new employees felt comfortable. However, with the documentation, new hires feel comfortable within a couple of days. The manual also resolved conflicts that established employees had with some procedures (Results).
Sample CAR (Challenge, Action, Results) statement:
I was halfway through my internship, and my supervisor still had not given me the images I needed to complete the book I was supposed to design. Not only would this prohibit me from producing a finished project by the end of my internship, but it also significantly reduced the amount of work I was able to do for the company. In short, I was twiddling my thumbs (Challenge).
I did what I could without the images, and then I stayed busy by creating other projects for myself such as designing new marking materials and developing a website (Action).
Although I never received the pictures I had been promised, my supervisor was impressed with the marketing extras I presented and was surprised and very grateful to have a new website. I completed my internship successfully and was praised for my initiative (Results).
Sample PAR (Problem, Action, Results) statement:
The student lounge coffee station was not being monitored, and our donated coffee and supplies were disappearing quickly and randomly. Multiple times, we were not aware that our stock was low until we had run out completely (Problem).
I created and implemented a series of documents to track coffee donations and supplies that were going in and out of the stock room. I trained all student workers on proper documentation procedures (Action).
Coffee supplies remain constant because we know where everything is going, how it is being used, and when we need to replenish inventory (Results).
Strong evidence makes a strong candidate
During the job-search process, we make claims to employers of our expertise, experience, knowledge, and skills. Because the brag folder contains the evidence that support these claims, you’re able to quickly and easily access details you may have forgotten. Using specific examples to support your claims will make you memorable and credible to employers. You will highlight and emphasize your accomplishments and strengths that best suit you for the position you’re applying for.
As an additional advantage, a brag folder also provides a good boost of confidence when you look back and see the accumulation of your achievements, even those that were just class projects.