STAR – Evaluate Your Strengths

Does anyone reading this like being interviewed?

How many times have you sat in an interview and not known what to say? On the few occasions when I have been in an interview, I felt uncomfortable when I was asked “about a time that I worked well in a team,” or “showed leadership” or “solved a problem”. I knew of times that I had been in those situations, but didn’t know what to say about them really… Something good, that shows me in a good light – but what?

Or have you ever been in a situation where you’ve wanted to be part of a project but not known how to convince others that you’re the one for them?

STAR is for you.

Show yourself shining

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Actions, Results and is a means to tell a story about how you did something well. If you have any aversion to talking about yourself in a positive way – bigging yourself up – try to park that for now. In the same way that INTRO has a structure for starting a presentation, STAR has a structure for telling people about your skills in a convincing way. No more saying “I’m good at organising my projects,” instead you can show someone why. Here is an example that I tell people if asked about my experiences with project organisation:

“I was asked to manage a three-day GRADschool for 40 participants and 10 staff with only six weeks notice (Situation). I was responsible for booking rooms, communicating with staff and participants, creating documents and managing all of the administration (Task). I wrote jobs that needed doing on Post Its, then used a wall to map out a timeline; participants were in tutor groups, but also needed to be in different groups at other times – I solved this simply by using dots on the back of their name badges; I also created and maintained a spreadsheet of staff and participant data as they completed paperwork (Actions). The course was a great success, staff said that it was easy to find all of their materials and both they and the participants reported that everything ran smoothly (Results).”

STAR is a clear means to express how skilled you are to others, primarily I think because you are asked to draw on your experiences rather than how you rate yourself in a skill area.

More than this, I think that STAR can be a great reflective tool. Many postgraduate researchers reading this will be asked to complete a skills audit at some point during their PhD studies. You could use STAR to uncover your real strengths, and also make explicit what your best evidence is for them. You can focus on the things that you want to develop – you might find out that actually you don’t need to improve anything in order to do your research. You might find out that there is something you really want to enhance about your skillset though, not because you need it for your research but because you want it for yourself.

Take the time: STAR is a tool that can help you show your best qualities to others, and reveal the best of you to yourself.

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

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