Your Career Needs a Challenge

Do you want to feel a sense of empowerment about your work contributions and communicate your professional value more effectively?

Woman climbing mountain

Then, put your career thinking cap on!

Step 1: Can you think of one recent work accomplishment that gives you a sense of pride?

> If you have your work accomplishment in mind, move to Step 2.

> If an accomplishment doesn’t come to mind immediately, you have two choices, 1) try to identify an older accomplishment or 2) skip step 2 and read on!

Step 2: Can you identify the actual work/company challenge that’s the source of your accomplishment?

Here are some generic accomplishment and challenge examples:

> Accomplishment: You created a successful new marketing campaign that appealed to a new customer base, challenge: Your company needed to connect with a new customer base to grow the business

> Accomplishment: You fixed a technical issue in one of your company’s systems, challenge: provide technology solutions to allow employees to get their job done more easily and faster

> Accomplishment: You delivered a very complex project on-time or early, challenge: a long-term and valued client needed a project delivered in a very short-time frame to take advantage of a new market opportunity


Identifying your work accomplishments and describing their related challenges are the first steps of applying the Challenge, Action, Results (C-A-R) method that will help you recognize and honor the contributions that you make and start to convey your value more effectively to others.

Laura M. Labovich, a career expert and co-author of the book 100 Conversations for Career Success: Learn to Network, Cold-Call and Tweet Your Way to Your Dream Job, introduced me and several other women to the C-A-R method at a recent career development seminar offered through DC Web Women, a worthwhile professional organization that I joined recently.

After this session, I searched the web for the best description of the C-A-R method to share with you. The winner: CAREEREALISM’s How To Create An Effective Executive Resumearticle. The importance of taking the time to apply the C-A-R method as a part of our career management activities hit home even more when I noticed and laughed out loud at CAREEREALISM’s tagline: “Because Every Job is Temporary.”businesswoman with laptop computer

Learning and applying the C-A-R method can help you develop more compelling points for your résumé and create your 30-second elevator speech.

So, be sure to find some paper and a pen or get your computer or tablet and begin by investing 30 minutes to write down your work accomplishments, their related challenge(s), the action(s) that you took to solve the issue, and the positive result(s) of those actions for your company. Challenges, Actions, Results.


If you have an easy time identifying your accomplishments and C-A-Rs, you are my hero and we can all learn a thing or two from you. Honestly, I struggled somewhat with describing the specific challenges related to my work successes. I think the reasons behind my work and projects have been expressed or understood in a more informal manner and were not framed in my mind or presented as a “challenge,” even though a challenge existed.

I can see some possible C-A-R pitfalls as well. There are circumstances where you may have been assigned or asked to complete different work activities on your team or on a project. In these instances, a specific challenge and the results may not have been clear or easily quantifiable. Additionally, the ability to understand or describe a work-related challenge at different levels of an organization is important.

There are high-level challenges for every company and challenges unique to specific functional areas (e.g., marketing, operations, etc.) and levels within an organization. Understanding some shared challenges related to your function and level could make identifying the challenges related to your accomplishments easier. To avoid the pitfalls of this method, use C-A-R to evaluate your current work and consider sharing and applying this approach with your colleagues, supervisor, and mentors.


Can you imagine how your work experience and organization would be different if the majority of the work was first expressed as a specific challenge?

I can see some definite benefits to such a shift. Fortunately, applying the C-A-R method provides an opportunity for all of us to develop and benefit from a “challenge mindset.”

What’s a challenge mindset?

An idea that I’d like us to experiment with in our work lives, which involves:Man looking through binoculars

1) Looking at your work and organization for challenges that exist for you and others.

2) Taking the time to clearly define the challenges, opportunities, and desired outcomes

3) Using your skills, talents, and resources to make a difference.

Consider the following quote from Brendon Burchard, author of The Charge: Activating the 10 Human Drives That Make You Feel Alive:

“Challenge is the pathway to engagement and progress in our lives. But not all challenges are created equal. Some challenges make us feel alive, engaged, connected, and fulfilled. Others simply overwhelm us. Knowing the difference as you set bigger and bolder challenges for yourself is critical to your sanity, success, and satisfaction.”

A sense of engagement is vital for career well-being and apparently taking on challenges are a pathway to help you thrive in your work and your life. Work challenges that you can manage successfully and help you grow will:

> Allow you to stay connected with your ability to contribute

> Feel a sense of pride in your work

> Communicate the benefits you offer to your current employer, especially during times of promotion

> Attract the interest of future employers/clients, and more.

 What challenges can you identify and help solve today?

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