Challenge Action Result: CAR Statements Part 1

A tool to professionally discuss the skills and experience you have gained through 4-H or other extracurricular and work activities.

Are you struggling to describe your skills and experience on job applications, resumes or college application materials? If so, creating Challenge Action Result (CAR) statements can help you identify and discuss the relevant details of your experience in a professional and concise way, both in writing and in interview situations.

CAR statements can be created to tell stories that concisely highlight the life skills and technical skills gained through working, participating in 4-H projects, or being involved in other extracurricular activities.

To start, make a list of all the activities you have been involved in. Next, write down the key skills you demonstrated in each activity. If you’re having difficulty, ask yourself who are you trying to tell your story to? Which experience and skills would be most relevant to them? This will vary depending on your audience. If you are applying for a job, what skills would be most valuable for the specific position?

Once you have taken the steps above, begin answering these questions for each skill you want to highlight:

  1. What was a specific challenge you faced? This could also be your general goal. Was there a particularly difficult aspect you had to overcome or deal with?
  2. What actions did you take to address the challenge?
  3. What were the results of your actions? Did you meet a goal? What was the timeframe?

Answering the questions above can be difficult. It might help to start by writing the specific activity and skill(s) you want to highlight. Under that heading, use bullet points to list the challenge, the actions, and the result(s) one by one.

Here is an example:

Activity: Working at a grocery store  Skill: Time Management

  • Challenge: Managing school, work and basketball schedules.
  • Action: Used a planner to keep up school assignments and set aside time for homework.
  • Action: Communicated with supervisor in advance to avoid conflicts between work and practice/game schedule.
  • Result: Maintained 3.5 GPA.
  • Result: Worked an average of 15 hours a week and had perfect attendance.
  • Result: Remained an active participant on my high school basketball team.

The bulleted list can then be turned into an organized paragraph:

“To manage my school, work and basketball schedules in a way that would allow to succeed in all areas, I used a planner to keep up with classroom assignments, set aside time for homework, and my keep up with my basketball schedule. I also communicated regularly with my supervisor to avoid conflicts between work and my basketball practice and game schedule. As a result, I was able to maintain a 3.5 GPA in school, while working an average of 15 hours a week and remaining a leader on my high school basketball team.”

Once you have created your statements, practice discussing them as stories with a friend to get comfortable talking about your experience.

Going through this process may be tedious, but it will improve your ability to write about your skills and experience on resumes and college and scholarship essays. It will also help build confidence for interview settings.

Additionally, the process of developing CAR statements also helps you think critically about your experience and helps you notice details you might never have thought about. This is an important step as you define your future career path and think about who you are, what you bring to the table and what you care about.

For additional resources, read Part 2 in this series or visit Michigan State University Extension’s website on 4-H Youth Development Career Preparation.

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