What is Your Greatest Accomplishment?


“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many of you, like me, have been sitting in a job interview going through the ringer of questions, when you’re asked, “What is your greatest accomplishment?”

It’s one of the most dreaded and difficult questions to answer. Just short of describing your “biggest weaknesses”, a question that leaves you stumbling through an explanation of how you work “too hard” or you’re “too organized”.

“What is your greatest accomplishment?” can feel pretty loaded. Do you talk about something personal or professional? What comes to mind? A few years ago I was asked this question and I was totally stumped. I sat there, looking down at a copy of my resume, hoping the answer would jump up at me.

Nothing. Nothing was coming to mind. Then everything was coming to mind – growing up, moving around, school, graduation, work, marriage, that one episode of Saved by the Bell where Zack and the gang camp out for U2 tickets. I couldn’t shut out the overwhelming number of things spinning through my head.

There’s just as much there for you. What I ultimately landed on was an answer similar to this:

“My greatest accomplishment is sitting where I am right now. I believe that life is a constant work-in-progress and that all moments, the monumental huge ones and the small quiet ones, all makeup who I am. Being offered this job would be another important, meaningful moment that would represent another proud accomplishment in my life that I’ve been fortunate to experience so many wonderful things.”

Our lives are not marked by one significant moment that changed it all. And if you’re anything like me, pinpointing the “all time greatest” moment feels damn near impossible. I asked several of my friends what their response would be and I got answers that included:

  • “Becoming independent and moving overseas to obtain my masters.”
  • “Living my life on my terms.”
  • “Repairing my relationship with my sister.”
  • “Finding the way of peace in my life. Even when I don’t use it, I know it’s there.”
  • “Realizing I have more potential than I thought.”
  • “Rebuilding from a mental breakdown.”
  • “Raising kids through a divorce and single parenting.”
  • “Going back to school and making Dean’s List every semester.”
  • “Becoming the father I always wished I could be.”
  • “Being able to still find ways to learn and grow every day.”

Whether your greatest accomplishment is finishing school or raising your kids, big or small, we all have many, many things to be proud of. The best answer to “What is your greatest accomplishment?” is that first thing that comes to mind that makes your proud.

And that moment – your “greatest accomplishment” will likely change. It isn’t set in stone and just as your past doesn’t define your future. Be proud of whatever accomplishments you have, and when asked that daunting question in your next interview, you’ll be much more comfortable giving a clear and confident answer.