Writing Strong Bullets
Most of the time, we don't need help identifying our accomplishments. We know what we do. The trouble is how to make those bullet statements sound good! It's the impact portion of the EPR Bullet, the positive result of an accomplishment, that give us the most frustration. How do you make "delivered over 10 tons of mail to base facilities" stand out as a superior accomplishment? That is the challenge.
The first step in developing strong bullet statements is to think positive! Everybody has their good days and their bad days. Sometimes we get a little discouraged and think, ďThere's no way I'll get promoted so why bother"? Donít fall into this self-defeating trap! If you don't believe you can be promoted, you almost certainly won't be! You can be promoted! You will be promoted! I don't think anyone would deny that they'll be promoted eventually. Why can't that sometime be now? Positive thinking has more effect on your life than most people think. There is not room enough here to thoroughly discuss this vitally important topic but I recommend these old classics, See You at the Top and The Magic of Thinking Big, as required reading.
The first real writing done in the EPR is the job description. The job description must describe your most important duties or the EPR will lack impact from the very start. This block is the only place where weíre allowed to list our responsibilities and what we do on the job. Accomplishments will be listed later in the body of the EPR. Fit in as much as you can beginning with the most important information. If you supervise troops or perform any supervisory oversight, list those duties first. If the information in this block was prepared by someone else and is not accurate, you can and should change it. If possible, to make the EPR progressive, try to make the duties described reflect more responsibility and a higher stature than your last EPR. To be effective, EPRs should show growth. They should chronicle the development of a leader and manager. This EPR should indicate more responsibility and a higher position than the last. If your Duty Title last year was EPR Clerk, this year it should be EPR Manager. Even if you aren't the highest ranking or in charge of your section, the duty title should somehow indicate progression toward more responsibility.
Performance Assessment Bullet Comments
The Performance Assessment blocks of the AF Form 910 are for listing your achievements during the reporting period. The purpose of listing achievements is to have an official record of your performance and to justify the rating earned. The goal of the EPR is to accurately and fully describe an Airmanís performance during the reporting period. So it's important first, to have an impressive list of accomplishments and second, to write them in a way that ensures their importance is recognized.
It's important to realize that itís not the words or glowing phrases that get you promoted Ėitís the rating that your supervisor gives you. And that depends heavily on your performance during the year. When the EPR is due, you can't change the past year's performance but you can turn whatever performance you do have into the best EPR possible. It is possible to write an EPR in such a way that it will be difficult for your supervisor to grade your performance as anything less than an overall 5. All it takes is a little time and effort.
List the achievements during the reporting period. The most effective way to come up with material for your EPR is to brainstorm first. List all the ratee's accomplishments on a separate sheet of paper. Write down everything that might be considered an accomplishment. Nothing is too small or off-limits. Deployments, additional duties, training, education, new qualifications, volunteer work, community involvement, awards and decorations, etc. List it all!
Don't be modest! One of the most common obstacles for first-time EPR writers is modesty. Most of us don't want to appear as if we're bragging (or worse -lying) about our performance and that's understandable. But when it comes to EPRs, your goal is to make it sound as if you're the best Airman ever! In Air Force evaluations, we always write to make it sound as if we walk on water, invented the alphabet, and killed more communists than Rambo! We always exaggerate. That's just the way it's done and you have to get in that mode! When you get used to it, it can actually be kind of fun.
Claim everything! If you're new to EPRs, you might be reluctant to claim credit for any achievement that you weren't 100% responsible for. Don't be! Most work center accomplishments require the efforts of many people working as a team. If you had any part in the overall process, you are allowed to claim it and list it as one of your bullet statements. A supervisor or NCOIC will often reuse the same accomplishments, over and over, in several different EPRs as long as the event occurred during the ratee's reporting period. As a rule of thumb, if you had any part in an achievement, from physically turning a wrench to being on the team that did it, you can claim it. So claim everything and let your supervisor sort it out. And don't be concerned that your supervisor will scrutinize your inputs and dispute your claims. A supervisor is much more concerned with getting enough good material for your EPR than with analyzing which person contributed the most to which project.
After you've brainstormed and came up with a list of accomplishments, sort them into the categories required by the AF Form 910:
Primary/Additional Duties (4 lines)
Standards, Conduct, Character, and Military Bearing (2 lines)
Training Requirements (2 lines)
Teamwork/Followership (2 lines)
Don't be surprised if your list of accomplishments doesn't fit neatly into these somewhat artificial categories. You'll probably have to reverse-engineer your bullets to sort them into the required topics or look for more achievements that fit the required box. For example, if you spent a significant amount of time supporting a project like the Federal Combined Campaign, you might want to enter it into the Teamwork block and frame it as a project that supported the team/squadron/base. Or if you already have that block filled, you could add it to the Standards block while emphasizing the character that was obvious in completing that task.
Don't have enough accomplishments? That's OK. You can bend the rules a little by signing up for accomplishments at the last minute as long as it's done before the end of the rating period. Normally, the unit requires the EPR to be completed as much as two months before the close out date so it's usually possible. Enroll in a college class (Your bullet will have to say, "enrolled in..." or "balancing two credit hours off-duty education with demanding work schedule" rather than "completed so and so credit hours" but it's better than nothing.), sign up for Habitat for Humanity, volunteer for the next change of command ceremony, etc. Don't let the opportunity to excel slip away.
After you've brainstormed and come up with a suitable list of accomplishments and sorted them into the required categories, itís time to reword those bullet comments until they're as descriptive and impressive as possible. A lot of emphasis is put on writing bullet comments that fit the rating. Weíll discuss how that's done after we outline the method to make your bullets as effective as possible.
Continue to part II of Writing Strong EPR Bullets.