One of the hardest things you’re ever going to write about is yourself. So, it’s no surprise that writing a personal statement is at the top of nobody’s list of favorites.
But your personal statement is important in your application because here you can express your personal side and show your individuality.
Your statement is very different from a laundry list of experience on your resume. Here is where you can make a more personal connection.
Figuring out how and where to start is usually the hardest part.
Formatting your personal statement correctly gives it a nice flow and takes your reader all the way through.
Here are some tips:
Write an outline
Before you start writing your personal statement, create a rough outline of what you want to say. This will help you organize your thoughts and get a good handle on the flow of your statement. It’s also an early opportunity to work on that first paragraph hook that will make the reader want to learn more about you.
Often, they will ask you to answer or discuss a specific question in your personal statement. Answer the actual question as you tell your story. They are asking for a reason.
Typically, a personal statement outline looks like this:
- Opening paragraph (open with a story…more on this below)
- A few paragraphs on your skills and knowledge that relate to the application—and how that benefits the company
- Your life goals and how you see this job getting you there
- Closing statement which refers back to your story and wraps it all up
Open with a story
Storytelling is always a way to engage the reader and be memorable. Think of a story that relates to how you chose your career path, inspired you or taught you something. If you’re boring, into the trash you go.
A few ideas to get you thinking:
- A teacher or sports coach at school who taught you the value of research, hard work or pushing through
- A relative that taught you a specific skill
- A movie that made you decide to follow your path
- An event in your life that impacted you, such as moving to a new city or country, even something traumatic from which you learned how to bounce back
- A famous person who inspired you to pursue your career
Open your statement with a short paragraph about how and why this changed your life, then make references to it as you write the whole document.
The middle section
Write a few paragraphs on your skills and knowledge. Be specific. Use examples that relate to the job you are applying for. Talk about why you think the company will benefit from these talents.
Show a little enthusiasm for what you do and for what THEY do. This is the place to do that.
Read our post on steps you can take to prep your experience section
Like every story, there is a beginning, middle and end. Wrap up your story by referring back to your story from the first paragraph. You could quote from the person you wrote about, something like…”What my grandmother always said…” or “ I see the challenges of politics is like moving here from China…it’s like learning a whole new culture and language.”
Pay attention to the requirements
Most application statements come with a strict set of requirements or guidelines. For example, there might be a certain font size, minimum page count or word cap (e.g. 800 words max.). This is not the place to show off your creativity.
Talk to your people about you
You may be surprised at how others see you.
Your friends and fam just might have the insight you’re looking for. Talk to them, and find out what they see as unique about you. It can be hard to come up with a list of strengths on your own because you see yourself in a different way. What they say is true: we are all our own worst critics.
They can help you find those key traits that set you apart from other applicants and even give you the confidence you need to see yourself in a more accurate, praise-worthy light.
Tell the reader exactly why you should be chosen
Even if the topic you are given to write about is a bit abstract, let the reader know why you are the right candidate for the internship position. (You know what happens when you leave things open to interpretation.) Present yourself in a positive light.
Have someone else proofread your statement
This pearl of wisdom is an oldie, but still a goodie. Ask trusted friends, family members or your mentor read over your personal statement to check for flow and grammatical mistakes.
Things like poor grammar and misspellings are a sure way to have your application thrown directly into the rejection pile.
You want to hear the best piece of advice ever? Here it is: do NOT wait until the last minute to start! You’ll totally regret it if you do. Give yourself time to revise and revise until every word on that paper is perfect.