Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Where is December going! It feels like we are plummeting past Christmas and headlong into the New Year much too fast. The brakes have failed and all that is left to do is grab the handbrake, yank the wheel and drift sideways into 2019 in style with a glass of wine in one hand and a box of chocolates in the other. 

I planned on doing just that, bursting into 2019 in a very stylish manner was officially my plan. So, I happened to mention to my family that I would be taking a little down-time over the festive period. No work, just personal projects, to prepare myself for the very best start possible to a New Year. 

Inevitably, the minute you declare yourself a work-free zone your family members start to claim pockets of your ‘free’ time for things you can help them with or do for them. No, it is not just you, I am a sucker for this as well. Before I knew it, I had promised my daughter that we will spend some time revamping her CV and writing her personal statement ready for when the New Year rolls around and she starts applying for a new job. Sigh. Still, it’s nice to be asked, right! She must think I have some knowledge worth listening to, I will take that as a parenting win.

I wasn’t too concerned by the revamping of the CV part of the request; she is an avid Pinterest user, so I was pretty sure she had the design aspect nailed. It was the personal statement side of things where she was probably hoping for a little more guidance, everyone struggles to write about themselves. 

I was jotting down some basic thoughts on how I would approach it when, in a moment of inspiration, I remembered that back when I was a teenager, my school had made us write a statement as part of our careers week.

This was before the internet was really a ‘thing’ so our job application process involved walking into shops and asking for an application form. You took that to the nearest bench, quickly filled it in, then went back to the shop and handed it to one of the shop assistants, hoping that they would pass it on to the manager. 

The personal statement was supposed to be one of the key factors in this process, the unwritten rule was that the shop assistant would read the statement and they would decide from that if you were someone they wanted to pass on.

I thought perhaps the statement I wrote back then would provide some useful info or even an approach that we had not considered. I knew there had to be a copy of it somewhere. My loft is like a museum for the days gone by, all of my old school books that my mum had lovingly treasured (hoarded!) and passed over to me when I left home are in there.

I was squatting precariously on one of the beams in the loft flipping through the books by the light of my mobile phone, enjoying the memories and the feelings of nostalgia, when I found it in all of its glory, the personal statement of Caree R Hunter.

“I like to read books, I love to write, and I am a good team player because I like sports” 

Oh dear, young Caree was not in any danger of getting hired with that nugget of wisdom was she. Was that really all I could come up with? I sincerely remember being much cooler than that at the time. I was a teenager, I knew everything! Or at least, I thought I did.

I resolved to hide that book at the bottom of the pile and forget it exists, no-one else needed to know how uninspired I was as a teen. It was time to switch back to plan A and finish the notes I started before my loft excursion.

The personal statement goes into the scary white box that is on every application, you know the one without any lines in it, so your handwriting is always going diagonally across the page at a jaunty angle no matter how hard you try to write it straight, yep that one. Online applications are a dream come true, even if it is just for this reason.

The statement is always the bit you leave until last, but by the time you come to it you have had enough, you are flustered from remembering the dates you started and left your first job and stressed out from having to admit to your less than exemplar exam results.

We have all been there and if my school effort proves anything, it is that we all end up doing the same thing, writing a short paragraph that could not only describe you but also your nan, your brother and Dave from next door.

The truth is, a personal statement is more often than not, anything but personal, it is generic, and yawn… boring. 

You can’t really write honestly and say that in your spare time you enjoy sleeping, eating and watching Netflix boxsets. That you hate cheese and a pint of cider goes down a treat. But then you also can’t stretch the truth and say that you spend your evenings and weekends volunteering at animal shelters and studying astrophysics for fun.

The only thing you can do is make the personal statement, personal.

 Before you get the wrong idea and create something more suited to a Tinder profile, I am not saying be really up close and personal. That could get a little awkward in the tea room if you do get the job, some things are best left to the imagination after all.

I mean, make it more unique than personal. Yes, unique is probably a better word to use, let's roll with that.

So, in this unique statement you can be a little bit more creative than just ‘I am a good team player who likes to get to work on time’. You have the chance to show people who you are and what is important to you.

You could use the space to affirm who you strive to be, to detail what you would like to achieve, or perhaps even what you have learned from your past endeavours and how you will use it to inform your future.

If you are concerned that there is a gap in your employment, then perhaps use the space to explain what you were doing in that time and what you learnt from it.

You could say how you aspire to progress your learning. Or even talk about how the bigger picture looks for you, are you on the road to climb the corporate ladder, do you aspire to be a manager some day? 

Be careful here that you do not say that this job is just a stop gap to greater things and that you are waiting for your dream job to land in your lap, no employer likes to hear that. Instead focus on why you feel this role is an important step in your journey.

A great idea would be to use a profound quote from someone you admire, or a passage from your favourite book. If you take the time to explain why it is important to you, how it shapes your behaviour or the way you see the world then you are creating personal statement gold dust.

Wish me luck as I try to draw something creative and aspirational from my daughter over Christmas for her statement. If you have a go at this then do send me what you come up with, I would love to show her some examples.