When I am teaching my LSAT and SAT preparation courses, inevitably I will get questions regarding how to write a personal statement or a good entrance essay. It is difficult, it seems, for people to figure out what to write about. Most of us are conditioned from a very early age to not brag about ourselves, so that when it becomes a necessity, we do not know where to start.
There are two keys to writing a good essay:
- Find the One Unique Thing About Yourself.
- Now, explain why that One Unique Thing is an important addition to the place you want to be.
I know, it sounds like I am asking you to:
- Climb a Mountain.
- Ski Down the Mountain, Blindfolded.
It is a difficult task, in some ways, and it involves some introspection. Now, why is it so difficult? Because most people will end up thinking something like: “But there isn’t anything unique or special about me.”
And, not to be blunt, but if you think that then you are wrong. There is something unique about everyone. Your experience and how you’ve been shaped by it is somehow different than the person next to you.
How is this helpful in your great search for a job? This is the same thing you have to do when you are running the job search gauntlet: figure out what makes you a unique job candidate, and sell that to the hiring manager, the interviewer, your (hopefully) future boss, and/or the person who can recommend you in for a position.
In order to help you in this quest, I am going to tell you a bit about myself – use my technique as your own. It is easy – simply start by making a bullet point list of your accomplishments and/or hobbies, or the things that really drive you.
- I have interned with the NBA Main Office in New York City and Duke Athletic Department.
- I’ve worked extensively in sports, from my time as a student manager of various teams in college, to my time with the US Tennis Association’s North Carolina office.
- I’ve got degrees from Clemson in Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management, Florida State in Educational Psychology, and Duke in Law.
- I work in contract negotiations in the field of medical research, and on the side I teach test prep courses.
- I am a stand-up comedian, as well as a certified archery instructor.
- I like giving back to the community by performing comedy at fundraisers.
So going in to an interview, if someone asks me what makes me “me” – I can tell them, succinctly, what it is and who I am, because I have taken the time to figure it out. If I have to elaborate on why I would be a good addition to their workforce, I start with one of these fundamental pieces of me, and I develop why it is a good thing for them. For example, in spending my time as a stand-up comedian, I have developed extensively the ability to think on my feet, and I have public speaking skills that cannot be beat. It would be easy for a company to see how that is useful for them.
Now, I know, this is a bit unfair – I have multiple unique things. The interesting thing is – you probably do, too! Once you take the time to clarify it a little bit, the answers and essays will start to fall into place, and, hopefully, you will feel more confident when someone asks you, “Now, why should we hire you?” They should hire you because of your One Unique Thing, and how great of an addition that would be to their workforce.