It might be called a "personal statement," but don't make the mistake of thinking this type of job application letter is all about you. Sure, the employer wants to know something about your personal story, but the message you're delivering still has one main purpose -- to show the employer that you have the necessary background and skills, and that you're the best person for the job.
The Opening Paragraph
The first paragraph is your chance to tell a story about your past -- but be sure the story catches the reader's attention, and gives some perspective or shows why you've chosen a certain path or how you've learned an essential skill that's also tied to the job for which you're applying. Say you love mountain biking, for example. Instead of simply introducing yourself and saying, "my hobbies including mountain biking," share an anecdote about a time when your bike broke at the top of a mountain, and how it taught you perseverance. After grabbing the reader's attention, briefly mention the job for which you're applying and where you learned about the position.
The Meat of the Statement
The body of the statement should focus on career goals and life details that have shaped you into a unique, qualified candidate. Answer any questions the employer might have asked you to answer in your statement, as well as supplying details about your qualifications and your career goals. This section can be three or four paragraphs, with each focused on a different time period or a different part of your story. You might also mention items not on your resume, such as experiences working with kids for a teaching job, for example. One paragraph might mention what you learned in college that made you choose your career, followed by a paragraph talking about your past job and how it helped shape your goals for the next step. Then mention how the job for which you're applying will help you meet those goals.
Keep your conclusion brief, while at the same time reiterating and summarizing the points you've made in the previous paragraphs. If you talked about a special hobby or a formative experience in the opening paragraph, find a way to tie it back into the conclusion. For example, you might mention how the perseverance you learned from mountain biking will continue to serve you in the new position. It's also OK to mention your overall career goals or your long-term goals in this final paragraph. Finally, sign the letter "Cordially" and include your contact information.
Finalizing the Details
After you've created your first draft, proofread and edit the letter for style and grammar, paying special attention to the opening paragraph, which needs to hook the reader. Ideally, keep the statement to one page unless otherwise instructed, so pore over each sentence and take out any repetitious or wordy statements. Unlike a cover letter, the personal statement is something you'll include with an application packet only when the employer requests it, though you might also include one when you're submitting a career portfolio for an employer to review.
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