Tip 13 : What have you got?

Now it's time to wrack your brains. Write down a list of achievements and examples from your past work, education or personal life that could serve to prove you have what they are looking for. Don't worry about matching them against criteria yet, there's more work to be done before we get to that stage.

Dig out your CV, remember all those small victories and problems solved in previous jobs. Think long and hard about your achievements, setbacks and learning experiences - You never know what might work.

This process will take time. In fact, if the job spec is lengthy, or you have a long and varied career/educational history, the planning process will nearly always take longer than actually writing your personal statement.

But don't lose faith - This is perhaps the single most important aspect of your statement plan, and if you do it well you'll make the writing process much, much easier.

Tip 14 : Why do you want the job/position/placement?

Don't put your pen away yet.

This might seem simple to answer, but it really isn't. Why exactly do you want this position?

Is it your dream job? Career advancement? Vital education?

If you really are applying for your dream job, you'll have loads to work with here. Fill a page with all the reasons you can't wait to get started, and tick this off as a job well done. But if, as is more likely, this is a stepping-stone towards your dream job, you'll have to work a bit harder.

You see, employers and course leaders aren't really interested in helping you out. They want someone who'll go the extra mile to do a good job. And at this stage, employers want stand out candidates and universities are primarily interested in selecting candidates who'll work hard and get good grades, or perhaps help their football team to win this year.

If you want to be the successful applicant, it's a good idea to come up with at least one solid reason (other than career advancement - let's not rub their faces in the fact that you plan to leave once you've achieved your objectives) why you want the position.

And the answer could seem pretty simple. If you want to study medicine, chances are you want to be a doctor, and there's only one way to do that. But that doesn't really help you, because now your reason for wanting to get on the course is the same as everybody else's.

So what is a good reason?

Well, that's for you to decide I'm afraid. The simplest way to find it is to go through the job spec and pick out at least one aspect of the job or course that is truly exciting for you. If there isn't one, and the position is truly is vital to your career advancement, try to get excited about it - You only need to sustain that excitement for the duration of writing your personal statement.

Bear in mind, though, that you're going to be in this position for a while, so if there truly isn't a single aspect of the position that you can get excited about, I'd strongly recommend you reconsider. There are usually other ways to go, and I hate to see people making themselves miserable in positions they're unsuited for, purely because they think (or sometimes just hope) that it'll help them in the long run.

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