Tip 15 : What's your unique advantage?

This is a bit more nebulous, and potentially harder to work into your personal statement, but it's worth taking the time to consider what makes you uniquely suited to the job or course in question. For instance, if you have qualifications or experience in several different areas, you could use that to make yourself stand out from the crowd.

As an example of this, back before I was a full time writer, a particularly exciting IT project management role came up. I was already working as a project manager, which obviously helps, but I'd also previously worked as an IT technician, could readily demonstrate my technical expertise and had relevant qualifications in both areas. That made me something of a rarity in my industry, and I used it (alongside my writing skills) to successfully transition into this higher paying and more senior position - beating out more experienced applicants in the process.

And you can use this to put a positive spin on something that might otherwise have been seen as a negative. If you look at your CV, do you look like a bit of a 'job hopper'? Well, that means you've got a broad array of experience.

Are you applying for a senior position, but don't have much experience? Well, maybe you've got a better idea of how things work at ground level.

Switching industries? There are almost certainly some synergies between where you've come from and where you're going - Find them, and use them.

Are you applying for a course as a mature student? You can bet that you've picked up plenty of knowledge and experience that younger applicants won't have, and you can give credible reasons for applying that younger applicants won't be able to put forward.

Whatever you're applying for, chances are most of the applicants will tick off most of the requirements. If you can find one, these unique advantages are what will make you stand out from the crowd, and that's gold dust where personal statements are concerned.

Tip 16 : Where are your weak spots?

It's always worth identifying your weak spots, because if you don't do something to address them in your personal statement there's a good chance your application will be disregarded. In most cases a weak spot can be spun into a positive, so as long as you realise you have that weakness, you're halfway towards resolving it.

Whether you choose to address a weak spot or not is really just a matter of judgement. You're not being dishonest by excluding mistakes/issues that you've made in the past - In fact the only reason you ever would include them is if there was a highly beneficial learning outcome that helped you in future.

On the other hand, if the job spec demands experience in an industry, and whilst you have some it really isn't very much, you're probably going to have to address that. On the one hand, the job spec didn't specify 'x years experience', but on the other you're still going to have to demonstrate that you've got some. If you find yourself in this position, you've really got two options:

  • Sell yourself to the hilt on the experience you do have - This works very well if your experience is high quality
  • Admit that your experience is minimal... but find something else in your work/educational/personal history that could help to plug the gap - If nothing else this demonstrates that you know this is a weak spot for you, and that you still believe you're a suitable candidate

Whatever you choose to do, make sure it's a conscious decision. If you disregard this step you may still get through to the next stage, but ultimately there's a good chance that someone will call you on your weaknesses. When that happens, it's best to be prepared.

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