How to write a powerful personal statement?

How to write a powerful personal statement?

Did you know that recruiters spent on average 6 seconds looking at a CV?

That’s it.

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Sorry, I know you spent hours working on it but no one will read the whole thing. 

Instead, they’ll probably just look at your personal statement and your current or most recent job. 

You need to use those 6 seconds to grab their attention and stand out from the hundreds (or thousands) of other applications.

How?

By writing a powerful personal statement!

A personal statement (AKA personal profile, career objective, opening statement, executive summary, etc..) is a short paragraph at the top of your CV. 

Think about it as your elevator pitch and opportunity to make a good first impression. 

Writing a strong introduction isn’t easy but if you get it right, you’ll be flooded with interview requests. 

First, let me give you my 4 Do’s and Don’ts:

Do:

1. Get the structure right

There are 3 parts you must include in your profile: 

  • Who you are: The first sentence of your statement is here to introduce yourself to the reader. Tell them what you do now, what project are you working on, what industry you know about, what you specialise in? Or have been if you’re not working right now. 
  • What you’re good at: This next part is about showing you’ve got what it takes to do the job. You have to understand what the job needs and talk about what you have got to offer. Not by saying you’re good at something but by referring to achievements that will demonstrate what relevant skills and experience you possess.
  • What you want: In this final part you need to talk about your career objectives. What are you looking for? What do you want and don’t want? Make sure it matches the role you’re going for. 
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2. Make it personal

Most of the statements I read are a complete waste of space, they’re generic AF and don’t tell anything about the person at all!

It is your statement and needs to talk about you. 

If what you write can virtually apply to everyone, don’t write it. 

3. Tailor it to your application

It’s not a cover letter and you’re not expected to mention the company or exact job title. 

But you need to make sure the skills and experience you highlight and your career goals are aligned to what job you’re applying for. 

4. Aim for perfection

It is the first, and maybe only, thing the hiring manager will read on your CV. 

Check your spelling and grammar, make sure your sentences flow well, format it in the same way as the rest of your resume….

Any little mistake will stand out and can get you disqualified.

You have to get it right! 

Don’t

1. Talk too much

I know it’s tempting to cram a lot of information in your profile but you’ll only end up with something that’s hard to read and too cluttered. 

Make those 6 seconds count and put a limit to how much you say.

Anything else can be detailed in the body of your CV or cover letter. 

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2. Go on a tangent

Your opening statement needs to be clear and to the point. 

It’s here to talk about you at work. 

There’s no need to include personal information or give your life story.

3. Be too generic

Of course you are a trustworthy and reliable individual, who can work independently but also as part of a team… but everyone else is too! 

Those adjectives are meaningless in an opening statement and, even worse, contradict themselves when you’re trying to cover all bases.

If you’re applying for similar roles, your statement should work but you’ll need to tweak what you say if you are targeting completely different roles. 

4. Sound pretentious

Talking about yourself in your profile needs to be consistent with the rest of your CV. 

Use ‘I’ or the 3rd person but do not write your executive summary as if someone else was talking about you.

Who wrote the statement? You or someone else?

  • I am a project manager with …I am looking for…
  • A project manager with…. Looking for…
  • NOT: Helen is a project manager with… She is looking for…

Overusing buzzwords and flattering adjectives is also going to make you sound like an idiot. 

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Instead, stick to specific skills and keywords taken from the job advert.

Sounds tricky? 

Let me give you some examples:

It’s not that bad, I promise.

Here are a few examples to get you started.

Ambitious young grad

I am a recent graduate with a 2:1 Bachelor of Laws (LLB), specialised in employment law. I have recently completed an internship in Human Resources Administration where I have successfully updated all employment contracts to comply with new legislation. My career goal is to enhance my knowledge of employment law and I am now looking for a role in the legal or human resources department for a market-leading company. 

Career changer 

Experienced estate agent with a track record of leading complex sales to completion. Recognised as the top biller in my agency for 3 consecutive years, thanks to my excellent negotiation skills and ability to develop strong client relationships. Looking to make use of my sales experience to secure a role as a Business Development Manager in a new industry. 

Looking for a part time job

I am an office manager with over 10 years experience in the Financial Services industry. 

I am currently responsible for all Covid-19 adjustments for my company, ensuring our facilities are safe for our employees and visitors and coordinating the transfer of equipment to staff’s homes to support the running of our operation. My objective is to bring my expertise in looking after the smooth running of an office to a business requiring a part-time Office Manager.

Career breaker

An experienced and passionate secondary school teacher, specialised French and Spanish, currently on a career break to look after my family. Kept up to date with teaching during my time away from work by volunteering to teach languages for a local charity and tutored a student on a weekly basis. Now looking to resume my career on a full-time basis.

Recently unemployed

I am an experienced team manager in the food and beverage industry and have been managing one of the busiest restaurants in the region. I have been responsible for the day to day running of the operation, driving profit and sales, and delivering outstanding customer service by recruiting, training and inspiring staff. Currently out of work due to the company downsizing as a result of Covid-19, I am available immediately for a Store Manager opportunity in the retail industry.

Is Covid19 your opportunity to pivot your career?

Is Covid19 your opportunity to pivot your career?

Are you about to lose your job because of Covid19?

Right now, the Coronavirus health crisis is putting a lot of jobs at risk. Some governments are offering furlough schemes to support businesses and avoid redundancies but there’s no doubt that, when it all ends, some companies will have to lay off part of their workforce. And if you haven’t already, you’re likely to be impacted in some way.

It doesn’t matter if it’s your first job, if you’ve only just returned from maternity leave, or if you’re over 50. Losing your job will be devastating but you’ll eventually have to find work again. And you can find a new one if you have the right mindset!

Let’s talk about companies for a second. Some have been lucky and have thrived in the past few months. But the rest of them have had a tough time keeping their business afloat during lockdown. Those who will make it through this crisis are those who have changed their strategy. Remember the bakeries who started delivering bread and selling flour, manufacturers who made masks, PPE and even ventilators, fitness companies who moved their workouts online… They have too been victims of this crisis but instead of doing nothing, they have used it as an opportunity to try new ideas to adapt and survive.

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You too, have the choice between doing nothing or pivoting your career.

Doing nothing is not an option, so here’s how to change your career path:

Go fast

Some industries are really suffering from this crisis but others are booming and are urgently looking for new talent. And guess what, you’re available right now!

If you’ve lost your job, chances are you won’t be able to find a similar job in the same sector so easily. 

But here are some jobs and industries for you to target:

Companies that keep us alive

  • Health & Social care
  • Pharmacies
  • Supermarket
  • Food production

Companies that keep us at home

  • Ecommerce
  • Warehouse and delivery
  • Technology
  • Call centres

Even if it’s not your ideal career, you can find a job in a different field or industry to keep you going while you look for your dream job.

Go Big

If you can afford to take your time, now might be the perfect for a change of career path.

Have you always wanted to do something different? 

What stopped you? 

  • I would earn less money
  • I don’t want to leave my colleagues
  • I’m over 50
  • I’ve studied for my job, it would be a waste 
  • I’m scared of failing, it’s too risky
  • I have no relevant experience to get this job

Those were (kind of) valid excuses when you had a job but now you’ve been kicked out of your comfort zone, there’s nothing stopping you from trying something different.

  1. Be clear on what you want to do. Be realistic tho, is your dream job really a good fit? Do your research about what the work involves and reach out to people in this field to ask for their advice. 
  2. Understand what skills you need. Hard skills are anything you can learn through training (degree, experience on a specific software, language, etc.) while soft skills are related to the way you interact with people (teamwork, problem solving, communication, etc.). 
  3. Get the hard skills. There’s no secret, if you want to be a nurse, you’ll need a nursing qualification. Invest time and effort in getting the technical skills you need.
  4. Transfer the soft skills: You already possess some of the personal attributes needed for the job, you just need to show they can apply to your next job too. 

Whatever option you choose, when you change industry or career, you’ll have to connect your experience so far with the skills that are needed for your next role. 

OK, but how to do that if you have no experience in this industry or job?

The idea is to use ‘Transferable Skills’.

Transferable skills are interpersonal skills that can be applied to a wide range of careers or industries. They’re the best way to show you’re a great fit for the role, regardless of your previous experience.

You learn and develop those skills at work, but also outside of it, at school, in sport and even at home. 

To get started, you’ll need to find out what soft skills are needed for the job. Read some job descriptions for your ideal role and notice what words keep coming up in the requirements. 

But saying you have those skills isn’t good enough, you need to demonstrate how you’ve used them until now in your CV, application and during the interview process. 

Here are some examples to get you started:

Don’t saySay
TeamworkI worked collaboratively with the training team to deliver a new induction programme
Problem solvingI successfully introduced a new way of dealing with customer complaints
CommunicationI created monthly reports and delivered presentations at the quarterly management meetings
LeadershipI have been the team captain of my local netball team for the past 5 years
OrganisationI coordinated the school fair with parents, local businesses and the council and raised more than £1000 to refurbish the library

When you display the right behaviours you’re also showing you have potential to do a great job, regardless of what training you need. Remember that!

This Coronavirus crisis might mean that you’ll be on furlough for the next few months, or will be made redundant but you can still find a job you love. And if you want to try something different now is your chance to do it!

So I’ll say it again for good measure: Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!!

Are you ready to go back to work?

Are you ready to go back to work?

As lockdown is being more relaxed and we’re urged to return to work you might have found yourself called back into work, whether from the office or home. How did this make you feel? Were you ready for it? Or maybe you are still off and getting anxious about how you’ll cope when you go back?

It hasn’t been easy adapting to life in lockdown but you’ve made it work. You’ve finally settled into your new routine and maybe are starting to enjoy it. You’ve had breakfast with your kids for the past two months, perfected your tan and are finally have time to practice yoga every day But it’s all about to change again and you need to prepare yourself to go back to work at some point. 

No one knows what work is going to look like when we’re fully out of lockdown, will we all continue to work from home where we can, or will employers be desperate to get everyone back in. Will we still be able to grab a coffee with a colleague and sit together in meetings or will we all be sitting in cubicles surrounded by plexiglass? Only time will tell and rather than speculating and getting yourself worked up about what it may or may not look like, you need to take this time to reflect about whether you want to go back to your job, regardless of where you’ll be working from. 

You need to consider everything that is certain about your job so you can evaluate if it makes you happy. 

Some of the things to reflect on are:

  • your actual job: do you like what you do day in day out?
  • your employer: are you proud to work for your company?
  • your team: do you enjoy working with your manager, colleague, own team?
  • your pay and benefits: do you feel fairly rewarded for the work you do?
  • your work life balance: even if things have been different for the past few month, were you given space to live your own life or did you become available for work 24/7?

Things will change, only time will tell if your employer is going to recover from this crisis, if your boss will leave, if you’ll be working from home permanently or be made redundant in a few months. But it doesn’t mean you should delay doing something about it if your job is making you feel like shit. 

You have to deal with the facts that are in front of you right now. If you keep hoping and waiting for something to change, you’ll be there for the rest of your life. 

Take action now and get yourself ready to become employable again. Think about your dream job, take a course, update your CV. Whatever floats your boat…

What I don’t want you to do is to go back to the same job, feeling like you’ve waisted an opportunity to change your life. 

What are you doing with your time right now?

What are you doing with your time right now?

Are you reading this, slouched on your sofa still in your PJs after having scrolled through all your social media feeds twice before breakfast? Have you even brushed your teeth today?? Or are you just having a learning break after your morning routine of meditation, baking banana bread, window cleaning and crafting with the kids?

However you’re spending your time, you’ve got to make the most of it to do stuff you can’t normally do. Now is absolutely the time to tidy up the loft, train for a (Netflix) marathon, master sourdough, dye your hair pink (or shave it all off). But it’s also great opportunity to think about your career and whether you’re in a job you love.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the ideal to quit and go full-time job hunting but, while you are stuck here, looking after yourself and your home, you need to dedicate some of your free time to pamper your CV too.

If you look up ‘CV template’ you’ll find thousands of great (and not so great) templates to get you started. You’ll spend some time finding a great looking one page CVs and once you start copying and pasting your own experience into it, you’ll undoubtedly mess up the formatting, making it looking worse than it did before, and just give up having wasted two precious hours of ‘me time’.

Just don’t! Start from a blank page, figure out what you want to say and then you can make it look pretty.

WHAT?

The WHAT is the raw content, the facts if you prefer. 

Here’s what you want to talk about:

  • Who you are (your personal statement) and how to get in touch
  • Your jobs (dates of employment, job titles, responsibilities and achievements)
  • Your education (keep it relevant, no need to go back to primary school)
  • Other stuff that makes you stand out (languages, skills, certifications, etc.)

Forget the look of it, forget the headings. Just make sure what you say is what you want to say. 

HOW?

Then there’s the HOW, how you can make the WHAT look good.

First, focus on the way you talk about yourself, how you structure your sentences. Are you more a ‘I did this and also that’ or a ‘Responsible for: – this – that’ kind of person? There’s no right or wrong, just make sure your tone is consistent through your CV and aligned to how you normally write or speak (that being said, I don’t swear as much on my CV – top tip here!)

Now, let’s talk about spelling… I haven’t joined the Facebook Grammar Police (yet) but nothing makes me cringe more than a spelling mistake on a CV of someone who lists ‘attention to detail’ as one of their key skills. Just ask someone who’s fairly good at spelling to have a look at your CV before you start firing it out.

And finally, we move onto my favourite part: formatting! Did you know that, on average, a recruiter will look at a CV for 6 seconds? First impressions count and how your CV looks will definitely play its part. Go back to your search and find a template you like and can realistically use. If you’re not great on a computer, opt for something simple and make use of different fonts or colours rather than invisible tables and fancy graphs to describe your skills. Whatever you go for, it must look harmonious, with all your dates in the same format, your bullet points aligned, fonts, styles, colours and spacing consistent from start to finish. When you’re done, zoom out so you look at the overall picture. Does it look right?

In the current climate (and, in my opinion, all the time), we can’t be 100% sure what will happen to our job or when we’ll have enough of it, so it’s better to be ahead of the game and always ready to apply for a new one.

You might not be using your new CV for a while or at all. Good for you! But if and when you decide it’s time to move on, you’ll just have to bring it up to date and voila! Job done.