Personal statements count
Getting to grips with how to write a personal statement means really understanding your audience. This might require you to change your statement for every job application. When composing a personal statement remember to:
- Be brief. Personal statements that ramble on or are too wordy tend to be a turn off for employers even if the rest of your CV is ideal. Keep it to two paragraphs at the most and try to limit each of these to two or three concise sentences.
- Keep it relevant. A personal statement about your great passion for the outdoors is superb if you are applying for the position of a park ranger, but not if you are going for an office-based job. Anything you say should be suited to the employment opportunity in question.
- Stay consistent. Don't state anything that cannot be backed up by what comes later in your CV. This includes things like saying you are skilled with customer service when your work history has never been customer facing or claiming to be hard working if you have been sacked for absenteeism.
- Avoid clichés. Don't follow the pack by saying you are 'a team player' or 'diligent'. It is better to give personal examples of such things rather than make unsubstantiated claims about yourself.
- Sell yourself. Think about what an advertising executive would say about your skills and how they relate to what the potential employer needs. Draw out the most important parts of your individual blend of aptitudes so that you stand out as a good candidate to call to interview.
- Explain gaps. If there is a glaring gap in your CV, then a personal statement is a good place to put it into context. If you have been out of work or on a long-term break from the workplace, then put a positive spin on it by focussing on things you might have done like retraining or voluntary work.
- Identify yourself. If your CV name is not the one you commonly use, then make this clear in your personal statement. When referring to yourself, use the first person “I” pronoun and don't mix this up with third person sentence structures.
- Check it over. Reading your personal statement aloud will help you to pick out syntax errors and problems with flow. Finally, you also need to ensure there are no spelling mistakes or typographical errors.
Knowing how to write a personal statement for a CV well ought to help you get shortlisted for an interview, but it can't do the job on its own. Focus on the rest of your CV just as fully and you will be better placed to land the job you are seeking.
"Fashion is not simply a matter of clothes; fashion is in the air, born upon the wind; one intuits it." That's a quote from Coco Chanel – and it's how not to start a personal statement for a fashion degree.
When applying for a university fashion course, your personal statement won't even be read though if your portfolio is not good enough.
Willie Walters, programme director for fashion at Central St Martins, said the personal statement is "secondary" to portfolio work.
"I don't even read the statements unless the work looks interesting," she says.
Walters advises applicants to make their portfolio work as clear as possible, and to include research and sketchbook work, as well as photographs of design pieces. "We look for originality and something fresh."
When it comes to the written statement, saying you have a "passion for fashion" is an immediate no-no, says Josephine Collins, course leader for fashion journalism at the London College of Fashion.
"It's easy to do and sounds great but we've seen it so many times before," she warns. Similarly, admissions tutors cringe when confronted with yet another tired quote from a fashion icon.
Fashion related courses are notoriously competitive, so avoiding clichés is an important way to make your application stand out, says Andrew Groves, course director for fashion design at the University of Westminster.
"Put yourself in my shoes," says Groves, who reads over 1,000 personal statements each year. "How would you make yours different from all those other applications?"
Although mentioning your favourite designer is a good idea, you should think carefully about who you cite, says Mal Burkinshaw, programme director of fashion at Edinburgh University.
"We always have the same designers quoted. Every now and then someone says they are interested in a more conceptual designer and it makes them stand out. You can tell they are engaging more deeply."
Evidence of engagement with fashion is essential, agree tutors, but make sure you are thinking about it as a serious industry.
"Fashion is the third largest industry in the UK," says Jane Gottelier, programme leader of the fashion department at Falmouth University.
"I steer clear of students who talk mainly about celebrity fashion and TV programmes in their personal statements because it makes me think that they see fashion as something rather fluffy," she says.
As well as explaining why you want to study fashion and listing any relevant work experience, it's also important to show interests outside of fashion, say tutors.
"Some of our fashion courses are really business-orientated," says Liz Barnes, senior lecturer in fashion at Manchester University, "so demonstrating a commercial mind is key."
Outside interests show an engagement with general society that is important for a fashion student, and key to fashion admissions tutors.
It's important to be up to date on current news, to prove an academic interest and to show curiosity about the world and an inquisitive mind. If you have an unusual hobby don't be afraid to mention it as it might help yourself get noticed.
"I've had ice skaters, an Olympic-standard gymnast and stick insect collectors," says Anne Chaisty, principal lecturer in fashion studies at the Arts University Bournemouth.
Fashion may be portrayed as a cut-throat industry, but people who are interested in giving something back interest Chaisty.
"We look for students who want to make a positive difference through what they do as a designer," she says.
Accuracy and a good flow are things all tutors agree on when it comes to a good personal statement, but Barnes says you should also be in tune with the specifics of your course.
"There are lots of courses that are called fashion marketing, for example, but the content of those courses will vary enormously," Barnes explained.
"Understand the course you are applying for and tailor the personal statement to match."
For courses where a portfolio carries a heavier weighting than the personal statement, it is still important to express personality in your written statement.
Tutors say individuality and character are perhaps the most important things to convey.
"Don't contrive something for the sake of it," advises Chaisty, "just be honest, be natural and be yourself."
Just don't quote Coco Chanel.
This article was amended on 19 September to correct an error, changing Willie Walters' job title from course leader to programme director of fashion at Central St Martin's.