Personal Statement: 5 Tips on Writing About Work Experience
Work experience is an essential component of your personal statement.
Whether you worked every Saturday at your local nursing home or spent two weeks in an operating theatre, you’d be surprised how much you’ve actually learnt – and how relevant it is to medical school, and how poorly communicated it is by students on their statements. So – let’s sort it out!Get your Personal Statement reviewed by an expert
1. Figure out what you learned
Write out what you learnt from your experience before you try and sculpt it into something for your statement. Don’t be afraid to be off the wall with what you learnt, either – everyone can write essays on kindness and compassion because of that one time they saw a staff member smile or hold someone’s hand, but not everyone will be able to realise that teamwork is more than just being civil to your colleagues.
Yes, there are buzzwords that every medical school looks for, but you can get them in without making your statement appear exactly the same as everyone else’s. Perhaps you saw a doctor make a mistake that was then corrected by a nurse, because everyone has the patient’s best interests at heart. Perhaps it was a consultant taking the time to make sure that their junior doctors were coping with the workload – and maybe it was as simple as someone knowing the tea and coffee orders for the team. Try not to fit your experience into the standard template of ‘I did x time at y place and it showed me xyz skills.’
2. Be concise
You only have 4000 characters for your statement and everyone has to have some form of work experience, so don’t just chuck it in there to show you did it and don’t make the whole first page about every single detail of that one patient you saw. Think of your personal statement as a taster, a flavour of who you are – give them enough to ask you about at interview, but not so much there’s nothing to ask.
3. Show them what you learnt, not what you did
You could have spent a year working as a healthcare assistant but not made any effort to seek out further opportunities; you could have watched a surgeon’s back for two weeks as he made incisions so small you couldn’t see them.
You don’t have to tell them every fact you learnt (that’s what they’re there to teach you!), but an understanding of medicine and what it involves is crucial. Universities don’t want to take on students that think all of medicine is sitting in a clinic, because they’ll lose them when that student is shocked that they have to spend hours a week on a ward round.
Medical schools know what you did – tell them what it showed you. Prove to them that if you spent three years on the ward training at their medical school, you’ll take on what you need to become a safe, caring and effective doctor.
4. Don’t worry if your experience doesn’t seem as elaborate as everyone else’s
Some people will have spent thousands of pounds on experience abroad and will have seen amazing things, but it means nothing if you didn’t learn anything from it.
If you spent two days on a ward but really got stuck in and asked questions, spoke to loads of members of the team and really felt like you understood what was going on, that’s what matters. There are medical students and doctors that before medical school had no experience of medicine beyond themselves or family members being admitted to hospital.
5. Don’t lie!
Work experience is one of the most common questions asked at interview as it’s a really good way of testing your understanding of the career and the day-to-day realities of practice, as well as determining your independence and willingness to get stuck in. It’s crystal clear when someone is lying about the experience they have and you will be caught out.
It can be tempting to make your experience seem like you completely understand medicine in its entirety – but they’re not expecting that and nor do they want it! No matter what experience you have, if you’re honest about it and can show that you understand what that experience meant in terms of choosing medicine as a career, you’ll be fine.
Words: Katie Hodgkinson
by Michael Cheary
OK, so putting a personal statement together is never easy…
But even if you’ve written one before, how you write a personal statement will always depend on your current situation. In other words, what you write as a school leaver will look a lot different to someone who has many years of previous work experience.
To help you find the right one for you, here are some real personal statement examples – and how you can use them to make your CV stand out:
Free CV Template
Download Free CV Template
University personal statement
First things first: personal statements aren’t just for your CV.
They’re also a key part of the UCAS application process, and a way to sell yourself to prospective universities. However, they will be much more detailed – and longer – than the one you write for a job application.
We’ve covered everything you need to know about personal statements for university here.
School leaver personal statement example
All personal statements should be tailored to the role in question. No exceptions.
Start by answering the following three questions: Why do you want to work in this industry? What skills make you right for the role (hint: use the job description)? And where do you want to go in your career?
However, school leavers should always focus on the latter – and what you can bring to the business, as well as focusing on the knowledge and skills gained through education, rather than employment history. Soft skills are also a great place to start.
A highly motivated and hardworking individual, who has recently completed their A-Levels, achieving excellent grades in both Maths and Science. Seeking an apprenticeship in the engineering industry to build upon a keen scientific interest and start a career as a maintenance engineer. Eventual career goal is to become a fully-qualified and experienced maintenance or electrical engineer, with the longer-term aspiration of moving into project management.
School leaver CV template
Graduate personal statement example
Similar to a school leaver personal statement, but with extra attention paid to specific things you’ve studied during higher education.
Once again, try and explain why you’re applying and where you’d like to go in your career, as well as the specific skills or knowledge you can offer. But try and drop in a few more details on your degree (projected grades are fine), as well as particular modules that have inspired you to work in this profession – if possible.
And remember: a personal statement written for a CV differs greatly from one written for a university application. If you haven’t written one before, you should start by reading our tips on how to write a personal statement.
A recent business economics graduate with a 2:1 honours degree from the University of X, looking to secure a Graduate Commercial Analyst position to use and further develop my analytical skills and knowledge in a practical and fast-paced environment. My career goal is to assume a role which allows me to take responsibility for the analysis and interpretation of commercial data for a well-respected and market-leading leading company.
Graduate CV template
Unemployed/redundancy personal statement example
Dealing with redundancy is never easy. But when dealt with in the right way, it needn’t be a hindrance when making applications.
Put the main focus on your employment history, and provide further information for your break in your cover letter. You don’t even necessarily need to mention it again, if you’ve already explained it elsewhere.
Remember, your personal statement is intended to sell yourself. So emphasise your positives rather than apologising for a negative.
Driven Retail Manager with over ten years’ experience in the fashion industry. Proven track record of success, including managing the top performing store in the region, and having the lowest staff turnover rate of all UK outlets. Currently out of work due to company closure, looking for the right opportunity to bring my expertise to a well-established fashion brand in an upper management position.
How to: Deal with redundancy
Redundancy CV template
Career break personal statement example
There are many good reasons someone may need to take a career break.
Some possible examples could include parental leave, caring for a family member, plans to travel or long-term illness. However, whatever the reason for your own break, it’s never something you should feel the need to justify to a prospective employer.
In fact, knowing how to explain a gap in your CV is mostly about confidence. So leave any extra explanation for your cover letter and focus your personal statement on your career before the break – and any skills learned during your time off which may be applicable to the role.
A highly motivated and experienced PA, currently looking to resume my professional career after dedicating the last five years to raising a family. Excellent admin skills, thorough knowledge of all Microsoft Office programs, as well as proficiency in minute-taking and extensive experience liaising with clients. After volunteering for one day a week with a local charity to refresh my skills, now fully committed to continuing my career on a full-time basis.
Career break CV template
Career change personal statement example
If you’re changing industry completely, think about any transferable skills and applicable to the sector you’re moving into.
Any numbers you can give to demonstrate your success could be crucial – even if you’re moving into an area where your expertise may seem slightly different. So always aim to back up your claims with real examples.
Focus on one or two achievements, demonstrate the impact they had, and you’ll instantly start adding value to your application.
As an experienced sales manager, my tenacious and proactive approach resulted in numerous important contract wins. My excellent networking skills have provided my team with vital client leads, and my ability to develop client relationships has resulted in an 18% increase in business renewals for my current organisation. After eight years in sales, currently seeking a new challenge which will utilise my meticulous attention to detail, and friendly, professional manner.
Changing careers: What you need to know
Career change CV template
If you’re still not sure of what to write, don’t panic.
Crafting a winning personal statement will take time, especially if you haven’t written one before. Use these examples as a loose structure to follow, and you’ll be able to add to them as your experience grows.
And remember: you should always aim to edit your personal statement for each role you apply for. That way, you can ensure you’re really selling yourself to their role, rather than simply sending the same generic statement for each application.
It should only take a few more minutes to complete. But if it’s enough to attract an employers interest, it will be time well spent in the long run.
How to write a personal statement
Personal statement dos and don’ts
Read more CV help & tips
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