Hi Nicola, I am currently studying at University and I have been asked to write a personal statement for a work placement as part of my course – I have no idea where to start as my original personal statement to get on my course reads like a biography, help!!!
Hi Steve, Many thanks for your question. First of all it is great to hear universities are actively encouraging work experience placements for students, I cannot think of a better way to gain some relevant work experience whilst you are studying and this will certainly help you once you have graduated and are looking to start work.
The importance of such placements does bring some pressure to make sure you can piqué interest with the best employers in your field to ensure a worthwhile placement, reassuring them you can do the job albeit in a junior capacity will make the difference between being actually picked for the role and also the duties that you will incur on the placement. You don’t want to be brewing up and making photocopies there right!
To start I suggest you talk a little about yourself in a work capacity, how you ended up taking the course and how you have utilised your skills so far. Use examples of putting the theory into practice whether it has been in paid work or for family and friends. Make sure you research the employer to understand what their USP (Unique Selling Point) is and match up your abilities and skills in this area. Then you should look to introduce what skills you have gained on the course and how you wish to progress in your specialist niche. Make sure you keep referring to particular projects the employer has worked on and start to introduce specific skill-sets; it is also good to touch upon the software you may have been using and your general ability to pick up new software packages. As this is a personal statement I also recommend you talk about why it would mean so much for you personally if you were picked for the placement, don’t go over the top with compliments to them but get a balance of your respect for their work and genuinely why you want to work there. Conclude with a paragraph about how you see your career progression once you have graduated and gaining specific work experience will assist you in reaching your goals.
I am assuming you will be submitting your CV with your personal statement, therefore let the CV be the formal part of the application and allow a more personal feel to the statement itself. Good luck!
There’s always a lot of talk about skill-sets and particularly transferable skills; however if you want to transfer your career into the project management field then it is important to highlight the right skills which will be of greatest benefit to you and your potential employer. Now we all know there are differing types of project management roles from support through to managing and there are also more technical PM roles too – not just IT, they may be construction / engineering etc where you need to have a good knowledge of the field as well as PM methods to be successful in delivering benefits. So I am going to cover some key transferable skills for the PM aspect not any specific industry based element, here are a few to consider:
- Investigating – Researching and questioning why? Key components to any good PM professional, being able to push back with quantifiable evidence is required even more now that funding is tight and projects benefits really do need to be explored thoroughly before starting off another project.
- Planning – Planning / scheduling projects, predicting outcomes / scenarios, organising events and preparing for tasks – it’s a must!
- Leadership – Core requirement for any good Project Manager and comes in very handy for Programme Support professionals too.
- Influencing – The ability to gain buy-in is a big requirement for PM professionals, whether it’s from senior management, external (or internal stakeholders), sponsors or suppliers – you need to be able to persuade and encourage others.
- Teamwork – Proving you can bond with others and build a strong force which produces results is key to successful project delivery.
- Problem solving – Taking different viewpoints and exploring solutions is a big part of PM, from understanding workstream leads other commitments to supplier issues.
- Budgeting – At some point you with be either managing your own budget or monitoring budgets on projects in a support element.
- Decision making – The ability to look at your options and actually pick a way forward is crucial especially in a critical situation.
- Training – Working with others either as a manager (PM) to mentor and train people in the project team or as a support person (PMO) to train others in various aspects of the project lifecycle such as risk management etc through workshops and 1 2 1 engagement.
- Organising – From coordinating teams and individuals, arranging meetings and resources to scheduling.
- Time management – Meeting deadlines and setting priorities are the core factors of project management and being on time is a given.
- Creating – Not always highlighted as a core skill for PMs but in my experience of delivering projects, inventing, originating, designing or composing play a big part to success.
Now you can use this as a starting guide to performing a skills audit – once you have a list of transferable skills, you then need to provide some good examples of each skill (where you have used them / how / outcomes etc). These will help you form a basis for applications to project management jobs.
I am often approached by business owners who confess they have never needed a CV or not needed one for so many years that they wouldn’t know where to begin – there have been a few who have decided to go into contracting or permanent roles due to a number of reasons and are stuck for what to do. Whenever anyone sits down to write their first CV it is a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be – take it step by step. First of all I would like to point you to a blog article which takes you through the basics of structuring your CV and gathering information.
Now I would like to talk you through a skills audit – basically it is a process which will help you identify your current skills and any gaps which may need addressing for future roles.
- 1. Identify existing skills and knowledge – make a list of all the skills and knowledge you feel is important in your current role. Make sure you identify your key job description – looking online at example job descriptions can help with this, and then take a look at all the extras you are involved in such as marketing, finance, business development and other key areas to running a successful business.
- 2. Skills required for your next role – research the job descriptions and adverts for roles which you feel you are best suited for and list down the key requirements next to your existing list.
- 3. Compare – how well do your current skills match up to those required for the job you wish to apply for? Tick off the list on all areas covered and look to the additional skills required to see if in fact you have missed any from your own list.
Once you have a strong list of key required skills you are at a fantastic starting point for adding detail to the structure of your CV. Remember to flesh out the skills by contextualising them in bullet points which should average approx 2 lines. By adding detail rather than just skills keywords you are qualifying your competences and making your CV about you – not just a lot of keywords; exactly what the hiring manager wants to see.
Using this information as a guide and the link to structuring CVs you will soon have a professional document which can really harvest results and also inject some confidence back into yourself moving forward. Also identifying sills gaps will assist you in making a decision on training to ensure you are up to date with required skills in the marketplace today.
Following on from our guest blog on Wednesday which addresses managing your workload at Uni – today I wanted to delve into some areas university students will find useful once you have graduated, as securing that all important first role is more difficult than you think.
When I was at Uni, I was promised that once I graduated with a good degree that I could practically walk into any job – in fact they also fed me with other unrealistic expectations such as large salary levels for starting out and going straight into middle management etc. Having spoken to a number of recent graduates and students recently it would seem that the same expectation levels are still being set by the universities – I can see from their perspective that they need to “sell” the places but it is also unfair to set people up for a big disappointment. Taking positive steps forward I would like to address some things you could be doing now to enhance your chances of securing your first role post graduation:
- Take on a part time role – this can be done during holiday times but also as easily done during term time too, I seem to remember a great deal of courses only actually requiring you in the classroom for a few hours a week. Therefore you could structure your timetable to complete your Uni work in the day time and take an evening / weekend / late afternoon job – not only will you enhance your student loan for the all important socials, you will be gaining work experience which you can later rely on for references and to put on your CV. Even jobs you don’t think will be any use to secure a professional role usually are, think about customer facing, time management, cash handling, problem solving, dealing with complaints / conflicts – all good stuff to demonstrate to your potential boss that you haven’t just fallen out of bed and into their office hoping for a professional job.
- Voluntary work – Ask your tutors if they know any organisations or have any contacts who would be willing to let you volunteer your services to, ideally you will then gain some experience specific to the role you wish to pursue when you graduate and you may make an impression which could lead on to being offered a contract post-uni.
- Use your contacts – ask your parents to put the feelers out within their offices and with their friends to see if they can secure you some work experience they always say; “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”
It is important to start working on your CV now – start adding pieces of information as it comes to you or as you experience it and ask your tutors to review it for you, make sure you ask for honest feedback and listen to those who can help you most.