Tell Me About Yourself: A Guide to Standing Out

As I write this I am suffering, partly because one of my coworkers was kind enough to bring her kid’s illness to work, but mostly because I am trying to write a personal statement for my grad school applications.

I am crippled by my inability to share why I am better than everyone else in the space of 5000 characters. My essay is haunted by ghosts of interviews past, “Tell us a little about yourself,” and “Where do you see yourself in five years?” The character limit forces me to become a blathering idiot, pages of circular cliches just flow from me while I say nearly nothing.

I may not be doing a good job at expressing why I’m going to be the shit at absorbing more education but I’m pretty sure I could do an okay job at telling you how to make yourself stand out in the crowd. Next time you have a blurb (which reminds me, I need to send my “about me” to the newsletter nurse, damn it!) or an interview where you want to be noticed try one of the strategies below.

Shock and awe

So you want to know why I want to be a doctor*? Great, wonderful, everyone is going to say that they want to help people, they want to give back, save the world, do it for Jesus, that kind of thing. And maybe you are motivated by that one time you saw the firefighter save the drowning kitten from the tree using CPR just like the other 32,568 people applying for the one remaining spot in the next matriculating class, but you need differentiate yourself.

Think about it.

Now write about how you intend to murder** anyone who needs your help. Think about all the anti-hero TV doctors and pull from their successes. Maybe add a dash of vigilante justice with some Dexter references. You can make a case for the self-destructive, pill-popping, rich-dick, television demigods that inspired you to consider medicine in the first place, just use the same argument for yourself.

If you end up believing what you write, even better.

If you can’t stomach the sight of blood (and seriously, why do you want to be a doctor if blood makes you ill?) share your porn addiction, visual aide is typically not required but you are welcome to go with your gut.

Lay bare you trials

Everyone loves that guy*** who climbed Mt. Everest with dyslexia (if I have to sit through another one of his motivational speeches I will pluck my own eyes out with a rusty soup spoon) because he overcame two massive challenges (he wears orange while being ginger, so maybe that’s three?).

Be that guy.

So what if you grew up in a cushy middle-class, suburban hood. Timmy bullied you and your mom thought she was good enough at crafting to make all of your close until you were 16. You had to overcome adversity, it’s not like you had an au pair or a pull in your backyard. Mrs. M had it out for you in the fourth grade (remember the C she gave you?) and your dad didn’t buy you a new car when you wrecked the first one, and look how well you’ve done up to this point!

If you didn’t have to overcome the things I have suggested, imply your left eye is glass.

Try a little mystery 

Sometimes when you say nothing you say so much more than if you had said something. I’m not suggesting you stare at your interviewer in silence or send in a blank page, merely share something about something other than yourself.

Maybe your snake, Fluffy, is an inspiration with his wheelchair, or your cat overcame obesity in a pool. People love inspiring animal stories, so if you have one that moves you, share it (if you don’t have pets and want to go this route, let the internet be your guide).

Witness protection, real or imagined, makes you interesting as hell. As does name dropping crooked politicians and cantankerous celebrities before covering your mouth and loudly scolding  yourself for letting that cat out of the bag.




*Sorry buddy.

**Wish I could take credit for this one but I can’t.

***He is a guy, he wrote a book, I didn’t read it, he may not have dyslexia.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s