Know how to write an effective statement of purpose, how to get started with it and how not to goof up in it!
A statement of purpose is a letter of intent; an essay that outlines why you, as an applicant, are suitable for the role being offered and what you wish to gain from it, both professionally and personally. It is probably the most difficult essay you would write and most applicants face problems in getting started with it.
Firstly, there are a lot of things that you can list to write on SOP through some simple exercises-
A. Recall and analyze your experiences. Write short paragraphs on the following:
1. List the memorable accomplishments in your life. What did you do? How did you accomplish them?
2. What are the important activities you engaged in? What role did you play?
3. What are your work experiences? What was your responsibility? How did you carry it out?
- Now look over your paragraphs. What skills and qualities do you see that you possess? For example, if you were a part of any organizing team, then did you lead? Or were you an effective team member?
- Look for skills and qualities that could help you in your internship. For example, if you are applying for legal internship, then your experience in debating or research during MUNs could come in handy.
- Undoubtedly you will have more material than you can use. This is good, but you need to strategically list out the main points that you want to get across in your SOP.
B. Your career goals – write two short paragraphs:
1. What factors formed the decision to choose your career?
2. What evidence shows that this is a correct choice? That is, how can you show that this choice is realistic? (Personal experience in the field is a good place to begin.)
Now that you have the matter with you, there are quite a few things you should take care of while writing it. SOP is the document which enables you to give an interview before the actual interview. Needless to say, it is very easy to goof it up. So, how can you write an SOP which gets you that offer letter? Here’s how-
1. Construct an outline for your SOP – It’s time to organize the points you listed. The SOP is basically an answer to a question asked by the employer. So while answering you need to pay attention to the way you present it. The relevance and order of the information in SOP is important. Always read the instructions, if any, given by the employer (such as word limit). Not following them sends a very negative impression and might even lead to rejection.
2. Set a hook in the introduction – Mention here itself what you’re applying for. Do not plainly state what the employer already knows – many applicants simply describe their resume on SOP. For example, the employer already knows what role you’re applying for. There is no need to waste valuable space in re-stating it.
3. Keep it simple, but not silly! – Imagine going through hundreds of essays in one day to shortlist a few candidates. The recruiter already has a very tedious process to undertake and you wouldn’t want to complicate it by sending in an SOP that is very lengthy or verbose.
4. Mention the name of the person who referred you – Having a good reference could highlight you among the other candidates. So it is wise to mention the name of the referee in your application. For example- “Dr. Smith in the Computer Science and Engineering Department at XYZ University recommended this program to me. He stated this role would be a good match for me because it would give me a chance to test my programming skills in real-life executed projects.”
5. Make it unique for every job profile – You wouldn’t wear the same dress for a party and a formal meeting, right? Similarly, one SOP for all profiles won’t work. While the structure could be retained, you can play with the details (add or subtract or change the order of relevance) according to the profile you are applying for.
6. Tell them what you bring to the table – Treat yourself as an appliance and sell yourself. Highlight your qualities and back them up with examples. The recruiter has a lot of alternatives and you have to market yourself as the best product. But overdoing it can kill your cause. It’s a tightrope and you would need to tread carefully over it.
7. Discuss your non-technical skills – While it’s a pre-requisite to be technically sound as requirements of an internship, but most modern workplaces also value interpersonal skills. Applicants who were involved in extra-curricular activities during their college/school have a much better chance of getting an internship.
8. No score on negatives – Never point out anything negative unless you can state how you could overcome it. There is no harm in not being perfectly suited for the job, but highlighting it won’t help you in any way. At the same time, your SOP allows you to explain some information which might not be accurately interpreted by the selection committee. For example, your CGPA might be low because your college places a cap on grades in your major.
9. Have your SOP proofread by other people – It’s a good idea to have your SOP proofread by credible people, if not professionals. First, it irons out your grammatical flaws and second, it gives you a reader’s view.
Writing a good statement of purpose is quite an uphill task. It requires attention, patience and enough time for you to be able to write several drafts, show them to people and polish the essay till you get a version you are happy with. You can check a sample SOP.
SOP is just one part of the internship application. Here is the most practical guide ever written to land an internship.
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