Columbia SIPA Essay Advice: Describe Future Self to Future Employer

This is Columbia SIPA’s second required essay prompt:

Describe future self to future employer, or current self to future employer. (200 words max)

**Note: Before applying always double check what is here to ensure you have the most update to date instructions. Always follow instructions provided–to the letter!

This essay is basically your “personal pitch”. It’s like writing a cover letter to your ideal employer. Hone in on the skills and previous experience that make you an outstanding candidate, as well as the personal qualities that you uniquely bring to the position. If if feels hard to write, you will have to get used to it! For years to come, you will be preparing these kinds of pitches in your job search. (Sharpening the skill of selling yourself is going to benefit you for years to come!)

One way to start that many people find helpful, is to simply make a list of the skills and experience you want to focus on. Ask yourself what your strengths are, then list personal qualities you embody. Are you a leader? Do you bring compassion into everything you do? Are you a natural mediator? If you’re feeling stuck, have a friend or colleague help you brainstorm. Once you have the list you feel good about, you’ll likely find it easy to to string together an essay.

Remember, you are not retyping your resume in paragraph format. You are highlighting a few key or formative experiences along with skills and qualities that demonstrate why you are the person they should hire. You want to sound smart, driven, experienced and personable.

The next step is to make your essay compelling. If writing isn’t your strong suit, this may take some more time. Think about painting a picture of yourself. Does your essay sound convincing and exciting to an employer? If you have someone in your life who is an employer (parent, friend of the family, etc.) who regularly reads cover letters, have that person (or persons) review the essay, reading it as a cover letter. Ask them what they think the main takeaways are from the essay and make sure those are what you intended and sound impressive.

Once you feel good about the essay, set it aside for a few days or even a week. Come back to it with fresh eyes and read it over again to see if it still hits the right tone.

Your final step is to proofread again and again catching typos and grammatical errors. Then have a friend read it to catch mistakes. Then have another friend read it. Don’t give the admissions officer a reason to toss your application because they’ve read fifty already with no typos and yours has one in the first sentence. There’s no excuse for this kind of mistake and it’s easy to get a few extra eyes on your essay.

Keep all of this in mind, and most importantly, don’t leave it until the last minute.

 

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