You are probably pretty clear on a big dilemma you face when you want to get a job or get into graduate/professional school--there is always competition. Thus, many others (sometimes hundredss) who want the same thing as you. The question then becomes how can you make sure that you stand out in the crowd?
One answer to the above question is that you can market yourself. That is, you can communicate to an employer or admissions committee why they should select you. You do this by presenting those aspects of your record that are seen as most valuable to those making a selection decision. We hope you can get beyond thinking that you do not want to promote yourself like a product, because the alternative will make it really hard to stand out from the crowd.
In marketing yourself, you need to think only about your positives. What are those things that will make you stand out? Hopefuly, you will have the kind of record that will make you stand out. This includes a high grade point average and (often) some research experience. For some application it might also include internship or work experience. It is difficult to say exactly what you need, but suffice it to say that you need to have done "things" in yiour life. Remember that the goal in the end is to have a decision make read your resume and say “This person really stand out from the crowd.”
We know that everyone will not have a great record. With this point in mind, for some of you it will be important to really think about how best to promote yourself. For example, if things did not go well for you at frst in college, you can explain (perhaps in your personal statement) what you learned from these negative experiences. Moreover, you can point out that your record shows that these negatives did not happen again . In addition, in your cover letter, resume and personal statement it might be best to list your GPA in your major of Psychology and/or your GPA the last two years of college. Both of these are typically higher than your overall GPA that includes low grades from ective/General Education classes. Both of these ideas will not wipe away low performance in a couple of classes, but they will put you in a more positive and realistic light.
Going a bit further, try your best to think of ways you stand out. Highlight certain aspects of your record that show you are unique. This could be having really high grades, volunteering at a homeless shelter presenting a research project being selected to Psi Chi, etc. There are many ways you can show your motivatetion and hard work. Keep in mind one thing, in general, edecision makers do not want to hear that you were too busy to get involved with any activities. This is why, even if you are busy (e.g., off-campus job), try to find some one to get involved.
There are a few final things you can do to stand out. First, if you are applying to graduate school contact a faculty member you want to work with--don't just say hello, ask questions, discuss their research, etc. This primes the faculty member to your name and makes them aware of how motivated you are to attend graduate school. Second, iin all correspondence make sure you stress the value of the job or. graduate/professional school to your career goals. Finally, be honest in how you present yourself. Any stretching of th truth will catch up with you in the end.
Please note that the comments of Dr. Golding, Dr. Lippert and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.
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