Writing about yourself can be embarrassing at first, but creating a cover letter, personal essay, or biography can be a lot less intimidating in style and content with some specific tricks and tips. Learn the basics, then you make sure that the text you write about yourself stands out from all the other pieces.
Method 1 of 4: The basics of autobiographical writing
Step 1. Just introduce yourself
It can be difficult to write about yourself because you have so much to say. Your whole life story, your talents and skills summarized in one or a few paragraphs? Whatever you're going to do, whatever your goal, just pretend you're introducing yourself to a stranger. What do they need to know about you? Answer questions like:
- Who are you?
- Where are you from?
- What are your interests?
- What are your talents?
- What have you achieved?
- What challenges have you encountered?
Step 2. Start with a short list of your talents and interests
If you don't know where to start, or if you are only allowed to pick one thing for the assignment, write as much as you can and think about the details that will help you make a decision. Answer the questions from the previous step, and write down as many different answers as you can.
Step 3. Bound your subject
Pick a particular topic and describe it in detail to introduce yourself. It is better to pick one thing and describe yourself in many details than to give a long list of general things.
What makes you most interesting or unique? What best describes you? Choose that topic
Step 4. Use some good details
If you've chosen a topic to focus on, describe it specifically so that you give people something unique to hold on to. Remember, you're talking about yourself. The more details the better:
- Not good: I like sports
- Well good: I love football, basketball, tennis and volleyball
- Better: My favorite sport is football, both to watch and play
- Best: When I was little, I used to watch football on TV on Saturdays with my dad and brothers. Then we went outside to play a game of football. I've been crazy about it ever since.
Step 5. Be humble
Even if you have achieved a lot or you have a lot of talent, you should try to come across as a sober person. Don't write about yourself to brag. List what you've accomplished, but temper it with some modest language:
- Boastful: I'm the best and most dynamic employee at my job, so take me on because I have a lot of talent.
- Humble: I've been lucky enough to be voted Employee of the Month in my current job three times, more often than the other employees.
Method 2 of 4: Writing an autobiographical essay for school
Step 1. Come up with a good story to tell
An autobiographical essay is often used in entrance exams or school assignments. It differs from a cover letter in purpose, because in a cover letter a candidate introduces himself if he wants a job or assignment, while an autobiographical essay is meant to explore a theme. These types of assignments require you to tell a story about yourself, using specific, true details that highlight a particular theme or idea.
Common themes or instructions for an autobiographical essay are overcoming obstacles, big successes or spectacular failures, or moments when you have learned something about yourself
Step 2. Stay focused on one theme or objective
Unlike a cover letter, an autobiographical essay shouldn't switch themes or events too quickly to get it right, but focus on a single event or theme to make your point.
Depending on the assignment, you may need to associate a personal anecdote with a lecture or an idea from the lesson. Start brainstorming topics related to that idea so that you have all kinds of options to choose from
Step 3. Write about complex topics, not clichés
You don't have to come across as good in an essay. As you come up with topics to write about, think about your victories and successes, but also pay some attention to the areas of your life that need improvement. Those times you forgot to pick up your sister because you were out partying with your girlfriends, for example, or that time you skipped school and got caught, can also make for a good essay.
Clichés that you often encounter in an essay are, for example, stories about sports, school trips and dead grandmothers. While you can also write a fantastic essay about this if you do it right, it's hard to tell an above-average story about your football club's victory when you were very behind. We know that story by now
Step 4. Limit the timeline as much as possible
It's virtually impossible to write a good five-page essay covering your entire life up to your 14th birthday. Even a subject like 'my year in group 8' is too extensive to make a good essay about it. Choose an event that spans no more than a day, or a few days at most.
If you want to tell the story of your nasty breakup with your boyfriend, start with the moment he breaks up, not how you got to know each other. You have to bring tension into the story right away
Step 5. Make use of vivid details
These types of essays are better if you elaborate as much as possible. If you want to write a good biographical essay, it has to be packed with vivid and evocative details.
- If you know what you're going to write about, make a "reminder list" of all the specifics you can remember from the event. What was the weather like? How did it smell? What did your mother say to you?
- The opening paragraph will set the tone for the rest of the essay. Instead of listing the boring biographical details (your name, place of birth, favorite food), find a nicer way to write down the essence of the story you will be telling and the themes you will explore.
Step 6. Start in the middle of the story
Don't worry about building tension in an autobiographical essay. Want to tell the story of that time you ruined Christmas dinner? How did the people react? How did you make up for it? That's your story.
Step 7. Connect the details with the big theme
If you're writing an essay about the failed Christmas dinner a few years ago, don't forget that it's about more than a burnt turkey. What is the point of your story? What should we learn from the story you tell us? In any case, each page should refer to the main theme or purpose of your essay.
Method 3 of 4: Writing a cover letter
Step 1. Find out what they are looking for
If you need to write a cover letter for a job, internship, or anything else you want to apply for, sometimes the description will say what they'd like to read in the letter. Depending on the nature of the application, you may need to explain why you want the job, describe why you are qualified, or meet other specific criteria. Possible clues may include:
- Describe your qualifications and indicate where your talents lie in a cover letter.
- Tell us a little more about yourself.
- Write in your cover letter why your education and experience make you suitable for this position.
- Explain why this opportunity can help your career goals.
Step 2. Make sure the style fits the purpose
Different employers and situations call for different style and tone in a cover letter. When applying to a university, it is always better to use a professional and academic tone in the letter. However, if you're applying for a blogging position for a tech start-up that asks you to describe "Three things you're great at!", it's probably better to stick to a looser and casual style.
When in doubt, keep it serious and concise. If you're not sure whether or not to include that funny anecdote about your friend's bachelorette party, it's probably best to leave it out
Step 3. In the first paragraph, describe why you are writing the letter
The first two sentences should explain why you are writing the cover letter. If someone reading your letter isn't sure what you actually want, your letter will quickly end up in the old paper.
- 'As a result of your advertisement that I read on the internet, I am applying for the position of junior account manager. I think my experience and education make me the ideal candidate for this position'.
- Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary to mention your name in the body of the letter: 'My name is Jan Smith and I am applying…' Your name is already at the bottom of the letter and in the headline, so you do not have to not even mentioning him in the text.
Step 4. Build the letter according to cause and effect
A cover letter should explain to the potential employer why you are the best candidate for this position, or why you should be admitted to a particular study. To do this, make sure the letter describes what you have to offer and how it can help meet the needs of both parties. Make sure that a cover letter always clearly describes the following details:
- Who you are and what you've done.
- What your goals are.
- How you can possibly achieve those goals with the help of this opportunity.
Step 5. Describe your talents and skills in detail
What makes you the ideal candidate for the job or place you are applying for? What experiences, skills, training and talents do you have to offer?
- Be as specific as possible. You may write that you are 'A passionate leader in many areas', but it would be much better to write about an example where you took the lead in a surprising way.
- Stay focused on skills and talents related to what you're applying for. Extracurricular activities, leadership roles, and other outstanding achievements can be important to you personally and can tell readers more about you, but it can also be completely unnecessary. If you put something in the letter, make sure it can be specifically linked to the purpose of the cover letter.
Step 6. Describe your goals and ambitions
What do you want to achieve from here? Both admissions committees and employers are more interested in people who have ambitions, people who are motivated to reach a high level. Describe what you want and how you think this position can help you achieve your goals.
Be as specific as possible. If you're writing an admission letter for a particular degree, it's clear that you'd like to get a degree. But why this degree? Why this school? What exactly do you want to learn?
Step 7. Explain how both parties can benefit from your selection
What do you have to offer that other candidates don't? Why would it be good for the university to hire you as a student? Why would it be good for you if you get the job? Your readers will be eager to know what is at stake for both.
Be careful about criticizing a company in your cover letter. Now is not the time to say that you can breathe new life into the ailing brand with your ideas. That probably doesn't look good to the company, and it might not live up to you at all if you do get the job
Step 8. Don't confuse the cover letter with your resume
While it's important to list your best skills if they relate to the job you want, don't include details about your education or other information that should belong on your resume in the cover letter. Since both are usually asked for, make sure your resume and cover letter include different information.
Even though it is very impressive, a high graduation rate does not belong in a cover letter. Emphasize it on your resume, but don't put it in two different places when you apply
Step 9. Keep it concise
The ideal cover letter is no longer than one or two pages, single-spaced, or anywhere from 300 to 500 words. Sometimes a longer letter is desired, it may be between 700 and 1000 words, but no longer.
Step 10. Compose the letter
A cover letter is usually single-spaced and written in a regular, easy-to-read font, such as Times or Arial. In general, a letter of application should be addressed to the Admissions Board or a specific person named in the vacancy and concluded with your signature. The following contact information should be in the header:
- Your name
- Mailing address
- E-mail address
- phone number
Method 4 of 4: Writing a short biography
Step 1. Write about yourself in the third person singular
A brief biography may be required for a flyer, pamphlet, press release, or other material. It can be requested for a variety of reasons. Usually it should be concise, and it is often a little awkward to have to write it.
Pretend you're writing about someone else. Write down your name and describe yourself as a character from a movie, or a friend: 'Jan Smit is the deputy director of Blabla bv…'
Step 2. Explain what your title or position is
Make sure you make clear what your role and specialties are, taking into account the purpose of the biography. Describe what you do and where people might know you from.
If you're a centipede, just say so. Don't be afraid to mention that you are "actor, musician, mother and professional mountaineer" if all that applies
Step 3. Briefly list your responsibilities or achievements
If you have received many awards and accolades, you can list them in the biography to praise yourself. In a short biography, focus on recent history.
It's common for people to also mention their education, especially if it's relevant to the work they're writing about. If you have had special training, you can also mention it
Step 4. Also include something about your private life
A biography doesn't have to be cold. It is quite common to also include some personal details to make it more enjoyable to read. Consider mentioning your cat's name, or a funny detail about a hobby:
- 'Jan Smit is the deputy director of Blabla bv, and he is in charge of marketing and foreign takeovers. He received an award from the T. U. in Delft and lives in Rotterdam with his cat Herman'.
- Don't share too much. It can be funny to start straight away with 'Jan Smit loves archery and he thinks Hamka's are very dirty. He really is a boss," and in some companies such a biography may be appropriate, but be careful about sharing things that can be embarrassing. You might be better off talking about that terrible hangover you had recently at the Friday afternoon drink.
Step 5. Keep it concise
In general, a short biography consists of no more than a few sentences. Usually they come up on a dedicated page of submissions or on a list of all employees, and you don't want to be known as the person with the half-page biography while everyone else has it neatly poured into two sentences.