People tend to have differing views on the process of applying for a job, college, scholarship, conference, summer school - you name it. Some people believe that applications should take as little time of their busy schedules as possible and usually fill out forms at the last minute. Others, meanwhile, put a great thought into this process, carefully write it down on their planners, think ahead and normally send their application a week before the deadline. But is there one recipe for a successful application? One acquaintance of mine, who usually gets to any youth project she wants to, has told me that the key to successful outcomes of applying is sincerity. I somehow believe she is right.
Recently I have received a bunch of happy outcomes from an even bigger bunch of applications I've been filling out. After being accepted to my dream graduate school in London, being invited to take a part in an exciting project in Turkey and winning a scholarship to participate in "The Waves of Democracy" conference in Denmark, I asked myself: am I able to describe the recipe of successful applying now?
Of course the answer is no. But I can share some of my thoughts about how do I make the most of this process.
1. You are doing it wrong if you are filling out a single form and waiting for a success. Rolf Dobelli, the author of "The Art of Thinking Clearly", wrote that every sparkling success story has a great deal of failed attempts behind its back. These attempts are other people who might have had the same amount of talent and motivation but who were simply not that fortunate. The same goes for applications: I know people who got their dream jobs in the most beautiful spots of the world but for them it took way more than one or two applications to get what they want. The logic behind this is simple: the more applications you send, the bigger are your chances of success.
2. Avoid clichés as much as possible. Start by refusing the overused words. Each year "LinkedIn" presents a list of words that make the employers go "meh". The words of 2014 are: motivated, passionate, creative, driven, extensive experience, responsible, strategic, track record, organizational and expert. Make sure to avoid them whenever it is possible. Try thinking out of the box!
3. Be honest and be yourself by... highlighting the best of yourself and your experiences. Maybe you can shed new light on that project you actually found very dull and meaningless and fit it perfectly in your application material?
4. Plan ahead. Yes, I am the proponent of planning ahead, though I also had plenty of last minute applications. Planning ahead and sending your application even a few days before the deadline not only helps you to avoid unnecessary rush and stress. This simple action increases your chances of success, because even before the application material is being read, you are being considered as a punctual person who manages his/hers time well.
5. You don't meet the eligibility criteria? Check twice. The truth is that the formal eligibility requirements don't determine everything. For example, if you come across a call to an amazing conference, which is only for students, and if you're a recent graduate, especially if you're on a gap year, you should consider e-mailing the organizers and asking them whether they would accept an application from a highly motivated person who, unfortunately, doesn't meet this single criterion. The same goes for requirements of formal work experience, education etc. Just e-mailing and asking worked out for me plenty of times.
Filling out an application form successfully is no science: make it an attractive collection of your experiences and your best qualities. And enjoy the process. Happy applying!
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