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Strong enthusiasm in a personal statement - is it +/-?

  1. Sep 4, 2010 #1


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    So I was wandering around the Internet and came across this
    http://careers.stackoverflow.com/domenicdenicola [Broken]

    It's not a personal statement for graduate school, but it still inspired me mostly because of the strong enthusiasm it contained (including use of the word "awesome" and an exclamation mark). Most personal statements I've seen contain far less enthusiasm than his. Of course, his personal statement must be evaluated in its context - since most jobs tend to have extremely low acceptance rates, so standing out in a job application is a lot more important than standing out in a graduate school application.

    Could there be any "negative" effect from this enthusiasm, were it applied to a grad school application? Strong enthusiasm could potentially reveal immaturity or narcissism, and many people of the current generation do complain of the narcissism of this incoming generation.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
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  3. Sep 4, 2010 #2


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    Enthusiasm is good, but professionalism is too. They want to make sure you'll be able to write a thesis and a dissertation eventually, and papers to publish. Awesome!!!!1!! does not go well into a paper. Find more subtle ways to be enthusiastic.

    A few good tips (which I wish someone had told me when I was applying) would be to not talk about how you always wanted to be a ____ since you were a little kid, etc. Tailor your statement to the particular school - what have you done so far in the field, what do you want to do next, what resources do they have you want to take advantage of, who might you want to work for, what do you have in mind for a topic, etc.
  4. Sep 4, 2010 #3


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    As you point out, it's not a personal statement for graduate school. This person's goal is to advance his career in software development. He may be specifically targeting a less traditionally professional company (as many software companies can be).

    The biggest critique I have - now that I've served on multiple hiring committees - is the lack of SPECIFIC information in that statement.

    What problem? Why do you need mulitple software applications to solve a single problem? Is this a unique problem that no one has solve before, or has he entered a few formulas into Microsoft Excell to balance his budget?

    Again specifics help. Has he simply created a Facebook page for an organization, or has he set up his own server? Can he program in HTML? Java? Was the organization happy with this website?

    What bugs? How did he discover them and what did he do to fix the problem? Were they bandaid solutions or did he made a substantial contribution to the open-source code?

    He talks about learning new technologies, but doesn't mention what those are, or podcast lists, but doesn't give specific topics that he follows.

    Now I realize that this isn't supposed to be a novel about his life or a treatise on the software he's worked with. It's difficult to get specific information in while not being too long winded, but the broad generalizatons throw up a flags for me that as an employer I would have to at very least do some digging with this person to know what he's capable of.

    I also agree with Eri's tips. It's advantageous to know enough about the school (or job) that you can speak intelligently about the program and what you hope to get out of it, rather than come across as someone who doesn't know what you're applying for exactly.
  5. Sep 4, 2010 #4


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    Enthusiasm is fine, it's the informal tone of the letter that seems inappropriate (especially for a job*).

    There's a couple ways to be enthusiastic: wild-eyed, talking so fast you're spitting on your audience; or I'm-so-happy-I-stayed-up-all-night-writing-this-amazing-code. The letter in the link sounds a bit like the first kind (the italics are a bit much, imo); you want to sound more like the second kind.

    *It depends, though. Some companies are looking for the kind of candidate in that letter, like maybe Google; it wouldn't work at Boeing or Proctor and Gamble, probably. Whenever writing anything, know your audience!
  6. Sep 5, 2010 #5
    Where you stress your enthusiasm is very, very important. Graduate schools don't care about what you did as a fifth grader, they are more interested in learning how enthusiastic you are while solving a rigourous proof, how self-motivated you are, have you solved anything by yourself recently?

    "For those who wonder" what a personal/research statement looks like, here is a template which was written by Prof. Mor Harchol-Balter, Carnegie Mellon University(edited a little bit by me!).

    i. First paragraph – Describe the general areas of research that interest you and why. (This is helpful for a committee to determine which professors should read your application.)
    ii. Second paragraph and Third paragraph – Descibe some research projects that you worked on. Tell us what you found, what you learned, what approaches you tried. It’s fine to say that you were unable to prove what you wanted or to solve your problem.
    iii. Fourth paragraph – Tell us why you feel you need a Ph.D.. Look back to section 2 and explain what in there appealed to you.
    iv. Fifth paragraph – Tell us why you want to come to *the name of the university you are applying*.Whom might you like to work with?
    v. What papers have you looked at from *the name of the university you are applying* that you enjoyed reading? What will *the name of the university you are applying* teach you?
  7. Sep 5, 2010 #6
    I couldn't access the link but....

    Yes, it's a total waste of ink.

    One important rule for job and graduate school applications is that you should at most have only one sentence talking about how enthusiastic you are about the job. And even one sentence is probably too much.

    The problem with talking about your enthusiasm is

    1) the reader *KNOWS* you are enthusiastic about the job or graduate school, if you are not enthusiastic then you wouldn't be applying.

    2) enthusiasm is *NOT* going to get you the job or the position. What will get you the position is technical competence. As long as you don't totally hate the job and you can get things done, it really doesn't matter how enthusiastic or passionate you are.

    So in an application where you have one page, talking about things like passion and enthusiasm that won't get you hired is going to hurt you because you are not talking about things that will.
  8. Sep 5, 2010 #7
    This is probably an excellent example of how ***not*** to write a resume. In fact, I'd probably like to download it, remove the personal details, and use it as an example of what NOT to write.

    1) Your resume is not your autobiography.

    2) You aren't going to get the job based on enthusiasm. What will get you the job is technical competence. The writer seems to be competent, but there is not nearly the detail for me to know, and he'll probably get beat out for jobs for something that can write a better resume and has more specific details about what technologies he has done and what he hasn't.
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