STUDENTS, Create A Profile!

In an era of intense competition, students find it difficult to stand out, to stand apart. Its like each individual is lost in a maze of ‘sameness’, as if just another, among a bunch of red apples! The irony is that we are all unique, peculiar, wonderful individuals, despite which, we seem alike. So what can young people do, to communicate their ‘uncommonness’?

I always encourage people from middle school right up to college graduates to undertake a Profile Writing exercise. This is a simple little 250 to 300 word document where one talks about certain basic information about oneself – Name, School/College, Grade/Year. This is followed by stating 3 Areas of Interest/Passion. And then, really expanding on these 3 areas of interest by devoting the following 3 paragraphs of the profile to these interest-areas. One paragraph each for one interest, with details about Where, When, How, and Why that Interest first began. Any Achievements in that area. And any Learnings/Lessons/Realizations (about oneself or otherwise) during the course of experiencing/pursuing that particular passion. A concluding paragraph that talks about any Current Pursuit that the reader might find interesting, followed by a final sentence on Future Plans, which could be firm, or approximate.

While there may not be any immediate practical use/requirement for this kind of a write-up in a student’s curriculum; young people should view this more as an opportunity to Introspect and get to know themselves well. Undertaking the Profile Writing Exercise compels a student to dig deep, question oneself, and ultimately, know oneself better. It brings about clarity of thought, of purpose, and of a direction for the future. At a time when young students scarcely have time to breathe; this exercise forces them to pause, reflect and discover themselves – likes and dislikes, their learnings, and can provide a significant guidance in planning ahead.

Now to the matter I began this piece with – that it helps communicate a differentiated personality. When one is applying for colleges, or jobs post college, even though you may not be asked for a write-up such as this; supplying the reader/organization/college/company with a Profile of yourself will, in most scenarios, be appreciated. First, it will ‘humanize’ the student and provide a glimpse into the candidate as an actual person (rather than just another on-paper CV or Resume). Second, it will give genuine insight into the candidate as a unique individual. Both vital to communicating a winsome personality.

I strongly urge students to undertake this little exercise. And for this, I leave you with a SAMPLE Profile to get you started. All the best 🙂

SAMPLE PROFILE

I am Karan Malhotra and I currently study in grade 6 at the Asian World School. I would say that my three main interest areas are Swimming, Science, and Music.

When I was just seven years old, I told my father I wanted to learn to swim. He would complete the entire length of the swimming pool at Jaipur Club in no time, and that always amazed me. That summer my parents enrolled me in swimming classes and I learned how to swim. I learned an important lesson through swimming. I realized that to do well in anything in life, one has to work hard and be disciplined.

Science has always fascinated me. Like swimming, my passion for science developed at a very early age. When I was just five my parents got me this Doctor-Set game which I used to love playing. As I grew older, I watched many videos on channels like National Geographic and Discovery which made me even more curious about science. At school, I always take part in the science-related activities and enjoy doing experiments and building things. It is one subject I think I will want to study for a long time to come.

My parents and my grandparents love music. I too developed a keen interest in music and my parents got me a great guitar instructor with whom I soon learned many melodies. This talent was appreciated by my music teachers at school as well and I am a proud member of the school orchestra. Listening and playing music makes me feel calm an inspired.

These days, I am really working on a Solar Powered Rocket for a Science Exhibition. I hope to become a Scientist working in Aeronautics in the future, while still continuing my swimming & music as hobbies.

Paint A Written Picture of YOURSELF!

One of the challenges I face all the time while teaching, is to try and get students to Write about themselves. It is vital that in order to DIFFERENTIATE themselves from one another, young people know how to write about their individual, unique journey, qualities, talents and such. Not only do I teach this in class, I also recently dedicated one of my weekly columns “A Word To The Wise” in the Times of India’s (Newspaper In Education) NIE, to this area. Since it is already published, I thought I should share this particular article because many found it useful, and hopefully you will too 🙂 So here goes:

AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL WRITING

As students, there will be many instances where we will be required to share an insight into our unique interests, achievements and future plans. This information will be required at the time of College Admissions, when seeking Internships at various Companies, and even when we finally seek Jobs. It is therefore always a good idea to get some practice in writing about ourselves, and to keep a general piece of writing about ourselves, ready to be modified/tweaked/updated when the need arrives. Welcome to Profile Writing.

In order to write an effective Profile about ourselves, we need a few things:

  1. Introspection – Think about and jot down (in point form) two to three primary interest/passion areas. They could be completely different from one another (soccer, accounts, music) or allied (DJing, Music Production, Music Events); that doesn’t matter.
  2. Achievements – Also make a point-wise note of achievements in each of those areas of interest.
  3. Realizations – At times, an experience of one thing leads to a realization. For example, while DJing, you might realize that you want to make your own music. Jot down those kinds of realizations.
  4. Future Plans – Make points about what and how you’d like to translate your passions into definite future plans. For example, a young DJ in grade 12 may want to study Music Production further in order to hone his craft.

The above is all the ‘prep’ you need to do BEFORE the writing can begin. Often times we make the rookie mistake of writing before research and thought-organization. This leads to our attention being diverted from the actual writing process because the mind is preoccupied with ‘what to write’, not ‘how to write’.

Once the above soul-searching has been done and noted in points, the writing process of a Profile can begin. There is no set word limit, but anything between 250-350 words is sufficient. Here’s a tried and tested format that never fails:

SENTENCE 1 – State who you are.

SENTENCE 2 – What you currently do.

SENTENCE 3 – Your pre-decided 2-3 Interest Areas

This constitutes your first paragraph, which ought to be in Present Tense.

PARAGRAPHS 2, 3 and 4 will be dedicated to writing about 1 Interest Area each. These will be in Past Tense because you will retrace how/when/where that specific interest began, how it developed, what your experiences & realizations were, and what you achieved.

CONCLUDING PARAGRAPH – This will be a sentence or two that will come back to Present Tense with one line about what you are currently doing in your interest areas, and a last line about Definite Future Plans relating to your Interest Areas.

An important recommendation – you should write your Profile in 3rd Person (as if someone else is writing about you) as well as in 1st Person (you are writing about yourself). This gives writing practise and lets you have two versions your Profile ready so you can submit the type that is required.

One important thing to remember though. 1st Person Profiles can tend to sound a bit pompous. Lets take an example. Say I have written ‘Kartik was invited by the European Union to Moderate Literary Panel Sessions at the World Book Fair’ in my 3rd Person Profile. This sounds fine. But the moment I convert it to 1st Person, simply changing the ‘Kartik’ to ‘I’ does not work because you end up with ‘I was invited by the European Union to Moderate Literary Panel Sessions at the World Book Fair’. This sounds needlessly self-praising and does not reflect well.

It has a very simple fix. Shift the ‘onus’ (responsibility) of the praise in 1st Person Profiles from yourself onto another person/institute/organization. Therefore, if I make the same sentence ‘The European Union asked me to Moderate Literary Panels at the World Book Fair’, you end up with a sentence that provides the same information in terms of conveying achievements but does it a little more subtly and in a non-showing-off way!

If any of you would be interested in writing a Profile for yourselves and would like to discuss it in further detail, I look forward to hearing from you.