An applicant called me up yesterday. He was struggling with a non-professional question on his application that asked him to think about influences in his life. He wanted to respond by rehashing his career development and goals. I told him that doing so would not add value to his application and would make him seem one-dimensional
The caller paused and said, "I really don’t know how to respond to this question." I suggested he look at political events that had influenced his life or some major moves he had made. He still said he didn’t know how to respond. I gave him an example from my life. I gave suggestions based on what I knew of his life. We talked a little more. Finally, I said, "Look. I haven’t lived your life so I can’t do the thinking for you. But think about some of the suggestions I have given you. Think about turning points in your life. Think about decision you have made and the reasons for those decisions. Think about things outside of your professional life. But first you have to do some thinking. Otherwise you will never be able to answer this question."
I have written in the past about writing techniques, like metaphors, that will add interest to your essay or help you make your points, but for this post I want to go back to basics: You have to start with thinking. Introspection. Reflection. No consultant, editor, advisor, or mentor can help you if you don’t want to think.