Application Magic: How To Turn Your Weakness Into A Strength

As you’re writing your personal narrative, you may come across an anecdote or experience where you need to highlight your weaknesses as well as your strengths. You may ask yourself why you would want to include your weaknesses if you’re trying to convince the reader that you’re a standout candidate for the PA program at hand. The answer is simple: interview committees want well rounded, humble candidates that can honestly speak to their personal growth. Interview committees see right through self-acclaimed “superheroes” that refuse to address their own shortcomings, especially when those shortcomings are apparent in other ways.

The personal narrative offers a unique opportunity for you to objectively address your weaknesses in a way that frames your humanity and potential for growth. The key to doing this well is including an anecdote where one of your weaknesses came into play and then showing how you overcame this weakness.

A great example of this is the “strength in disguise” approach. This is when one of your perceived weaknesses is actually a strength when applied in the right way. Typically, this has two parts- the confession and the recovery. Take the following example of a candidate who is making a career change to become a PA:

Confession: “Some people would consider the fact that I haven’t previously worked in the medical field (excluding my patient care experience) as a weakness. However, being a fast learner and open minded, I have no pre-conceived notions on how to perform my job.”

Recovery: “With this program, I will have the opportunity to learn the requirements of a successful PA without any preconceived notions of what defines a successful or unsuccessful PA. I’ll never be bored because there will always be something new to learn. I believe my 15 years spent working in customer service gave me a greater sense of empathy and communication skills. In addition, my love of learning new things will only enhance my ability to learn the course material quickly. And, I’ve always been commended by my managers for my commitment to work hard. I’m always on-time and not a slacker.”

This candidate addresses their weakness of coming from a different career background and then immediately recovers by turning their customer service experience and desire for a new career path into a strength. They also choose to include previous managerial commendations which show the reader that the candidate is capable of handling the high workload of PA school.

Be careful to choose your anecdote wisely! A good rule of thumb is if you can’t fully explain the situation or how you’ve grown from it, it’s best not to include it in your narrative.  You have full control over the content of your narrative, so why pick experiences that don’t show you off in the best way possible?

As always, be sure to choose weaknesses and strengths that pertain to the PA profession or patient care- as much as your interview panel would love to read about your obsession with knitting, you might not be able to spin it into a viable strength!