The True Purpose of Your Personal Narrative

While in the process of writing your personal narrative, it’s important to keep its major purpose in mind. The purpose isn’t to showcase your life story, nor is it to prove that you’re the most talented or qualified PA who has ever walked the earth.  Your personal narrative’s sole purpose is to secure an invitation for an interview- that’s it!

To secure the interview, your personal narrative needs to meet four basic criteria.  Your narrative should:

  1. Capture the reader’s attention
  2. Honestly and accurately represent who you are
  3. Showcase yourself as a real person, not just a profile on a piece of paper
  4. Make the reader curious to learn more about you

You’re trying to make a connection and establish rapport with the reader through your story, so wouldn’t it make sense that the main objective is to make your narrative so compelling, the reader wants to meet you in person?

Here are a few ways you can meet these four criteria and accomplish the main goal of your narrative.

Capture the Reader’s Attention
The easiest way to capture your reader’s attention is to tell a compelling story.   There’s a very good chance that the person reading your personal statement has very little in common with you other than the fact that you’re both interested in the PA profession.  So this begs the question, how can you get them interested in your experiences?

By writing your story in a patient context, your reader will have a much higher chance of finding common ground as your story will undoubtedly touch upon an experience similar to one the reader has experienced before.  Nothing helps make a strong connection of rapport between people than a shared experience, so remember to make your story interesting but patient-focused.

Honestly and Accurately Represent Who You Are
This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s an important box to check.  When you’re invited for an interview, there’s a very good chance anything you say will be checked against your written word.  If you had any hopes of getting an interview based on exaggerated claims or embellished stories, you may want to rethink your strategy.

Keeping a journal of your direct patient contact and care experience is a fantastic way to keep track of your stories in a single place while preserving their most critical facts and takeaways.  It’s far more valuable to spend your time recording the way your patient encounters affected you emotionally rather than jotting down the basic facts.  Once you have a running record of your patient contact experiences and how they affected you, you’ll be in a great position to pull stories directly from your journal.  The best part is that, because you included your feelings on each encounter, it’ll be easy to retell these encounters in an emotionally compelling way.  After all, when you write your true feelings about an experience, you project your sense of empathy in a very powerful way!

Showcase Yourself as a Real Person
You can meet this objective by discussing the impact that caring for people has had on you.  Once again, discussing how your patient care experience has affected you will be a crucial part of coming across as a real, genuine person.   

Whatever you do, do not list your experiences or qualities as adjectives as it will do nothing but reduce your candidacy to a series of boring bullet points. It’s far more interesting to guide the reader on the path of discovering how conscientious and empathetic you are rather than flat out describing yourself as conscientious and empathetic.  By letting the reader determine that you have these characteristics on their own, they’ll develop a sense of investment in you and will want to learn more.

Make The Reader Want to Meet You
Your personal narrative should read like a story, not like a series of encounters haphazardly strung together.  It should be a window through which the reader will get a true vision of who you are, not just of what you’ve done.  An autobiographical narrative must be inspiring, meaningful, and entertaining.

An easy way to do this would be to find a common theme that ties your selected experiences together.  This way, your personal narrative has commonality throughout and the reader has a good sense of how your experiences relate to you.  If you find you have a hard time writing stories, consider starting your writing process as a short story.  If your narrative starts as a few sentences that act as the framework for a larger story, you can build out by adding in your related experiences.  Just remember that you’ll have plenty of time to share experiences or thoughts that may not make their way into your narrative at your interview, so pick anecdotes that work well with the theme of your narrative rather than the ones that sound the “most impressive”.

Just remember, you may be devilishly good looking or have a fantastic smile, but your interviewers will never know this for themselves if they don’t want to meet you!