Professional statements, personal statements, professional summaries, resume summaries; what’s the difference, are they interchangeable and what should they say? For starters, some of these terms are interchangeable. What you write about will vary depending on its purpose. A professional statement might be a paragraph near the top of your resume or it may be a two-page essay attached to your application for a college degree.
A professional statement is a concise summary of your professional accomplishments. It explains what's on the table for an employer, client or business partner.
In business, a professional statement is a brief paragraph (three to five sentences tops) that summarizes and highlights your professional accomplishments and experience. It’s positioned on your job resume below your name and contact information and above your work experience and education. These types of statements are also referred to as professional summary statements and professional summary resume statements.
The idea is to grab the reader’s attention immediately and encourage him to read the rest of your resume. Your statement should feature your core strengths, relevant experience and notable achievements. It should be factual and quantified whenever possible. Some professional statement writers prefer to use a bullet point format.
This is fine, but have at least three bullet points and absolutely no more than five. Generally, each bullet point should be one sentence long. If you’ve written a two-sentence bullet point that you just can’t combine into one sentence, make sure those two sentences are short and strongly related to each other.
A professional statement on your resume is a place to shine. It’s where you want to put the skills and accomplishments you’re most proud of. Think of it as a billboard. Use it to catch a potential employer’s eye and make her want to know more about you.
You don’t need to include where you did what in your professional summary; these details will be in the work experience section of your resume. Consider this snippet from a professional statement for a chief operating officer position at a brokerage firm: “Managed the integration of two trading floors totaling 50 employees during a merger.” What brokerage firms merged and when isn't important in a professional statement.
However, there are exceptions. For example, say the two merging firms are well-known behemoths like E*Trade and TD Ameritrade, you’ll certainly want to include that in your professional statement. Integrating trading desks of these sizes and at this level would be an extraordinary feat that’s well worth highlighting.
Regardless of whether you’re going to write your professional summary in a paragraph or a bullet point list, you should start by saying who you are. In a paragraph, the first few words should describe you. In a bullet point list, your description can be part of the first bullet point or an introductory line to the bullet point list. For example:
I'm a top-producing, competitive sales associate with a strong record of increasing sales with current customers and attracting new ones. I have a proven ability to consistently meet all sales goals. I've had successful collaborations with managers, team members and vendors to exceed company benchmarks.
Bullet point format:
- Top-producing, competitive sales associate with a strong record of increasing sales with current customers and bringing in new ones.
- Ability to meet all sales goals.
- Successfully collaborated with managers, team members and vendors to exceed company benchmarks.
Bullet point format using a description of yourself as a lead-in.
Top-producing, competitive sales associate with:
- Strong record of increasing sales with current customers and bringing in new ones.
- Proven ability to meet all sales goals.
- Ability to successfully collaborate with managers, team members and vendors to exceed company benchmarks.
Here are some career summary statement examples in a variety of formats for a variety of jobs:
High-level administrative job at a university:
I'm an accomplished executive assistant with over 15 years’ experience reporting to a CEO. I have a bachelor’s degree, extensive administrative experience and have supervised teams of five to 10 employees. I'm familiar with higher education principles and policies. I'm proficient in all Microsoft Office programs and I type 70 WPM.
Department manager at a research hospital:
Professional manager with over 10 years' experience in medical research settings:
- Master’s degree in health care administration.
- Managed combined budgets of over $3.5 million in hospital and medical research settings.
- Experienced strategic planner with a focus on research, technology and finance.
Project manager at a commercial interior design company:
- Professional manager with more than 15 years' experience simultaneously managing multiple projects.
- Managed small and large scale commercial projects from design to construction and installation.
- Highly organized and skilled in tracking details.
- Excellent at communicating deadlines and following up with employees and outside contractors to ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget.
- Outstanding motivator and resourceful problem solver.
Another time you may need to write a professional statement is when you’re applying for an educational program. This type of professional statement is sometimes called a personal statement or an educational resume summary. It will be considerably longer than the paragraph or bullet point list you put on a resume when applying for a job. Professional statements for educational programs are written in essay form and usually range from a couple of paragraphs to a couple of pages.
Not all educational programs require a professional statement. If the one you’re applying to does, be sure to follow the guidelines they provide to the letter. If a professional statement isn't required, you should consider writing one anyway. This is particularly true if you’re not a traditional-aged student, you’re applying to a graduate degree program or your qualifications are a bit weak.
A professional statement submitted with an application allows you to tell the admissions staff more about yourself than just what’s on the application form. Listing relevant job experience is particularly important in these situations. If you don’t have relevant job experience, you can write about the skills and experience you’ve gained from whatever job experience you do have that makes you a strong candidate for the program.
First, when writing a professional statement for educational purposes, make sure it’s all about you. Write about the talents and strengths you have that make you a good fit for the program you’re applying to. Give specific examples from your background that substantiate the qualities that the school is looking for. Include a short story or anecdote about a particular challenge you faced and how you overcame it.
Think of qualities or experiences you’ve had that make you unique. Fit that uniqueness into the first sentence of your statement. Just as with a professional statement for business, you want to grab the reader’s attention right away. Admissions committees review hundreds, sometimes thousands of applications — make yours memorable.
Be careful to avoid anything remotely negative. Think of new ways of saying old things. For example, if you’re applying to a nursing program, don't say, “I want to help people.” That’s a given. Everyone going into such a profession wants to help people.
Here are a few examples of first paragraphs for an educational professional statement:
Degree in early childhood education:
The oldest of eight children, I’d like to refine and expand my “in the trenches” experience with young children. I'm dedicated, responsible and eager to learn. I’m interested in elevating my on-the-job training to achieve the knowledge necessary to shape the social and academic skills of young children through education.
With 14 years’ experience in two diverse industries, I’d like to trade my MBWA (management by walking around) for an MBA. As a compliance specialist in the securities industry and a managing director of a nonprofit performing arts association, I’m well versed in reactive management skills. I’m eager to learn how to advance to a more thoughtful, professional and proactive management style.
HVAC training school:
Being an HVAC technician runs in my family. Both my father and older brother have made their careers in HVAC. Not surprisingly, I'm also technically minded. I started working in an auto repair shop before I graduated high school. My first job was removing old tires and mounting new ones. I'm now a full-time mechanic specializing in foreign cars.
Whether you’re applying for a job or a degree or certification, chances are you’re submitting multiple applications to several different organizations. This isn't a time to get lazy. You should write a statement or summary for each organization. You don’t have to start from scratch each time, but you should gear what you’re writing to the specific company or school.
The difference between a generic statement and one written for a specific job opening or a specific educational program at one particular school can mean the difference between getting in or not. Learn about the company or school’s philosophy, mission and culture. Then you can direct what you’re writing to highlight why you’re the perfect fit.
Naturally, you’ll study their website, but dig a little deeper by Googling “(name of company or school) news” and “(name of company or school) press releases.” Check online reviews from former employees and students. Even if they’re negative, the more you know, the better.
Although professional statements for work and school are quite different, there are some inflexible do's and don’ts that apply to both.
- Always think about who will be reading it. Tailor your statement or summary to the company or institution you’re applying to.
- Never use slang or jargon. Keep it professional regardless of the audience and corporate or educational culture you’re writing for. You can let your quirky personality emerge after you have the job or are admitted to the program.
- Tailor professional statements for jobs to show how helpful you can be to the potential employer. Tailor personal statements for educational programs to show how effectively you'll use the education you receive.
- Depending on where you’re applying, a little levity might be OK, but humor isn’t. (See example above for applying to an early childhood education degree program.) If in doubt, keep it impassive.
- Try to steer clear of cliches like, “I’m passionate about…” and “I have excellent communication skills.” Your communication skills, for better or worse, will be evident in the statement you write.
- No misspelled words, grammatical errors or typos. Have several eagle-eyed people who are good spellers and know grammar give your statement the once-over before you submit it.
- Don’t wait until the last minute. If you want the job or degree, spending a few hours on a well-written statement can make all the difference.
It may seem challenging to write a statement that says “you” within all of these parameters, but it can be done. If writer’s block strikes, try putting all the guidelines and rules aside and just write. Leave it alone for a while, then go back and spruce it up.