Own your wins.

Job applications. Cover letters. Scholarship essays. What do these things have in common?

They’re all so frustrating to write.

It’s like walking the world’s worst tightrope: you want to stick out – but not in the wrong ways. You want to prove you’re the perfect candidate – but you don’t want to brag. Your achievements align perfectly with the eligibility requirements – but how do you talk about them without sounding full of yourself?

Inspector Gadget walks a tightrope.

IGNITE wants to help you off that tightrope for good.

So, here’s how to write about your achievements without sounding arrogant:

Determine if it’s really arrogance

What you feel is arrogance might just be confidence.

Members of marginalized groups are conditioned to devalue themselves and their achievements – it’s one manifestation of internalized oppression, as explored by psychologists E.J.R. David and Annie O. Derthick in their 2013 book Internalized Oppression: The psychology of marginalized groups.

In other words, if you hold an identity society belittles, talking about your achievements at all can feel like you’re bragging.

A trophy.

So, to clarify, here’s how psychologist Steve Orma distinguishes self-esteem and arrogance:

  • Self-esteem is confidence in one’s ability to think, make choices, and act on those choices, as well as feeling deserving of happiness and benefiting from one’s hard work and accomplishments.”
  • Arrogance (or narcissism) is the exact opposite of self-esteem. Arrogant people act as if they know everything, and anything that contradicts what they believe is either evaded or rejected out of hand.” 

It’s not arrogant to showcase your successes. If you won an award, have a killer work ethic or a perfectly suited skill set, own it!

Keep it relevant

Seth Meyers says "This could not be less important."

Tailor your list of qualifications to the role, honour or program you’re applying for. We know it’s tedious – but it works.

If you’re vying for a job that takes place entirely behind a desk, that public speaking certificate you earned probably shouldn’t be at the top of your résumé.

Show, don’t tell

Reviewers might gloss over lines like, “I’m an expert photographer,” because every photographer says that.

Be precise, and include numbers where you can, to best reflect your capabilities. For example, instead of saying, “I’m an expert photographer,” you could say, “My photos have been published in six fashion campaigns.”

Fashion models.

You’re still saying you’re an expert – except now, you’re proving it.

Avoid buzzwords

Similar to showing and not telling, certain descriptors are way overused on applications. Words like “innovative,” “motivated,” “passionate,” and “dynamic” can be overly vague and cliché.

If replacing buzzwords with specific achievements doesn’t work, look for less-overused synonyms. “I’m passionate about community investment” can easily be rewritten as “I’m fervently involved with my local food bank.”

(Thesaurus to the rescue!)

Spongebob reads.

Bring out the you

What do you bring to this company’s table that no one else can? What makes you uniquely fitted for this bursary?

That’s what you need to write about.

Good grades, experience and professional achievements are great add-ons. But, at the end of the day, the thing you’re applying for will be granted to you – not to your achievements.

So, highlight chapters of your story and give your character centre stage to truly stand out from the pile.

Symone from RuPaul's Drag Race poses.

Ready to exercise your application abilities? That’s perfect – because IGNITE Pride Scholarship submissions are open until Wednesday, June 30!

This newly established scholarship is open to all queer Humber College and UofGH students and will be distributed every summer. It awards $1,000 to each of five applicants who display a strong commitment to the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

You can apply for the IGNITE Pride Scholarship through the scholarship submission page. And, don’t forget: be strategic, be specific – but, most importantly, be you.

We can’t wait to read what you write.

The only thing harder than writing about your achievements is writing about your personality. Here’s our guide to making an online dating profile.

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