You’ve just landed your dream job with a dynamic organization. The head of the organization is charismatic and wants to meet with every new employee. You’ve been tracking her career for several years through your university’s alumni news, since she graduated about 10 years before you and is still very involved in the university. You want to make a good impression. She was recently interviewed for the New York Times column, “Corner Office,” and she commented that she always asks new hires her “signature question.” You’re anticipating that the head of your organization will ask her signature question at lunch today: “What motivates you, what’s your passion, and what do you believe?”
Your response to this question takes the form of an essay, the model for which is This I Believe, first begun by Edward R. Murrow in the 1950s radio program, and revived by NPR several years ago in an online forum. The program highlights inspiring statements of belief from both famous and ordinary people.
In an essay of no more than 500 words, please write your statement of personal and professional belief in response to“What motivates you, what’s your passion, and what do you believe?” Share what’s important to you in regards to your profession, your industry, your career, or your education. This is a first-person essay and requires no research or citations.
This is challenging! It requires a level of introspection so deep that no one else can do it for you. Use the following suggestions, adapted from http://www.thisibelieve.org, as a guide:
- Name your belief: If you can’t name it in a sentence or two, your essay may not be about belief. You are writing an essay, not a list. Focus on one core belief, which you will explain, define, and develop through the essay.
- Tell a story: Be specific. Take your belief out of the ether and ground it in specific events of your life. Consider moments when your belief was formed or tested or changed. Think of your own experience, work, and life, and tell of the things you know that no one else does. Make sure your story ties to the essence of your professional or educational philosophy and the shaping of your beliefs. Tell me how you reached your beliefs, and if they have grown, what made them grow. Your story need not be heart-warming or gut-wrenching—it can even be funny—but it should be real.
- Be positive: Please avoid preaching or editorializing or finger-pointing. I do not want your views on the American way of life, democracy, or capitalism. (These are important but for another occasion.) I want to know what you live by, what you DO believe, not what you don’t believe.
- Be personal: Avoid speaking in the editorial “we” or the projecting “you” or the accusing “they.” The project is “this I believe,” not “this everyone believes,” “this my company believes,” or “this Americans/Russians/Scientologists believe.” Make your essay about you; speak in the first person. I recommend you read your essay aloud to yourself several times, and each time edit it and simplify it until you find the words, tone, and story that truly echo your belief.
Feel free to visit the This I Believe website for examples. There are thousands! You can also browse by theme, by age of writer, or by featured essay. Some of my favorites include “Always Be Cool to the Pizza Dude” , “Satisfaction for a Job Well Done” , and “Teacher”.
Here are some additional helpful resources for writing this first essay:
From the Effective Writing Center, here are some good strategies for thinking about assignments and preparing to write;
Some good information from the EWC writing guide about the process of writing;
and, David Taylor with his video on writing the 5 paragraph essay