When applying for grants or fellowships that are sponsored by a specific institution or company do you think it would be a smart idea to specifically praise that organization’s work in your application letter, or would they immediately consider that brown-nosing? Is there a good balance to strike?
Any sort of application, whether it’s for a grant, for college or for a job, needs to do exactly three things:
- Explain your qualifications
- Explain your ambitions
- Explain why these two things make you an ideal candidate
It’s in this third aspect that you acknowledge what the organization (or individual) does, and if there really is something laudatory about it, you can work that in without being a kiss-ass.
For example, if you were applying to the ABC/Disney Emerging Writers Program, you would read the note by Anne Sweeney on the website:
Individuals with diverse voices, talents, backgrounds and experiences are imperative to creating high-quality content that is reflective of our audiences.
She’s saying (a) we want to make great shows that are (b) liked by a wide range of audiences, so (c) we’re deliberately looking for writers that come from a wide cross-section of backgrounds and experiences. Notably absent in her statement is any sense of “for the good of the world” or social justice. She is framing it as a smart business decision, which is your cue to do the same.
In your application, it’s fine to commend this program’s goals and explain why its mission so suits your goals and experience. Draw parallels between your background and that of past fellows whose work you admire. Talk about how you hope to work at a company that understands the importance of diverse opinions. But don’t drone on about how much you love Desperate Housewives, or how Mulan transformed your life. That’s brown-nosing. It’s transparent, gross and unhelpful.
If you were applying for an internship at Platinum Dunes (Michael Bay’s company), you would absolutely want to express your enthusiasm for populist genre fare. But appreciation is not fanboy-dom. Be enthusiastic but sane. Companies want employees, not cultists.
Any time you’re applying for something, imagine you’re the person reading through all the applications. What would the perfect candidate look like? How close can you come to being that candidate?