The motivation letter is probably one of the most important parts of your (CERN) application, alongside your work experience. Lack of experience can indeed be compensated for through a very good motivation letter – as it was in my case. ☺
My first advice would be to really think about why you want to come to CERN and what makes you different from other applicants.
The second advice is not to write about your work experience in your motivation letter. I know, I know! But trust me on this one, okay? You have other places in the application where you can speak about your work experience.
When you write about work experience and outreach you should emphasize how they can benefit from you and what you can offer to them. In the motivation letter you should concentrate on what CERN can give you and how this is going to affect your personal and professional life and development.
Maybe a good start would be to answer the following questions:
- How did you hear about CERN and the program?
- What made you consider applying?
- Besides the obvious (knowledge and work experience) what will you get from being part of their program?
Here are some advantages of CERN around which you can build your letter. Think about how you can mention them and relate them to yourself.
- CERN is the biggest research laboratory in the world;
- CERN is a place where people from different countries, beliefs, political ideologies, and sexual preferences work together;
- CERN is one of the rare places were conditions are the same for everyone regardless of gender or religion or were they come from.
- You can mention their policy of not using research results in military purposes – this can be a good moral argument from somebody who comes from a country where war took place and/or is a peace activist;
- Being part of breakthrough science research… You get the idea. ☺
Avoid using statements like “I would like to work at CERN because it would be a great opportunity to improve my French.” If that is your reason you might as well get a job in a coffee shop in Geneva and after three months your French will be perfect. Think about how you can make it more specific! Overall, avoid general statements and rhetoric.
Focus on relating everything you know about CERN to you and your life. Make it personal, but keep it professional. Use simple, everyday language to express what you want to say. That way it feels more authentic. Big words you can use in the rest of the application. ☺
Final piece of advice: Before you start writing, make an outline. Write your motivation letter like a story. You should have an introduction, an elaboration and a conclusion.
Introduction: Do not write things like “My name is X. I come from Y.” They know that already. Maybe you can write how you heard about the school, what made you study at your University or apply for the program.
Elaboration: Make two or three paragraphs to explain things I mentioned above.
Conclusion: Write a final remark. Make your last sentence an amazing ending to the story.
This will make your motivation letter interesting and easy to read. Remember, they have to read hundreds of applications so make it nice and convenient for them. It will increase your chances of being remembered.
Hope this was useful and made it a bit easier for you. If you have any questions or doubts about your motivation letter, feel free to leave a comment below or write me an email. I will be more than happy to help you! <3