Often when applying for something such as a graduate school, an applicant may be asked to provide a personal narrative based on her experiences. The admissions board uses the personal narrative to flesh out the applicant and see why she would make an excellent addition to the school. Employers also use such techniques, however a more appropriate term would be a professional narrative (more commonly referred to as a cover letter). In this situation, the applicant is still trying to showcase herself, but the focus is now on her background and skills, as well as where she hopes to be in the future.
When writing a professional narrative, list all relevant background experience you have for the job at hand. The keyword is "relevant." Employers already know what kind of experience they want from a candidate, and they do not expect to hear about every part-time job you have had prior to your professional experience, unless it somehow relates to the current position.
In your professional narrative, state what your goals are. Ask yourself the following the questions, and provide the answers within the narrative: Where do you see yourself in five years? What type of responsibilities do you wish to have? This will give an employer a sense of whether you are serious about staying within the company, or if you just plan to use the company as a jumping-off point.
When applying for a job, especially in the age of technology, it is always a good idea to provide the skills that employers may look for in potential candidates. For example, if you are applying for a computer-specific field, you will want to mention hardware, software and any other related products you know very well. The same can be said for positions in fields such as accounting, in which knowledge of the various software programs that exist will be helpful and show a potential employer that you are able to learn a program quickly.
A professional narrative should also include any of your accomplishments in the relevant field. List any awards you have received, as well as any conferences that you have been asked to speak at. These will show that you have a vast knowledge in your field, and will enhance your narrative.
Always tell the truth. Yes, you are trying to sell yourself to a company, but an employer will be able to quickly point out any embellishments in a cover letter, so it is always a best practice to stick to what you know best.