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So you want to get paid to write...

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In an era when English, Journalism, and Communications majors are grateful to snag a cushy cashier job at Whole Foods, what does it take to land a job where you actually use the skills you obtained via those crushing student loans? This writeup is one of several guest blog posts where Paper Darts sought out young professionals working creativly and asked them a simple question:

What the hell are you suposed to do with a Liberal Arts degree?

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When literarily-inclined friends learn that my official title is Writer/Editor in a corporate environment, they inevitably ask me if I can get them a job at my company. The only problem is, in the rare case when a company has a full-time writer on staff, they probably don't need a second one. More importantly, the title of writer often isn't anywhere near an accurate description of the position.

Since graduating with a degree in Mass Communications in 2001, I've been a Communications Specialist, English Teacher, Marketing Coordinator and Communications Coordinator; all positions that involved just as much writing as I do in my current position. The main point I want to share with you is, if you want to write in an office environment, you’re going to have to be flexible and do a lot more than just write in your cubicle.

Unfortunately, a lot of people get discouraged after graduation and lose their career path. I would estimate that at least 90 percent of the people I graduated with in Mass Communications now work outside their area of study. Not because they want to, but because they didn’t search out experience with internships and weren’t flexible enough to get their foot in the door with an entry level position.

When I was in college, I used my retail position as an opportunity to write ads that were published in the local paper and broadcast through radio outlets. (This wasn’t easy. I first had to sell the owner on the merits of running ads, then do all the financial haggling with the ad reps to get the price as low as possible.) I couldn’t quite decide what I wanted to do, so I worked in editorial positions in the student-run newspaper, radio and literary arts magazines. I also completed two different unpaid internships in two very-different industries, which were useful in teaching me what industries I did not want to work in.

So, while I’ve always considered myself a writer by trade, in the real world – this means I’m also a project manager, social media strategist, web designer and anything else an organization needs. This broad background has worked to my advantage. My resume and writing samples may have gotten me the interview, but it was my 10+ years of general office experience that turned it into a job offer.

This really isn’t a bad thing. I went into communications and marketing because I tend to be a jack-of-all trades and really enjoy learning a lot about (and doing) a variety of different things. Being the office go-to person can be a lot of fun because in addition to having your normal assignments, you get pulled in to assist with all sorts of different projects. Remember; if management feels that you’re good at more than just writing, you’ve just made yourself a lot more valuable to the company.

Here are my takeaways:

  • Be flexible. The job market is terrible and it’s unlikely an organization will be looking for someone as specialized as an entry-level writer or editor. Make sure you’re including general positions such as Office Assistant, Communications Specialist and Executive Assistant in your job search.
  • Grab as much experience as you can before you graduate and continue building your resume after graduation (even if you’re in a job that doesn’t feel like it’s a writing position.) A good resume guide will explain how to turn the most mundane tasks into resume highlights without lying. Working in retail is excellent customer service experience, data entry is excellent training for editing, etc. Check out a couple of guides from the library and update your resume. It’s a constant work in progress.
  • Get your writing out there! With the explosion of social media, there are honestly limitless avenues for getting your writing published online. If you haven’t, start writing a blog that is professional enough to link to your LinkedIn account and post on your resume, and keep updating it on a regular basis. It really doesn’t matter what you’re writing about as long as it’s intelligent, readable and current. If nothing else, having a blog keeps your writing skills sharp.
  • Social Media is more than just Facebook. Set up an account on LinkedIn and learn how to use it effectively to network and contact companies you’re interested in. Given the amount of time most of us waste on Social Media, make sure you’re taking the time to do something productive online.
  • Every experience has a lesson. Whether you learn that you don’t want to be a cashier for the rest of your life or that working in a cube isn’t for you, take these lessons to heart and use them to push yourself in the path you want to follow.

That’s it for now. I know none of these points are new or particularly groundbreaking, but they work and aren’t difficult. What you’ll probably find hard is to not fall into a negative, “Why me?” mindset, and to hope for an employer to e-mail you a job offer out of the blue.

It’s not going to happen. Get yourself out there and be proactive.


Jon Bauer is the Marketing Writer/Editor for MMIC Group in Minneapolis, MN. He lives in Brooklyn Center with his expectant wife, four rats and one disgruntled rabbit. Follow his ramblings about writing, social media and music on Twitter @jonmarcbauer.

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