8 Ways to Build Writing Career Experience

If you want to pursue writing as a career, you’re often told your dreams are futile– there aren’t jobs, and the ones that are available are nearly impossible to break into. Well, those people are being a little over-dramatic. You can get a job in writing, but you need to work for it. Being honest here, you probably have to work harder than people in other fields. However, to make that work easier I’ve included some tips to keep in mind if you’re a college student beginning to build your writing career.

1. Research what your dream job requires and map out a plan to get there. Different jobs require different things. Look at job postings and see what kind of experience they require, and start taking the steps they get there. If you need 2-3 years experience and writing samples, apply for internships or start doing the work while you’re at school. If you need certain skills, make sure you have them by the time you graduate.

2. Join as many writing-related activities as you can. I hate to break it to you, but being a writer means being a workaholic, so just one club probably won’t do. You don’t have to join every writing-related club, but join as many as you can while still being able to throw 100% of your effort into them. Using myself as an example, I help run a non fiction online magazine, I’m an editor for a literary magazine, and I work as a writing tutor. That way I get fiction and nonfiction experience from the perspective of a reader, writer, editor, and teacher. This broad experience allows me to network with other writers in multiple fields, build a repertoire of published work and experience, and gives me a ton of experience to add to my resume.

3. BE PUBLISHED. This is so so so important. Writing is such a hands-on field, that it doesn’t matter if you have a 4.0 GPA. If you don’t have proof that you can write, no one will hire you. On applications employers will ask for writing samples. Write for a school magazine/ newspaper or submit to literary magazines. Even if it’s not your niche genre, just get published somewhere. If you’re a fiction writer, don’t be afraid to publish nonfiction and vise versa. Blogs are also a good way to start, but really try to get your work published by someone other than yourself.

4. Build up multi-faceted skills. Sadly, writers cannot be one-trick ponies. Due to less jobs being available, you’re more likely to get hired if you can do multiple things. For some companies, you have to enter in whatever position is open before you move over to your desired field. Example: If you want to work in editorial at a publishing company, you might have to enter in publicity or marketing. Double major or minor if you can. Utilize whatever skills you have.

5. Get leadership experience. This might be a little difficult, but it boosts your resume so much. If you want to be an editor, it helps to have editorial experience at a school publication. Even if it’s not necessarily writing related, leadership experience still looks good because employers can see you’re capable of being self-sufficient as well as working with a team. A good way to get leadership experience is to join things early– like freshman year. Always be that person who goes above and beyond. Be very involved. Offer extra help when you can. People will notice. And ALWAYS apply for the position. Even if you think you’re not qualified, you may surprise yourself.

6. Network, network, network. Writers are typically introverts. I am one, so I get it. But you have to pretend to be an extravert. Go out of your way to talk to people you work with. When you build friendships, people will help you out if they graduate and have an opening at their company. Also networking/ being an extravert comes in handy for interviews. If you seem outgoing, people will hire you. You don’t have to change your personality, but you have to force yourself to put on a smile and fake it ’till you make it.

7. Don’t be afraid to move. If you really want a job in a writing field, you cannot be afraid to move. I go to school in Pittsburgh, and I know so many people who want to stay here because they have friends/ family here. I understand, but you probably won’t end up with your dream writing job unless you’re extremely lucky. Apply to jobs in major cities all over the US. If your career means that much to you, you can’t wait for it to come to you. Get out there and chase it.

8. Write on your own, every day. This is basic writing advice in general, but this is the best way to improve your writing. Like I said earlier, if your writing sucks, you won’t get a job. It’s not something like math where you can learn an equation and suddenly know how to do it. It’s a talent you have to practice and see gradual improvement. Writing every day also teaches you time management skills and helps build your repertoire of writing samples. Especially if you want to be a novelist and write outside of a career, writing on your own is a great habit to get into. 

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