Writing sample in unrelated field for job application?
May 22, 2011 7:08 PM   Subscribe

How should I approach submitting a writing sample for a job when I don't have any related writing in the field?

(Anonymous because I have several highly inquisitive/nosy coworkers who I know read Ask MeFi, and I don't need them telling my manager that I am trying to quit my job when I've done a good job of pretending this isn't the case.)

I am trying to switch out of my current field, market research, into a different field completely, let's say something public policy-related.

I've been looking into a number of different positions, and found a couple of positions that I am interested in and could conceivably be qualified for. However, these positions require a writing sample, and unfortunately I don't have any long relevant writing samples on the topic. (This is a result of my finally acknowledging what I was actually interested in, but only after I had graduated from college and started my day job, which has precluded a lot of time/energy to just produce academic writing.)

I feel that I have two options:

(1) Provide a writing sample of something unrelated (I graduated a year ago, so I still have a lot of academic work that I could submit. It just wouldn't be related.)
(2) Spend the time to write something new and related to the position, but then wouldn't have been looked over by instructors, profs, etc. I feel comfortable writing on the topic, if it comes to this.
(Supplemental question): how long should this be? I imagine if these are typically on the order of two pages, I could totally spend the time writing it; if it's something like 15 pages, this may become more unrealistic. The job postings don't state anything except "submit a writing sample."

This is a writing sample for a job in the workplace, not in academia, so think like public policy, not applications to a grad program or something like that.

Throwaway email: jobwriting33@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (3 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Why not do both? Two pages for the on-topic sample sounds about right.
posted by ottereroticist at 7:16 PM on May 22, 2011

Spend the time to compile a writing sample. Try to find out what kind of product you would be expected to crank out in the position, and create a sample that mirrors it. Pick up the phone and interview people currently doing this sort of work to find out.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:37 PM on May 22, 2011

Public policy is pretty broad. What kind of positions are you going for? Communications/press? Research? Policy associate? Depending of the type of job within the field, the type of writing that they are looking for is going to vary. For a press job, you aren't going to want to submit something that is highly academic and regardless of the job, you don't want a 15-page monster.

Also, chances are that the topic of your sample is going to be less important than form (that is, if you are applying to something in education policy, you don't necessarily have to turn in a two pager on education policy, you have to show them that you can break down and explain policy issues in a particular format--your resume is going to show that you don't have background in this particular area, so it won't be shocking that you don't necessarily have a portfolio of items related to the issue). If you are starting from scratch, then by all means go for something that is on-topic, but make sure that you have a handle on the type of document you are producing. I've applied for a number of jobs where my writing from my previous job wasn't necessarily in the same policy area, but it showed off my facility with relevant form, e.g. fact sheets or op/eds.

I've spent over a decade in the public policy field, so if you have questions or can point to what exactly it is you are looking to do, feel free to MeMail me.
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 8:06 PM on May 22, 2011

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