Help my use my Master's degree for good, not evil.
March 28, 2012 8:03 AM   Subscribe

[Career change filter, humanities edition] How can I best market my skills when I have very little experience?

I have a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. I'm currently working a job that doesn't require my educational credentials at all. I'd like to transition into a job where I write and/or edit for a living. Because I've been working around grad school for the past several years, my job experience is as an adjunct writing instructor, reference librarian and writing tutor. My current work is mainly clerical/administrative.

I have attempted to apply for entry-level jobs in tech writing with no success. There is a position open with an organization I am very interested in working with for a content writer. They are asking for someone with a BA in English plus 3 years of writing experience. How can I best market my skills when I haven't done much actual writing work?
posted by Kitty Stardust to Work & Money (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have writing samples? Even if they're not published, good samples (links or PDFs) that show off your flair for language or ability to communicate clearly and concisely should impress anyone looking for a writer. Can you set up a blog/website that showcases your work? Tech writing is so different from creative writing that I think you'd have to really pump out some samples specifically tailored to that sort of work, but general content or copy-writing shouldn't be that much of a stretch.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:14 AM on March 28, 2012

Second setting up a blog. It would show off your writing skills as well as some web skills which seem to be valuable in a lot of positions - I'm looking for jobs too (not in the same field though) and have noticed this.

That way you could have a link to it on your resume or cover letter and employers could easily find you.
posted by fromageball at 8:18 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I do have a blog, but it's dedicated to Goth culture, so, not really what I'd like to show employers. I do have my name as a domain. I could use that to set up some more neutral content.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 8:33 AM on March 28, 2012

Creative writing grad here who has gone through two (two!) career changes. I now write for a living.

First of all, it may be somewhat unrealistic to expect to get a full-time copywriting/content writing job immediately. A better strategy would be to research places where you would like to work, and try to get one-off assignments that will allow you to gain experience and flesh out your portfolio.

This will also make it easier to get your foot in the door, as employers may briefly (very briefly) look over your writing samples, and then shoot over a brief assignment to see how you do on it.

Be aware that there is no barrier to entry in this field. Everyone is a writer. In fact, most businesses, when times are tough, will shift writing to non-writing members of the team. So, you're going to have to figure out how you can add value.

Luckily, over the past couple years, content has become very important to search ranking. Thanks to changes in Google's algorithm, websites that receive weekly blog posts updates will (very generally speaking) display higher in search results. The posts have to be optimized for search (SEO), and should leverage social media such as Facebook and Twitter to drive traffic.

So there's that.

Permission-based email marketing is also something to demonstrate interest in to potential employers. Online PR (which is connected to blogging) is another value-add. Writing is also a jumping off point for UX, conversion optimization, or even online advertising.

Typically, you might work for an agency providing online marketing services to a variety of clients, from small businesses to enterprise clients.

To get an actual full-time job with one employer (as opposed to working with an agency), I suppose you could go down the path of "content strategy". All government websites need to have copy written and updated. This process has to be strategized and coordinated as well. A webmaster might do this, but you'll have to, as a basic skill, learn about CRMs. Rahel Baillie is a good person to look up.

But possessing competent writing skills is just a basic skill, and, from the perspective of many employers, anyone can do it. Spend a year building up your toolkit.

That's what I did. I went from working 4 hours a month for an online agency to working full-time for the same agency. The future is bright, and our team is expanding, and creating content is a key offering of ours.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:37 AM on March 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

Rereading your question, unless you have a personal connection on the inside, it will be tough to stand out. No worries, though. Changing careers is a slog, but if I can do it, so can you.

What I would do if you really want the job is:

- write a 300-word blog post that would work well with their site
- research 20 bloggers to connect to
- rewrite one web-page, optimized for search
- provide a brief UX review of their site, with recommendations for conversion optimization

Conversion in a global sense really means "call to action". Is there a button to click that will deliver a visitor to a contact page for example?

Feel free to MeMail me if you want more info. Here's my LinkedIn profile, to give you some idea of the things I do and my various career changes.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:18 AM on March 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

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