TIPS FOR PROFESSIONAL SUCCESS: What Can Job Hunting Teach Us Authors?

businessman-with-the-notebook-3-1362248-mJob-hunting and writing: these have been the major focus of my life lately. Being the former grad student I am, I started comparing them: the techniques they involve, the different things that can lead to success in each.

Sadly, I haven’t been writing lately. Haven’t worked on my WIP in a week. I’m just too frustrated and too stressed to feel like dealing with it. That said, I have picked up a lot of leads on the job front: so hopefully I’ll find myself employed soon, which will help me feel more secure.

Anyways, this post isn’t supposed to be about me. It’s about those things that help us writers both write and find jobs. (I know I’m not the only writer seeking employment. I have heard from LOTS of you guys in the same boat as me).

These abilities and resources will really come in handy:

 YOU HAVE TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

Be creative: leads for a job can come from anywhere, and the perfect job for you might require some fun explanations in a cover letter and/or interview about how your experience–while not an obvious fit–has really prepared you for a new and exciting challenge.

As for writing: I don’t know any author who wouldn’t stress the importance of creativity. Of mind-mapping; of brainstorming; of not discarding the crazy, “out there” ideas, but rather using them as a jumping point to develop something different and intriguing.

SAY ONLY WHAT MATTERS

When interviewers ask you, “Tell me about yourself,” they don’t care about how many brothers and sisters you have. And it’s illegal for them to ask how many kids you have.

They want to know things applicable to the job: how your professional experience has prepared you for the challenge ahead. What you are looking for in a career and what you would bring to the company.

Managers are busy, and you’re not getting the job if you waste their time talking about stuff that doesn’t bear upon the topic at hand: why you are a good fit for the open position.

The same goes for writing: fluff is BAD. Really bad. First drafts always have a lot of it, and editing always involves a LOT of cutting down–sometimes even deleting whole scenes.

I’ve written a guide of questions to ask before you cut something. Generally, if you can’t define a specific reason to keep a sentence, paragraph, or scene, you don’t need it. If you can’t explain what it contributes to the novel or story as a whole, it shouldn’t be part of the novel or story.

In the case of a sentence, or a phrase, you could ask what it contributes to the paragraph or the scene (rather than the global picture). But you should be able to defend its presence somehow.

Valid defenses do NOT include the following:

  • “I like it.”
  • “My book would be too short without this scene.”
  • “It’s well written.”
  • “I spent a lot of time on it so by gosh, I’m keeping it.”

COMMUNITY MATTERS

Anyone who has successfully found work in the current (read: dismal and depressing) economy could tell you the importance of networking. Of involving your contacts and asking them for references or for leads. Of letting people know you need work, and asking them to let you know if they hear of anything you might be a fit for.

Community matters in writing, too. Writing and critique groups support each other and help each other grow, both personally and as authors. We help each other create our best work and to improve as we go along. Beta readers and editors are essential.

None of us can go it alone. Not successfully.

STUDY UP

I have read tons of blog posts and articles with tips about job hunting: interview “do”s and “don’t”s, follow-up tips, where to find leads. I have met multiple times with the career office at my old university, learning how to best present my experience through the resume format.

This has really helped me put my best foot forward. Even though I haven’t gotten offers yet, I’ve had a number of great interviews, which is encouraging as I keep plodding on.

Some of those interviews I might never have gotten without the tips I learned from “studying up.”

The same goes for writers: READ BLOGS. Read author blogs. Good heavens, lots of us run them, and I have found them such a goldmine of information I have written a post about the benefits authors get from being active in the blogosphere.

Even if you haven’t published yet, even if you don’t have a blog yourself, be active and read. Make the contacts (remember, community matters).

STAY POSITIVE

This is can be tough on both counts: writing and job hunting. Few experiences are as disheartening and as emotionally crippling as repeated rejection.

Repeated rejection is part of the game whether you’re seeking employment or an agent/ publisher.

When you go months with lots of interviews but no offers–when even interviews are hard to come by–it’s easy to start to feel like there’s something wrong with you.

There isn’t. You’ve just got to plug on and keep going: keep following up, keeping seeking out leads, and if necessary, reassess your approach and get some outside input to present a better image of what you truly have to offer. (In other words, study up. See how all these things connect?)

As for writing: even if you aren’t actively seeking an agent or publisher, you WILL experience writer doubt. Chances are you already have or are currently feeling it. It’s pretty much an epidemic. (It hit me bad earlier this year.)

One of the things that help me through writer’s doubt is simply understanding that it’s normal, because it is. It hits us all.

Here is what writer’s doubt means:

  • That you’re human, which means you aren’t perfect. Join the club.
  • That you have an advantage over blind narcissists who don’t think they can ever improve themselves or their work.
  • That you have a real shot to make something of yourself, because that doubt, that knowledge that you are “lacking,” is great motivation to make improvements

So try to stay positive, as tough as that can be sometimes. Take things one day, one chapter, one character sheet at a time. Perhaps one job application/ interview at a time.

Life is about the JOURNEY. I forget that all the time. I focus on the destination and feel like a failure because I’m not there yet.

In reality, none of us are “there” yet because life is about the journey. The adventure. Writing and job hunting are sometimes part of life. As such, they’re also about the journey. They’re about enjoying the journey (writing) or growing from it (job hunting).

So, I hope you enjoyed this post. Like I posted earlier this week, I’m cutting back on daily posts to publish new material on Sundays and Wednesdays (and the occasional Friday).

If you don’t want to miss out on new posts, you can sign up to follow my blog by email at the top right of the page.

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31 responses to “TIPS FOR PROFESSIONAL SUCCESS: What Can Job Hunting Teach Us Authors?

  1. Great post. It’s so easy to get discouraged in life, especially with writing! I will definitely read this again when I feel like that as it is very encouraging. Goodluck with the interviews and getting a job.

  2. Yup, great post! I’m surprised you haven’t been offered a job yet given how talented you are. Just goes to show how bad the economy really is. I like how you compare job hunting with writing, and I really appreciate your comment that we should be focused on the journey more than the destination. It’s too easy to set ourselves up to fail by setting expectations too high. I wish you the best in your job search, Victoria, not just that you’ll get a job, but also that it will be one that was worth waiting for 🙂

    • thank you so much for your kind words!!! I appreciate your support, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post 🙂 I think it is important to set realistic expectations (not low…. but realistic) and keep plugging on 🙂 It’s nice to get backup there! 🙂

  3. Wise advice, Victoria. Good luck with the job hunt!

  4. Fantastic post. I just went through this too. A couple days ago I got a good job after 6 months of being unemployed. My writing came and went in spurts, and then stalled. I’ve been procrastinating on my current project for a week. Maybe now I can get moving passed worrying and onto writing. I don’t like to hear people are unemployed or struggling to make ends meet. I also don’t like to know that others are struggling with their writing or other art forms due to the stresses of life. No one should suffer. We sometimes forget that writing should be an outlet for those stresses. Needless to say, it’s easier said than done when our livelihood is on the line in a big way. I am glad I’ve not been alone in these trying times. I hope there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for everyone in both aspects of writing and employment.

    • You are so right: writing–both fiction and my blog–have been a great help/release when I can motivate myself to write 🙂 And I am blessed with a supportive family and friends.

      I am SO glad to hear you found a great opportunity!!! Here’s hoping all of us in this boat can say the same soon 🙂 Appreciate your support a lot, Wanda. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!!

  5. This reminds me of an interview I had years ago because they thought I was being funny on my resume. People who work at Subway (the sandwich shop) are called Sandwich Artists, so I put that as the position. I was brought into an advertising firm as an underdog. I sank myself the moment I mentioned that I didn’t make up the term.

    Also, potential employers don’t like it when you say published author for the ‘where do you see yourself in 10 years?’ question.

    • Yeah on that last count, I’ve never referred to my writing as anything other than a hobby where employers are concerned because in their eyes that truly is what it is.

      I can’t make a living from my writing. It is my passion and I will put what time toward it I can, but a paying job would have to come first. I understand and accept that.

      I guess I can’t realistically and honestly say I see myself working as an author in ten years because I don’t expect my writing to ever be financially stable.

      • I started doing this after 2 years of temp jobs and failed interviews. These were interviews I was sent on and went through the motions. I guess I had stopped caring about the 9-5 job because that was becoming as impossible as the writing contract. It’s interesting how life experiences and situations can alter a person’s focus and faith.

        • It really is!!!!!! Hard not to feel discouraged…. I’ve been searching for months now and I expect if I find anything at all it will be two or three part time jobs because that’s all that is available. I can’t even find one.

          Oh well. At this point I definitely need to keep seeking gainful employ because writing is just not cutting it.

        • Is there a temp agency that you can use to help get a foot in the door or some work while you search?

    • I thought I’d share this since you mention the published-author in 10 years comment. Someone told me to not put that I am self employed as a writer on my resume. If I was published by the big boys, that would be different. I put it on my resume often regardless. I did it because I din’t want them to think I spent my days being fruitless, even though I’m unemployed. Anyway, I took someone’s advice and for months and months I took writer off my resume. Finally, I put it back on at the last minute before I applied to the last two jobs I was interested in. They both interviewed me, where others weren’t calling at all. This last interview I had, the one where I was hired, the hiring supervisor asked me about it. Asked about my self-pubbed book, Someday Always Comes, and my current projects. He was impressed and made no attempt to hide his curiosity. Then he asked why I write. I told him, as I often tell others, even though writing might not pay well, it reduces stress, just like tennis or a card game might for someone else; it incites creativity which, once fueled, can spill over into our work & career and out every day lives. I can do all sorts of things on paper that I can’t do in reality for various & obvious reasons. The interviewer was impressed, amused, and he liked the whole idea of writing as an outlet. He hired me.

      • I wish I ran into people like that. There’s still the stigma about self-published writing that it takes no effort. Though, I think now I could get further if I put my sales numbers on there. It does show a level of creativity as well as business sense and learning how to promote. I’ve learned a lot of useful skills that I could put on a resume if I ever had to go back to that route.

        • I think it takes a lot more work than people realize: especially do it well and be successful. Which is part of the problem: lots of people don’t do it well.

        • Very true. People talk a lot about the saturation and those indie authors that toss out unfinished works. One person I ran into discussed an article about some kind of open story site. Basically, the site had basic stories and a person need only take it, title it, add characters, and fill in a few blanks. Then they post it on Amazon for 99 cents and work on the next one. A quote from one person in the article was that he had 400 eBooks out there using this system and he didn’t even like writing. Stories like that are making people think indie authors are those looking for easy money by writing a crap book and putting it out without any effort.

        • They really do ruin it (or at least make it much more difficult) for those of us who do care and do put in the effort.
          UGH. I didn’t know about that site. That is AWFUL!!!

        • I think Amazon started taking care of it by searching for books that were practically identical. Maybe that’s why the review part is so long.

      • I love this!!! I put it on my resume too: it shows technological skills! I also mention numbers of downloads and stuff like that when applicable and when they show success.

  6. I’ve been in touch with a bunch. On lists but never called in. I am doing okay though. 🙂 Blessed with a wonderful family.

  7. Wow, great correlation of bringing this in with job hunting. Writing can apply to almost anything if we find some parallel. I’m sorry you’re stressed. Nothing stresses me out like writing does, especially when I feel like I don’t know where/what to do with a current WIP.

    • Yeah, I agree completely! That’s the worst. And that’s where I am with my WIP. It’s the start of a new series of at least two books involving a war between 3 kingdoms.

      I haven’t really planned things out…. so I feel a bit overwhelmed. Have a completed first draft (partially edited) of the first book but not sure what further changes I need to make to it.

      I think the big thing I should do I figure out the trajectory of the war: what the leaders of each kingdom want and are hoping for, and use that to plot out what can happen in the future book(s). Then I can feel more secure with book one I’m sitting on 🙂

  8. Another great post. Best of luck with your job hunt. I hope when you post next week you’ll have good news to share with us.
    As for your WIP, it might be helpful just to work on background material for now–develop your characters and setting. The plot develops from those. I always find it helpful to find a photo in a magazine or newspaper or even online (no one will see this but me, so I don’t have to worry about copyrights) that looks like the character I’m working on. I may have to adjust the clothing to fit the era and setting–I use Paint Shop Pro for that. I don’t have Photo Shop, but PSP does fine. I also draw maps of my countries if they are in a fantasy world. It isn’t writing, but it helps me crystallize my thinking so that when things calm down and I can write, I have lots to write about.

  9. Community definitely matters. I helped someone with a blog tour and that lead me to an artist who created the map for my book. I reviewed another fantasy author’s book and they reviewed mine. Another author I met through social media gave me advice for increasing the hits for my book trail on youtube.

  10. Pingback: Writers aren’t Dreamers: 4 Ways Creative Writing Brings “Real-World” Benefits | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

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