This guest post is contributed by Angela Martin, who writes on the topics of Salaries by Career. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Earlier this year, the A Job You Love blog featured an article about the failure of business schools and universities to successfully educate its students regarding the ins and outs of looking for employment. I would whole-heartedly agree with this position. Although I did not pursue an MBA degree, the disconnect between what I was taught at university and what I learned following those desperate post-grad months spent looking for gainful employment was very large indeed.
Why writing skills are important
Even though I do wish that I had learned more about networking, personal branding, and CV-writing when I was an undergraduate student, what really saved me in the job search process was–plainly and simply–my written communication skills. I was lucky enough to have had a passion and knack for writing growing up, and, contrary to what my parents had wanted me to study, I chose to pursue a degree in English literature. Even though there may not be an immediate connection between studying Shakespeare and getting a job, after I was finally hired for an IT company, my boss told me later that it was my writing skills specifically that set me apart from the rest of the candidates.
Now of course, I studied English literature simply because I wanted to, and I know that the vast majority of job seekers have pursued more “useful” degrees or fields of study that are pertinent to their goals and interests. However, I think it is of paramount importance that job seekers actively seek to improve their writing skills, no matter what their respective field or industry. There is no one way in which to ensure that you keep your writing chops up to speed, but in my experience, the best way to do so is to simply read a lot. Read whatever interests you, whether it is fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, or industry manuals.
Of course, all of these types of reading material will have different writing styles, but that isn’t really what’s important. Reading improves your writing as well as other cognitive processes—it’s common sense and, interestingly, it has been scientifically researched and proven. I do offer one caveat, however—when picking reading material, select books and publications with an eye to quality rather than quantity. What I’m trying to say is that celebrity gossip magazines and steamy harlequin paperbacks do not count, in my mind, as reading.
Another way to improve your writing—bear with me, this may seem even more tautological than the previous suggestion—is to simply write more. Write something beyond what your job (or previous job, if you are unemployed) requires of you. In another A Job You Love article Laurent Brouat suggested writing industry-related articles as a way to improve your web presence and chances of future employment. I think this is a wonderful idea, since my experience in job-finding success was closely related. The reason my employer at the time had any idea about my writing skills before hiring me was because he had Googled my name and found articles I had written for various student publications.
Writing is transferable and versatile
Perhaps the most important reason for improving your writing is that it is a skill that is so transferable, and so versatile. Every job, to one extent or another, requires good written communication. And good writing also improves your critical thinking and oral communication skills. Especially if you didn’t do much writing at the university level, then do yourself a favor, and start reading and writing now. The future of your career depends on it.