Many of us want to be published authors someday – poets, novelists, screenplay writers, the next George R.R. Martin – you get the idea. But, reality tells us we have to pay the bills in the meantime. Thankfully, writing can be a lucrative career when paired with the right skills.
I’m going to assume for the sake of this post that you’re already a decent writer, so I’ll go over some skills that are just as important. If not more so.
At my first job after college, I worked for a large e-commerce company managing a team of writers and their projects. What amazed me, especially when I was training new employees, was the number of times I asked the question, “Did you Google it?”
Being a writer means being resourceful. You dig up as much information as possible on your subject, even if that means diving into the second page of Google results.
Try new keywords. Read the whole article. Watch a video. Do whatever you can to answer your own question. If you still can’t figure it out, at least now you have the knowledge to ask a smart question.
Personally, I think of words as puzzle pieces and the act of writing as a period of discovery. Whether it’s choosing the right words or re-purposing content to fit a new medium, I take a bunch of disconnected pieces, draw them together, scramble them up, rearrange them 10,000 more times, until finally, I’ve created a clear picture.
Find the joy in that discovery.
3. Thick skin
What this comes down to is your ability to receive feedback – gracefully. I’ll be the first to admit that I can take it personally when someone criticizes my work.
And it’s not because I’m a perfectionist. It’s because I’m competitive. They’re close, but not the same thing.
I had to learn that feedback isn’t a personal attack on me, it’s a comment about my writing. If you can separate yourself from the work, it’s easier to stomach.
It’s also okay to ask ‘why’ when you receive feedback. In fact, I encourage it. But you have to be open to hearing the answer.
4. Self awareness
The hardest people to train are the ones who are incapable of looking at themselves objectively. They’re the candidates who walk into interviews and can’t tell the interviewer what their weaknesses are.
And no, no matter how you spin it, being a perfectionist isn’t a weakness.
Some might think this stems from arrogance, and maybe it does in some cases. But more often, I think people are reluctant to admit when they’re struggling for fear that they’ll get in trouble.
I challenge you to be brutally honest with yourself and to translate that into your performance reviews and one-on-one meetings with your boss. Couple that with an action plan for how you’re going to work on those weaknesses, and you’ll be the new favorite employee.
5. Organizational skills
As writers in the workplace, we’re usually tasked with keeping the file server, database, or other internal file structure organized. Thus, I highly suggest you learn how to organize yourself.
Ask any of my friends or coworkers – if you look at my apartment, it’s a mess. My desk? Piled with junk. However, if you delve into my computer, you’ll find a pristine utopia of meticulously nested folders.
Documents are named and dated in such a way that even a five-year-old could navigate my files.
To me, organization doesn’t mean being a neat freak. It means creating an efficient, usable system. One that can evolve over time as needs change.
Any new job will come with a learning curve. There will be processes you don’t understand and software you’ve never used. That’s why the ability to adapt to change is one of the most important skills you can bring to a job.
Approach fresh challenges with an open mind, and you’ll be amazed at your ability to figure it out. If you’re resistant to change before you even give it a chance, you inadvertently block yourself from learning the new skill, software, or process.
Okay, I know. This isn’t a skill.
But, if you’re a student looking to work in the field of writing, get an internship. Internships give you a couple important things:
- Real-world connections that can lead to a full-time job
- Examples from an actual workplace to use for interview scenario questions
- Skills you never knew you needed, like how to work in Microsoft Excel