What No One Tells You About Landing Your First Writing Job

Look forward as often as you look back.

“If you could tackle any creative project while working with us, what would it be?”

This was the first time a hiring manager had ever asked me a question like that during an interview.

I didn’t hesitate. Essentially, I poured my hopes and dreams out in front of me — and along with that, my passion for writing and creating, for health, for an audience I barely even knew.

I got the job.

Not because my writing experience was likely all that different from anyone else’s — let’s be honest — but because I had — always have — my eye on the future.

Did my degrees help? Well, yeah.

Was I asked about my experience, my past accomplishments, my credentials and qualifications? Absolutely. Your potential client/employer needs to know you can show up and do the work without someone having to hold your hand.

But the thing is, everyone who is applying for the job you’re interviewing for probably has similar-sounding experiences and qualifications. On paper, all those applications are going to look extremely familiar to one another — because (ideally) everyone applying meets the same basic requirements. Education, publishing credits, skill sets. And so on.

It’s not just about what you’ve done, or what you can do now, though.

Additionally — maybe even more so — it’s about what you plan on doing in the future. What your ambitions are. How — and in what direction — you want to grow.

Companies and publications aren’t looking for writers who can write well.

They’re looking for people with a passion for creating better content than they ever have before.

That’s not really something you can easily list as a requirement on a job application. Anyone — especially a writer! — can make themselves sound good on paper.

It’s when you get on that phone or Skype call, or when you sit across a table or desk from that person hoping to hire you, that they’ll see whether or not you’re interested in learning, in growing, in striving to create things that will serve a continuously shifting audience demographic.

Publications want writers who have goals. Who will only look back on their previous work as a means of doing better in the future.

So when you’re applying to and interviewing for these jobs, don’t spend the entire time dwelling on everything you’ve already accomplished. That’s boring and unexciting — it’s already happened.

Focus as much of your energy as possible on where you want to go from here.

That one question — “If you could tackle any creative project while working with us, what would it be?” — launched the most productive conversations I had with hiring managers before I got the call that would change my professional life forever.

Look ahead. Only look back if it’s going to help you grow.

Focus on the future. The past is not the predictor of what’s yet to come. Or it shouldn’t be, anyway.

It’s a bar you can rise above. Not something to cling to to keep from falling.

Speak of your passions, your goals, your plans (and how you’re going to execute them). THAT is what makes you marketable. THAT is what makes you stand out from all the other applicants who have just as many blogs and books and years of experience as you.

Good luck!

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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