As a writer, one of the essential pieces of your job is to read. By continuously reading and taking in new information, you can use what you read to improve your writing style. When you see something that you like in someone else’s writing, you can borrow that and implement it in your own.
As you read work by other authors, you will often see things that come up again and again. They use the same word or phrase in a particular setting or they like to use flowery metaphors. These things are all fine, depending on the type of writing you (or the author) is doing.
What can be useful for you as a writer is being able to spot these tendencies in other’s writing and then use that experience to spot your own tendencies. Maybe you always tend to switch tenses as you write. Knowing that as you write can help you spot those errors, and save you time from having to edit them out later on in your writing process.
Finding Your Voice
I wrote about this a few months back but it’s worth mentioning again here. It’s especially important to read lots of books if you are having trouble finding your voice. Go to your local library and browse through 3-4 different sections. Pick out some books in a genre that you have NEVER read before! Scary thought? Of course it is. But facing that fear is part of what is holding you back right now.
Get out of your comfort zone and look at what authors sound like in their writing. Take some time to actually read a few passages out loud so you can hear how the words sound. You may find something you want to borrow for your own writing. You may also find some things that you absolutely hate…which brings me to my last point.
Finding Out What NOT To Do
Sometimes knowing what not to do is just as important than knowing what you should do. Your friend gave you directions to his house and can’t remember the exact street to turn on, but you do remember that he specifically said not to turn until after you cross the railroad tracks. That certainly helps when you’re trying to find the right street.
In your reading, there will come a time when you come across a passage or a chapter and say to yourself, “why would anyone write like this?” Take note of that because that it your inner editor telling you how not to write.
As writers we sometimes get bogged down in the writing itself. However, it is important to be able to step back and “research” by reading a good book.
Let me know what you think. Do you have a great book that you’ve read recently that has helped your writing in some way? Leave a note in the comment section.
It’s time for another reader response.
Ramit writes-“I have been associated with a single organization without the need to switch jobs [after college]; but I fear someday when I will feel stagnated here, I may be pretty ill equipped in the job market on the resume front.”
A friend of mine (we’ll call him Joe to protect the innocent) recently lost his job. He had been working for the company for almost ten years. One afternoon the entire senior staff was brought into a conference room and told by the CEO that they had to let go of nearly half of Joe’s department. Upon hearing this, Joe immediately pulled up the most recent copy of his résumé to start sending it out to prospective employers.
Joe’s résumé was almost four years old. The last time he had updated it was when he was promoted to the job he was about to be fired from. There was a whole slew of responsibilities and functions of his job that were missing. Joe did his best to go through and update his résumé, but he told me that he felt like there were things he missed because he just couldn’t remember them.
The key to maintaining a great résumé is keeping it updated. Set a reminder for yourself in Outlook or Gmail that will occur once a quarter or every six month and remind you to update your résumé. When you do, print out a copy and make annotations on it where you would be able to enhance something or add new roles and responsibilities. I cannot say enough about having a Master Résumé on file where you can keep all information you might ever need for a job application.
My friend Joe realized that his new job was not going to be exactly the same as his last job, but that was OK. He looked back at projects that he had been a part of and realized that there were several presentations that he had contributed to in terms of the artwork and graphic design. He had always loved art and wanted to do something with his art.
Have a Portfolio
This may sound like something that would only be useful for artists or musicians, but it can apply to just about any position. Anything your produce in your daily work (projects plans, newsletters, new processes, even reports) can be added to your portfolio as demonstration of your ability.
Keep a Goal in Mind
You may have heard the adage that “you interview for your next job every day.” This is absolutely true and it is import to make sure you know what your plans and goals are. Take some time each week and assess where you are in your career and where you are trying to go. Write down your plans and refer back to them regularly.
If you see yourself going in a direction that leads you away from one of your goals, take the time to redirect and make sure everything you do at work is helping you achieve your career goals.
Joe did manage to find a new job just a few months after finding out he was being let go. He brought samples of the presentations he had worked on with him on interviews and was likely hired due to two things. First, he was able to show the interviewers some of his past work. That work provided evidence that he wasn’t just someone who liked to draw stick figures. Secondly, he had experience that was completely separate from his art and that made him a well rounded candidate for the job.
Even though Joe now has a great job doing work that he loves, he still makes sure to keep his Master Résumé updated. He even has two different templates for his résumé, one that is in a more traditional text format and one that incorporates graphic elements that he may use for more artistic work in the future.
Have more questions about writing your résumé? Leave them in the comments below.
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It’s that time again, a simple call for questions. This time I’m looking for anything you want to know about editing, grammar, punctuation, proofreading, etc.
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A few weeks ago I asked you to send me some of the things that you find hard about writing your résumé. I will be tackling some of those in the coming weeks as blog topics.
Terrance wrote in-“I am not a writer and so I have a hard time crafting my experience on paper. I can talk about what I did but it is also hard remembering everything that I have done.”
I can completely understand this trouble. Some people are natural talkers. They are comfortable telling their story to people face to face but they lock up when they sit down by themselves to tell that same story. Let’s look at a few tips t get around this.
I have written about this in the past but it bears repeating. Make sure that you have a complete Master Résumé handy at all times. This document includes every job (yes, even babysitting or delivering papers in middle school) that you have ever held along with every responsibility that those jobs entailed.
When you need to apply for a job, simply access your Master Résumé and remove anything that doesn't apply to the job in question.
I recommend this not only because I offer this as a service through Best Word Forward but because I used to have trouble seeing the forest for the trees when I was writing my résumé. This is true about any writing endeavor and probably any artistic pursuit. Michelangelo likely had the vision of the Sistine Chapel in his mind, but it must be seen from the floor in order to appreciate the full beauty.
Your reviewer doesn't have to be a professional. I recommend finding a friend or family member with a teenage child and ask them to read over your résumé. For 90% of jobs, keeping the résumé simple makes more of an impact than over complicating it with big words. If someone in their early to mid teen years can understand your résumé AND repeat back to you what they read, chances are you are pretty close to the mark.
Do it in Chunks
Putting together can be a daunting task, especially when you don’t have a job and are trying desperately to land work. My last piece of advice is not to try and put together your full résumé all in one sitting. Just like any good writing, you should take some time to set down your outline. Start with just a list of your jobs and education. Once you have that framework in place, start filling in the details.
Give yourself a solid goal, perhaps one week to finish updating your résumé, and work on it a little bit every day. You’re not cramming for a test, you’re setting up your résumé to help you get a better job and improve your life. Make every second that you put into this effort count.
If you still have more questions about how to write your résumé, leave a note in the comments section or email me.
One of the hardest parts about the English language is the prominence of words that sound the same, or very similar, yet mean different things. My recent favorite is “there,” “their” and “they’re.” If you read these to someone and they can’t see them printed on the page, they will have no idea which meaning is intended without some additional context.
Another pair of words that I have recently seen used incorrectly is “ensure” and “insure.” At first glance, these two words are so similar. They may only differ by one letter, but that little change can make a big difference.
Both of these words can have the concept of securing or guaranteeing something behind their meaning, but again, the context is important. When using “insure” you are generally be speaking about something financial. You pay to insure your car or home against damage. You pay to insure yourself against costly health issues. In general, anything pertaining to the insurance industry will use “insure.”
On the other hand, “ensure” should be used when you are guaranteeing something will happen. “The girl sang well enough to ensure herself a spot on American Idol.” You are essentially saying that an event is a certainty because of some other action.
Now you know, and knowing…well GI Joe probably has the rest of that copyrighted.
Jonathan Ytreberg is the owner of Best Word Forward, committed to providing the best resume advice and services to clients around the globe.