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January 08, 2015 - Posted to Writing
Students often ask, “Why do I have to do this? I’ll never use it in my career field!” This statement is particularly true for students who are going into mathematical, technical, scientific, and computer fields. They tend not to like to write, and they often resent all of the academic writing assignments they get in other required courses – English, history, economics, fine arts, etc. In some respects, they are correct. A beautiful academic writing style may never again be required of them when they actually enter their careers. Getting to that first job offer, however, is quite another story. Most students do not realize how their academic writing in college can assist in the entire process from the job search to ultimate employment.
Academic Writing Improves Several Skills that will be of Value to Potential Employers
Consider all that you really do when you produce effective academic writing:
- You are forced to organize your thoughts. This establishes patterns within your brain that support organization in both writing and speaking. So, when an interview question is complex and requires you to organize your thoughts before you answer, you can thank those professors for forcing you to write!
- You develop self-discipline – setting timelines for long-term writing assignments, and meeting deadlines. You can certainly list this as a strength in your resume and speak to it during an interview.
- You become better informed in general. If all you studied in college was computer science, you would not do well in an interview situation. You will probably be amazed at the information you have absorbed writing all those essays and papers, and you may be asked questions that allow you to use some of it! The interview process is not just to talk about your specific skills in the field – it is to probe for who you are as a person too – what are your basic values and principles? Through academic writing in what you might consider “soft” subjects, you have actually refined your values and belief systems, whether you realize it or not!
It’s time for the Resume and Cover Letter
Again, many of the skills that you picked up through your academic writing will serve you well.
- Parts of a resume may be in prose sentences. Other information will be bulleted, but the phrasing, the spelling and the vocabulary will be a result of the writing skills you have improved and refined over the years.
- The cover letter is a critical “first look” at you, and it must be engaging and perfect. Think of all of the introductions you have written over the years, and think about what your professors taught you about introductions. The same concepts apply in your cover letter. You want to begin with a short engaging sentence. Then you want to introduce your topic (which, of course, is you), but you want to be brief. When you write a good cover letter, you are using the same skills you used in writing good introductions for essays and papers!
You Got the Interview – Here are some Potential Surprises
You certainly expect an interview to cover your education and training in your field quite specifically, and you will probably be able to answer these questions quite well. Here are some questions and some activities that you may not expect:
- You may be asked, “What is your favorite novel?” Seriously? During an interview for a math teaching position? Yes, during an interview for a math position! Employers want to know that their people are more than just their skills specific to a position. Most organizations are filled with a great variety of personalities, and they want to know that there are other aspects to your personality, so that they are comfortable with your ability to relate to others!
- Here’s another. “What was the most difficult class you took outside of your major?” Here, you can gleefully speak to that English comp class, but you can also speak to some of the essays and papers you wrote and discuss how they “broadened your horizons.”
- The Writing Sample. It has become quite a common practice for job candidates to have to produce a sample piece of writing during the interview process. Yikes! Make no mistake about it, they want to know that you can organize your thoughts and prepare a piece of writing that reflects good structure and grammar. Again, you can thank those professors who made you write!
While you are in the heat of the “battle,” (creating that academic writing you hate), it is difficult to see the benefits that you will reap much later. But once you are out there in the job market, you will be very grateful that you mastered effective academic writing!