Giving Your Resume a Facelift

When I enrolled in my creative writing degree, I promised my parents that it wasn’t a dead-end course that would teach me to write fiction and nothing else.

“It’s not just going to develop my writing. It’ll help me get a career in the publishing industry,” I said.

Of course I graduated in December and have been looking for work—first in America, then back in Australia—ever since.

For me, and I know many of you are in the same position, my plans have gone from getting a publishing industry job, to getting a communications job, to getting any job.

If you’re a young writer straight out of uni you might have had a part-time job while you were studying, but it might be something like waitressing or working in a clothes store. Any job is a job, but you might not have a whole lot of office/writing/book experience to put on your resume. Mature age students might be slightly better off having had the chance to work full-time roles before studying. But then many mature age students make the decision to go to university as the beginning of a career change. They might have work experience, but it might not be related.

If you’re a writing graduate looking for work in the writing, publishing or book world, here’s some advice to spice up your resume. If you’re a student, this might be some advice for things you can do while you’re studying. Maybe, just maybe, it might stop you from ending up in my boat:

  1. Get published. I know it sounds obvious but it looks brilliant on your resume and clippings look excellent in your portfolio. I don’t see a lot of pure staff writing jobs come up on Seek, but the few I have seen ask for lists of publications and/or your writing portfolio. It’s a good idea to have both if this is the sort of job you’re going for, but it’s also good for any communications-type role that will also want you to have writing experience. What better way to address a writing experience selection criterion than with, “I have been published in…”
  2. Do a publishing internship. This has been talked about in the previous entry, so I won’t go into too much detail. However, if you are still a student and your university offers any workplace training as a part of your course, APPLY, no matter how competitive the programs are! In my course there was one spot for final year students per semester and I didn’t apply because I would have been competing against a friend. It’s perhaps my biggest regret as this particular friend is now being paid by this publishing house to write reader’s reports on manuscripts. If you’ve graduated, still try for internships because not only do they bulk up your resume but Mission Employment tells me that an internship would satisfy the government’s requirements for Jobseekers being paid a Newstart Allowance.
  3. Volunteer for Festivals. No matter where you live (in Australia at least) there is some sort of writers festival or event that you can volunteer for. Just to list a few still to come in 2010: first up there’s the Sydney Writers festival which runs from the 17th – 23rd May and volunteers can sign up here now!  The Melbourne Writers festival runs from the 27th August until the 5th September and applications for volunteers open in mid June and the Brisbane Writers Festival runs from the 1st to the 5th of September with applications for volunteers opening in May for previous volunteers and June for new volunteers There’s also the Emerging Writers’ Festival coming up in May, the National Young Writers Festival in Newcastle in October, Byron Bay Writers Festival in August, just to name a couple of others. There’s a really great (and kind of mind-boggling) calendar of festivals at the Literary Festivals Australia and New Zealand website. If you can’t volunteer, try and get to some of the festivals because they are excellent networking events. (And have a couple of resumes in your bag too. It can’t hurt)
  4. Beg. Work experience. It was naff in high school but it works now. Ring up a local literary mag and ask if you can stuff envelopes or follow the editor around for a day, email an Aussie author and volunteer to pick up their dry-cleaning… do something. Just ask for a reference in return. If you can’t get some book-related work experience, pick out something you’d like to be doing (in my case, I’d love to do book PR and events) and ring up some other businesses who do general PR and event work and ask to help. I’m begging anyone I know who runs events to let me follow them around, just so I can update the event section of my resume.

That’s just a few tips for spicing up your resume. If you have more ideas, definitely let us know (so we can try them out!). For those of you looking for work, keep going, something will come along! For those of you in uni, do as much as you can do before you graduate.

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2 responses to “Giving Your Resume a Facelift”

  1. emilytatti says :

    I’ll have you know I’m taking this advice very much to heart! I’ve already put my hand up for the Emerging Writer’s Fest.

  2. Mark Welker says :

    You know the strangest thing, when I graduated from my creative writing degree I didn’t even know what a copywriter was. It seems incredible that it didn’t cross the minds of any of my arts lecturers to fill me in on an occupation that most writers will find themselves filling at some point in their career.

    To that end, I would say community newspapers are also a good first stop to trying to get published, even if you never intend to continue as a journalist or editorial copywriter. Most will accept freelance submissions for local stories, and even if the subjects can be dull, the experience and skills it develops is excellent groundwork for moving on to larger publications.

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