Don’t do it for free

They say that if you’re good at something, you shouldn’t do it for free. Why then, do so many artists, designers, writers, and other creative professionals constantly get sold on the idea of doing work for nebulous, undefined rewards?

“It’ll build your portfolio!”

“It’ll be great experience.”

“It’s an opportunity to get exposure!”

Unfortunately, exposure won’t pay the rent. Every time a professional gives away their work for free without impressing the value of that gift upon the recipient, some of that value is lost. It requires time, effort, and practice, like any work. So stand up for your value as a professional.

If you’re not yet swayed, read another perspective on the subject.

From Lifehacker: Advice for Job Seekers

For those of you graduating in May, or even searching for jobs at this moment, this post is for you. We hear over and over again “I wish I had known this” from people in the workforce. Thorin Klosowski with Lifehacker brings us the advice he wishes he would have been given before his first job.

With advice ranging from “stay organized” to “ask questions,” Klosowski covers all the bases that somebody new to the workforce needs to know. He says it’s all about balance and not setting your expectations to high. What advice are you hoping somebody tells you before your first job? Read on, your questions may be answered.

From Neatorama: “Potential Employer Critiques Applicants Cover Letter”

We have all been there; the high pressured moment of writing a cover letter for that job you’re dying to have. Could you be making fatal mistakes in your cover letters? Neatorama brings us a wonderful example of these mistakes, when a potential employer critiques an applicant’s cover letter. While some of the remarks may be a little snarky and harsh, everybody that will ever have to write a cover letter (that means you!) should take a look at this article. Prevent yourself from making these same mistakes and missing out on that awesome job opportunity.

From “How to Prepare For and Conduct An Interview”

Interviews are an essential part of finding your way onto the job market. They help you land that career you’ve always dreamed of having or even that part-time summer job your parents told you to get so you’re not sitting around all summer doing nothing. Regardless of what you’re interviewing for, there are ways to better prepare yourself. Writer’s Market recently posted an article that can help future employees and even future employers prepare for and conduct a stellar interview.

R&W PHD Students on the Job Market: Part One

This is part one of a two-part feature about the 2012 R&W PHD cohort. 

Les Loncharich

Photo by Les Loncharich,

Les Loncharich’s passion for drawing has been an incredible influence on his writing, teaching, and research as a PHD student, and he describes drawing as, “an important part of my life; it seems as though there has never been a time when I wasn’t interested in making marks on surfaces.” Loncharich’s dissertation reflects his interest in “everyday practices and the visual artifacts produced [by them].” His study is focused on understanding how social action is expressed visually and analyzing visual artifacts as tools for identity building, group formation, and problem solving. Loncharich says, “In my dissertation, I look at what people do and the things people make, and I consider the intersection of visual knowledge and semantic meaning in everyday, visual things.” As he continues to finish his dissertation, Loncharich has applied to 60 jobs so far, and that’s just the beginning. He hopes that he will find an opportunity where he can implement “the unique training I received at MSU” and apply his passion for and interest in digital humanities and visual rhetoric.

Daisy Levy

Photo by Daisy Levy

Daisy Levy describes her dissertation, This Book Called My Body: An Embodied Rhetoric as, “a methodologically diverse project, locating the literal body in Rhetoric Studies.” It synthesizes her interest and experiences with dance, movement education, and writing,. In it, she details how the body is not only important as the main element of dance and movement education but is also crucial to the “articulation of meaning.” She seeks to demonstrate through her own experiences and research that the body and its expression is a source of knowledge that is much more complex than a rhetorical “text” to be analyzed. Levy has applied to about 35 jobs so far and hopes to find a position that appreciates “the interdisciplinary nature of my work – that I’m familiar with Rhetoric Studies, Writing Pedagogy, but also Performance Studies, [and] Cultural Studies/Theory.” Even though Levy has just begun the job application process,  she describes what she’s learned so far: “the sooner and smoother you can transition how you think of yourself (as a colleague, rather than as a graduate student) the better.”

Matt Cox

Photo by Matt Cox

Matt Cox has spent his graduate school research focusing on how “rhetorical practices (such as storytelling) help us negotiate and form identity(ies),” which calls for new understandings about “identity-builiding practices in the workplace.” His research focuses mainly on LGBTQ professional identities and seeks to answer the overall question: is queer identity being professionalized or is professional identity being queered? Based on this question, Cox intends to analyze the rhetorical definitions and contexts of the term professional and how this impacts LGBTQ professionals in the workplace. This interest and experience has led Cox to apply to many academic job positions, focusing on jobs he can truly be passionate about . He says the key to a successful job search “has been about organization and chipping away a little at a time.” He concludes, “Being a successful academic isn’t really about being smart — we’re all smart or we wouldn’t be [in academia] — it’s about being the kind of colleague that can contribute [to a team of professionals].”

What PW Majors Ought to Know: Jennifer Wilkinson on Her Cool Job

Jennifer Wilkinson, a 2010 Professional Writing alum, took a minute (or twenty) to tell WRAC about her job, what’s great about it, and how the Professional Writing program helped her get it. Jennifer has lots of advice for PW students, including things that current PW students should know about portfolios, workshops, and more.

Currently, Jennifer works as the web coordinator at Leader Dogs for the Blind in the marketing department; she’s part of a 7-person team of marketing/communications specialists. Though her day-to-day activities vary, she has a few common tasks: formatting different kinds of communication, fielding web requests from colleagues, and organizing, revising, and creating web content. She also manages their Flickr account and Facebook.

One of Jennifer’s first tasks was copy-editing the website. This wasn’t easy: “It had never been done before, and a lot of the info on the site came from different people over a long period of time, so there were a lot of potential changes to be made. I think I ended up with 20 pages of notes.”

Jennifer has proven herself a capable copy-editor, so her supervisor has opted to make that a regular part of her duties. Still, she has a lot of freedom in her job: “My supervisor has numerous ideas for where she’d like to take Leader Dog’s web presence now that she has help, and I am free to propose and work on my own initiatives as well as collaborating with her on her own short- and long-term plans. There’s a lot to do and a lot to learn, but I’ve been lucky enough to get some of the most relaxed, friendly, and helpful coworkers I could imagine.”

Jennifer has some advice for current Professional Writing students:

1. Having an online portfolio was an important factor in me getting my job. My supervisor told me that even before I had my interview, I already had an edge on the competition by having a good body of work for her and her manager to review.

2. Doing my research beforehand paid off. I read up on Leader Dog extensively before the interview and spent a lot of time surveying the website, which I was able to convey during the interview. My supervisor also found a hit on her own online portfolio with an IP address in East Lansing on the day of my interview (I had indeed Googled her that morning), and she said that for her, that clinched the decision to choose me for the position.

3. Attending all those workshops was worth my time and attention. I did three interviews for this job. The first was a phone interview with the HR manager, then another phone interview with my supervisor, and finally an in-person interview with both my supervisor and our team manager. Because of all that literature I got from the interview workshops in PW, I was able to review what I’d been advised to do and felt confident about how I was going to answer tricky questions. In the end, being prepared for the tough questions made all 3 of the interviews almost easy.

4. Being well-rounded makes me flexible and expands my job possibilities. I did the editing & publishing track in PW, but I also took both web authoring classes and whatever else sounded interesting at the time, and my participation in other opportunities I was offered or heard about at MSU gave me a wide variety of experiences. Because my supervisor knows the spread of what I’m capable of, my job can include a lot more than web work. In addition to copy-editing and social media, I may do both web and document design and various kinds of writing (proving that I can be all 3 things listed on my portfolio–writer, editor, and designer).

5. One of the many cover letters I wrote for a class actually helped me get a job. During senior year, I was pretty sick of writing cover letters. Between Portfolio Seminar and all my other classes that wanted proof I could properly apply for a job, any mention of resumes or cover letters gave me an instant headache. However, I wrote one for a job similar to the position I have now during my WRA 410 Advanced Web Authoring class and ended up only having to adapt it slightly to fit the new situation. Sure enough, the cover letter I wrote as part of a final exam opened the door for my job.

6. Doing lots of group work really helped me out. Having done lots of group work in college, it was easy for me to describe how I prefer to work in groups, how I interact with group members, what roles I’m good at playing, and what particular strengths and weaknesses I bring (as well as how I overcome my weaknesses). Being able to tell lots of stories about both group work that went well and group work that pretty much failed proved that I had the requisite experiences to be able to handle the ups and downs of being an integral part of a team.

Writers’ Bloc Interviewing Workshop

WRAC-TV coverage of the PW Interviewing workshop at which Lindsey LaTour Bliss, Lorelei Blackburn, Matt Cox, and Beth Judge stopped by to talk to us about the interviewing do’s and do not’s. Each had some incredible information to share so feel free to contact any of them for more information.

PW Alum Credits the Program for her New Job

Christine Haynes, PW class of 2010, let us know about her recent experience on the job market:

I moved to Colorado almost two weeks ago after being invited out for an interview for a Sales and Marketing Assistant position with a company called Data Connect Corporation, located just outside of Denver. I went through two rounds of interviews and found out this afternoon that I got the job! I’ll have a salary, benefits, and even get to do some traveling.

Here is my list of basic duties, so you can see how I will be putting my degree to work:

  • Preparing sales documentation (proposals, contracts, etc.)
  • Helping to prepare email marketing campaigns
  • Composing marketing copy
  • Mailing marketing materials
  • Maintaining excellent customer and peer relationships

My soon-to-be supervisor said he was initially interested in me because of my degree and my background in writing and editing, and I think that is a huge part of why I was offered the job in the end. Thank you and all the PW faculty for preparing me for a position like this. I never would have gotten this job without all your help.

Have a similar story?  Think about Writing for WRAC!