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Karen asks, "Hello, I graduated with a B.A. in Creative Writing from a reputable University several years ago but have since found myself stuck in an unstimulating job in order to "pay the bills." I am unsatisfied and my dream is to find some work related to writing/editing (I don't care how little it pays!) in order to feel purposeful. However, I find it very difficult to know where to begin. I don't know anybody who is in this line of work, and although I search for concrete and specific advice, I rarely find any. I live in Seattle and would love to stay here if possible (I also love to travel, though.) Do you have any advice for me on where I can start looking and how I can sell my skills to a potential employer?"
I congratulate you on making the decision based on what is meaningful for you. That is the best way to sustain a career path. First, you need to do some assessment of what you want to write and then research the market for those who will pay you to write that way.
Do a thorough assessment of your writing skills, research skills, editing skills and so forth. Next, find job titles that appeal to you. Put in front of you a grand goal that you can then work towards; a staff writer for a large magazine? An editor at a newspaper? Make that goal something you can point at. And then back track and develop the ways and means to get there.
The writing profession is a talent-driven area. You need to know how to approach people who will hire you. Write an excellent cover letter and resume.
Traditionally, the entry-level for writers is the general assignment reporter at newspapers and the assistant editor in magazines. Again, you have define what you want to write. Do you want to do journalism? Do you want to write features and articles that are in-depth? Do you want to write in a corporation or on a publication like a newspaper or magazine? All of these thing come into consideration.
Seattle is a pretty good place for writers. Not quite as robust as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, or Boston but not that far behind. Get some excellent books like Writers Market and the Literary Marketplace and find out all the publications in the Seattle area. There are quite a few; many more than the daily newspapers and the monthly city magazine.
It's a matter of matching your skills, your career path with what the market has opened up for one reason or another. The important thing, again, is to try and figure out what your goals really are and then design a path toward that goal. Have patience. Write your resume and cover letter in relation to the next step in the path.
Once you know what your goal is then you can start to target areas and get them in your sights until something breaks. So, for instance, if your goal is to become a newspaper editor then you look to the newspapers of the area; large and small and start with whatever entry-level they have and contact editors until you get interviews.
It's important to use the library and get resource books that show you where all the publications are in the Seattle area. Go to the largest library in Seattle and ask the reference librarian for that material. Ask her for the Writers Market, for the Literary Marketplace, and for the standard rate advertising book that lists all the publications and their rates for advertisers. Develop a list of contacts; editors who will be your boss and be in a position to hire you. Make sure you get a cover letter and resume in front of those people. Don't just pass through the human resources department. Go to the person who will be your boss.
Any writing you've done in the past will be important. If you have nothing to show to someone it's hard for them to make a judgement. If you don't have anything published try and get some publishing credits by writing freelance articles. Get as many publishing credits as you can so you can put your abilities in the hands of an editor.
If you get really stuck and frustrated, don't hesitate going back to school and getting more journalism under your belt. Write for the school publications.
Another technique for getting into writing is to get hired on the advertising or marketing area. And then move over to the editorial when spots open up. Get to know the editors. Let people know that you are a writer and so on.
It really does come down to persistence and not giving up.
The cover letter and resume are very important. Knowing who to contact is very important. Try and get an interview with the person who'll be your boss. Don't let the human resources department weed you out. If you need clips, try freelancing. That's an excellent way to show editors your stuff.
I've tried to give you general and specific advice without really knowing what your goal. If you have any other question don't hesitate to ask.
Good luck in your pursuits!
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