Post Academic


How to Write on a Deadline

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionSay what you will about deadline pressure and the 9-to-5 grind, but a little pressure is good every now and then. As a writer and an editor in the Hamster World, I lost the luxury of waiting until I had a good idea to write a long time ago. Deadlines forced words out of me whether I liked it or not. Here’s how to cope if you’re in the kind of work environment where you’re a writer, but you can’t ask for an extension:

Admit it won’t be perfect. This is the hardest one, so we’ll get it out of the way now. Academics are perfectionists, and perfectionists and deadlines do not mix. In fact, they clash, and the deadline will win every time. Your editor or manager will be happier with you if you meet the deadline, not if you turn in perfect copy.

Treat the content like gold. When producing an article, content or copy, the style is much harder to handle than the substance. In most cases, however, what people want to see is the substance. How on earth do journalists generate so many articles? Because they focus on the substance, and they use a template that delivers the most important content–who? what? when? where? why?–first. Yes, it seems simple, but it’s popular because it works.

More tips after the jump! The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. Movie still, public domain on Wikimedia Commons.

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The Pros of Word-of-Mouth

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on July 7, 2010
Tags: , , , , , ,

PhotobucketUsually, word-of-mouth refers to rumors and gossip. At best, it seems more suitable for a viral video than it is for academic work. Yet word-of-mouth is one of those intangibles that might get you a job, either in or out of the academy.

Freelance writers in particular rely on word-of-mouth to build up a client base. Writer Dachary Carey,* who covers a range of topics on the life of a freelancer, writes:

First and foremost: treat every job like a big job. Don’t put small jobs off because they’re ‘small’ and they won’t pay you much; treat your small clients with the same respect and responsiveness that you provide your ‘big’ clients. You never know when a small client can refer a big client, or even when a small client expands the scope of his business or marketing efforts and needs more from you.

The mantra “treat every job like a big job” is worth keeping in mind as you make any career transition. When moving from academia to the Hamster World, you will need to take on “small jobs” that may be small in quantity of work, pay or prestige. You have to prove yourself first, and then the work will follow.

For that reason, you need to minimize any trash talk or negative feelings regarding small jobs. You may feel tempted to brush off a small client, but no one ever, ever likes to be “looked down” upon. It can be exhausting to treat all jobs like they are important, but the key to avoid burnout is to employ smart time management skills … a subject that will appear later.

*I worked with Dachary for two years, and I’ll use her word-of-mouth tips and recommend her work. Even if you don’t need a freelance writer, her blog can help you with tips on self-employment.

Image of “The Conversation” by Danielle Scott, on Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

The Benefits of Boundaries

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionEstablishing a shorter time to degree has its pros and cons. One major pro might surprise you: Writing gets better when you are forced to work with boundaries, whether they are deadlines, word limits, or formatting restrictions.

Lifehacker suggests that people are more productive when faced with limits because you have to get creative. The best limit I set for myself is trying to answer one single question in a piece of writing. “What do I want someone to think or do after reading this piece?”

Usually, in the kind of writing that I do, the answer is simple: Buy now, call us, click through, etc. Once you have that goal, you can flesh it out. Otherwise, you’ll get lost, and the reader will get lost as you try to explain several different ideas at once.

This is tough for academics because academic writing involves a slow buildup, and the best academics can build an argument brick by brick. This style has value and can lead to surprising conclusions, but if you want to hook a reader, you need to at least suggest that you will answer one question. Then, once the reader is hooked, you can go all Derrida on them and take them on the theoretical equivalent of a magic carpet ride.

FYI: I hope that, after reading this piece, you set a deadline for finishing your dissertation or turning your resume into a CV.

Image of the seen power of the picket fence by Idir Fida from Vancouver, Canada, from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

How to Handle an Editorial Test, Part 2: During the Test

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on June 18, 2010
Tags: , , ,

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionTwo days ago, Post Academic gave tips for anyone who faces an editorial test, which is usually the first step to applying for a job as an editor, copy editor, or proofreader. Now here are tips to help you make it through the test while the clock is ticking:

Pace yourself. Speaking of, editorial tests are usually timed. Not only will you be graded on how many errors you catch, but you will also be graded on how quickly you can edit. Successful editors can strike a balance between the two. It’s fine if you can produce perfect copy, but not if you take all day to do it. Publishers have deadlines to meet.

Read the instructions for the test.
Any employer wants to know if you can follow directions. I cannot tell you how many people shot themselves in the proverbial foot by not paying attention.

Go over the document multiple times.
Truth is, you will not catch every error in a single pass, unless you are the best editor in the world. Read through the document once to catch the big, glaring errors. Then read through it for more subtle errors.

More after the jump! Caricature of James Burnett, Lord Monboddo from Kay’s Portraits, public domain on Wikimedia Commons.

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How to Handle an Editorial Test, Part 1: Before the Test

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on June 17, 2010
Tags: , , ,

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionYeah, you thought you were done with tests when you chose to enter the Hamster World. Not so. If you decided to parlay your Humanities MA or PhD into an editorial career, you will likely encounter the dreaded editorial test as you apply to jobs. Here are some tips to prepare for yet another test:

Get to know the editorial test format. Editorial tests are administered to applicants as a weed-out process. Not only does the employer want to know if you can catch edits, but the employer also wants to know if you can handle the content they publish. Typically, you will have to edit a piece of content that the employer has published before, only the employer has packed it with errors for you to find.

Ask for a copy of the employer’s style guide. Before you take any editorial test, you need to know the employer’s standards. The employer might not give you the company’s entire style guide, but he or she will probably say if the company uses The Chicago Manual of Style or the AP Stylebook.

More after the jump! Still from the movie Rock River Renegades. Public domain on Wikimedia Commons.
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Look Like You Want the Job

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox Extension,public domain wikimedia commonsDean Dad recently published an article explaining why he can’t answer the question “Can You Tell Me Why I Didn’t Get the Job?”

But he did drop a few hints about why some qualified people don’t get one of the precious few academic jobs that are available. One of those hints was this: “Your answer to x suggested that you’re settling for this job, and other candidates seemed actually to want it.”

One of the major issues with the academic job market is that there are so few jobs that people feel like they have to apply for everything. Then someone gets a job in a place they don’t like, and they spend half their time miserable and half their time trying to get out.

A smart interviewer or job search committee will be able to separate the candidates who are interested from the ones who just want a job, any job. So, if you want that job, whether it be an Ivory Tower job or a Hamster World job, you must look like you want it. Find out how after the jump!

Image from Reefer Madness from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
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The Post Academic Resume Series: Skills

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionWelcome to the Post Academic Resume Series. We’ve covered the Resume Objective, Work Experience, and Education. We’re winding down with the Skills section, which is like a basket for everything else that didn’t fit on your resume.

The Skills section of the resume almost seems like a throwaway. You might be tempted to skip it if it your resume is looking a little long. Don’t count it out, though. I’ve said before that you can ignore the one-page resume rule. The skills section is a golden opportunity to surprise and delight a hiring manager if you follow these tips:

Share your editorial knowledge. Experience editing with the Chicago Manual of Style, MLA style, or AP style can go a long way.

Be sure to list computer skills. Yes, Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel count. Anyone who wants a job now needs basic computer literacy. You will be even more impressive if you study extra programs or languages, including HTML and CSS.

More after the jump! Typewriter repair falls under the category of interesting skills. Image from the German Federal Archive on Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.
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The Post Academic Resume Series: Education

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionWelcome to the Post Academic Resume Series. We’ve covered the Resume Objective and your Work Experience. Now we’re at the easy part–Education!

If you’re reading this blog, you’re going to have plenty of information for the Education section of your resume.

And that’s the problem. When filling out the Education section of your resume, you don’t want to overdo it. I am in no way suggesting that you should dumb yourself down. Far from it. You’ve gone to a good program, you’ve busted your butt for a graduate degree, and the whole world should know.

Keep your Work Experience section should be at the top. It should also be longer than the Education section. Period. Here are some tips to keep your considerable education from overwhelming the rest of your resume:

Do not list every paper your wrote or every class you took. Keep it at “PhD, English” or “PhD, Philosophy.”

More after the jump! Image of a Swedish typist, public domain on Wikimedia Commons.
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The Post Academic Resume Series: Work Experience, Part 2

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionWelcome to the Post Academic Resume Series. We’ve covered the Resume Objective and how to describe your Work Experience. Now we’ll work on how to shape your Work Experience so it gets a hiring manager’s attention.

Now that you have created a list of jobs complete with bullet points describing what you accomplished on the job, you need to consider how to order your list of jobs.

This is trickier than it sounds, especially for career changers. Most people list their work experience in reverse chronological order. Anyone making the leap from academia to the hamster world might not want their last teaching job to be at the top of their resume, though.

For example, if you were a copy editor before you went to grad school, and now you want to go back to copy editing, that information needs to be at the top of your resume. People who work in HR departments are in a hurry, and chances are good that they’ll just scan your resume, so you need to make the most of the upper third of the page.

To pull this off, ditch the chronological order and divide your work experience into two categories:
Editorial Work Experience (or work experience related to whatever field you’re trying to break into)
Other Work Experience

More after the jump! Image of the Civilian Conservation Corps, public domain on Wikimedia Commons.
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The Post Academic Resume Series: Work Experience, Part 1

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox Extension

Welcome to the Post Academic Resume Series. We’ve covered the Resume Objective, and over the next two posts, we’ll help you with your Work Experience.

If you thought dealing with your resume objective was tough, wait until you start your work experience. This will be painful, as Arnold and I have mentioned, because you can’t talk about your publishing in depth. Here’s how to capture your teaching skills in a way that hiring managers will understand:

Get inside the head of the hiring manager. Your publications are great, but hiring managers don’t care about you. They care only about what you can do for them, so you must prove that you have skills they need.

Boil your work history into bullet points that start with action verbs. For example, here’s a glimpse of what a copywriter might say about her current job:
Copywriter/Senior Copywriter, Cookie of the Month Club, 2008-present
–Write marketing material for brochures and mailings to clients
–Write Web site content that has been optimized for search engines
–Increased response to direct mail by 5 percent
–Promoted to Senior Copywriter in 2009

More after the jump! Image from the United States Navy Department, public domain on Wikimedia Commons.
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