How do you create a writing resume when you haven’t been published? Good question. For me, I was scattering trying to pump up my resume to look as glamorous and writer-ish as I could even though all I had was “lots of editing and writing experience”. Chances are, even if like me your creds are scarce, you can still dress up your resume to make it seem like you’re a pro.
1. Passion: Show You Want It
My very, very first real writing job that I applied for, I had no qualifications but a sparse travel blog and a hardcore passion for the written word. I hadn’t been published by any magazine or website, and had literally no writing creds. I still somehow got a one-page resume together that said: “hey I’m a little inexperienced, but I’m not totally useless.”
Tip: Put the exact position title in the objectives. Why are you applying for an editing gig if your resume points to only wanting to create content?
2. Be Consistent And Organized
Resume writing is a certainly an art all it’s own. You have to make sure your bullet points line up if you’re using bullets, you have to make sure you’re using bold and italic in a way that makes sense. Your dates and organization must be consistent, and the jobs you choose to put on your resume shouldn’t have too many gaps.
Tip: Find an easy template to go off of. A sloppy set up can distract from even the most sparkling of qualifications.
3. Know Your Qualifications
It took awhile for me to get past the “Job Qualifications” part of an employment ad. Chances are the qualifications were always way above whatever experience I had. I would just shrug and sigh and move on. However, then I read something that completely shifted my application attitude. Instead of looking at the qualifications think instead, “Can I do the job?”. With my experience and knowhow as is, if I thought I could comfortably do the job, I applied even if I hadn’t had 3-5 years of copywriting experience. Just shifting this helped increase job applications and got more responses and interviews.
Tip: Think of the qualifications more as guidelines.
4. You’ve Had Experience Even If You Don’t Think You Have
How do you make the bare minimum look flash? Even if you aren’t published… yet… that doesn’t mean you’ve never written a single word. When I got serious I had no official published clips, but I did have a knack for making my past experience work in my favor.
For example, I managed and co-directed a youth theatre program (yes, I use the British spelling). We would direct the plays, write some of the plays, and teach theatre basics. To make that Write Worthy I said this:
“Co-directed and managed the —(2004-2008). I helped reestablish a camp experience that focused on teamwork and leadership skills while introducing the many different aspects of theater. I wrote plays, helped with press releases, edited scripts, and edited programs during my time there.”
That’s four years of some solid writing experience.
Tip: Look at all your jobs and whatever writing you did, and find a way to jazz it up for your resume.
5. You Probably Have Lots Of Editing Experience
In college, I spent one semester, just one, working as a TA for an English Professor. One of my jobs was reading over one of her journal publications and helping her change the format from MLA to Chicago style. I typed this in my resume:
“I’ve peer-reviewed many papers in college and assisted the Chair of the UW-Superior English Department in editing one of her papers for upcoming publication in a scholarly journal.”
Ooh look at that, helped a professor edit a paper which means I can back up any editing experience I put on my resume.
6. Highlight Your Niche
Since I consider myself a travel writer with a local bent, I like to include my travel experience. I include a trip to India in all my writing resumes.
“Emerging India: From Gandhi to Globalization Study Away Program, University of Wisconsin-Superior, Fall 2010 – Spring 2011. I spent 28 days in India traveling through the country, attending classes, workshops, and educational outings. Part of our assignment was interviewing locals, listening to a variety of speakers and asking productive questions, and establishing contacts we could later get in touch with as sources for our term thesis paper.”
Tip: Do you have a million followers on your Instagram, do you have a passion blog you started for fun, do you write and perform your own poetry? You can find a way to retool your hobbies and passions into niche writing topics for your resume.
7. Whatever You’re Doing Now, Find a Way to Include It In Your Writing Resume.
I spent one summer working in retail, not a lot of writing but a lot of ringing up sales and stocking. My coworker started talking about getting a newsletter together and I jumped on that. I offered to write all the material they would need and made sure to keep the momentum going. I noticed the store’s Facebook page was barely updated so I made sure to post weekly content and updates. Simply put in resume terms:
“Managed social media. Promoted new merchandise and took pictures for company Facebook page, created flyers, managed emails, and helped with the creation of a newsletter”
Tip: You can find ways to pump up your experience and level up as it were.
8. A little Blog Goes A Long Way
Starting a blog is a great way to get your content out there. It might not be technically published through another source, but at least you will have clips to attach to your resume that show you:A) write stuff, B) write well, and C) can create content. That’s what the writing gigs I’ve come across want to know first and foremost. Can you create content?
Tip: Make your blog fun and something you want to write about, the key is getting lots of content up. You can streamline it and change it as your career progresses.
9. Those Serving And Administrative Jobs Count
You might not think serving tables has any place on your writing resume, and maybe that time you just did hours of data entry for a calling program is a pointless addition. But try and find the skills that intersect.
Tip: Those serving gigs give you a lot of customer service points. There are ways to make any job sort of fit your writing resume.
10. Get A Killer Portfolio
Maybe your resume needs a little padding, but you’ve stretched your minimal experience to the max. Not to worry, you can jazz up your portfolio in other ways. Make sure your cover letter informs your future clients how much you know even if your resume might not show it. Let them know your capabilities, how many articles you could write per day, your love of research. Are you a novice photographer? Put example pics in your portfolio. The portfolio as a whole can totally round out your first writing resume.
Tip: Keep a folder on your computer or in the cloud with a basic cover letter template highlighting your skills, 2-3 (hopefully published clips), some pictures, and your resume.
I’ve got more padding now with actual publications so I don’t need to get quite so creative. I went from 0-4 clips in two months. But for starting out, I found that like any resume, it’s not necessarily how many times you’ve been published. It’s how much of your life do you spend writing? It’s every little paper and school essay, Tumblr, Facebook and blog post and dressing those up to make them Write Worthy.