10 Writing Skills You Actually Need to Conquer the Workplace

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As a senior engineering major, you haven’t written an English paper since high school. You might ask yourself, “Why does it matter if I can I write 10 pages analyzing something that some dead guy wrote?” Good question, you. Well, most, if not all, employers and academic advisers will tell you to expect to use some writing skills in the workplace–even at a tech development firm. So whether you’re a Jane Austen nut or someone who dreads putting pen to paper, let’s get real and talk about how you can expect to use writing skills in the workplace.

1. Resume / Cover Letter

glasses on top of paper that shows your writing skills

Before you can sit down in a new office rolly chair, you have to write the perfect resume and cover letter to convince that company how much you deserve that nice butt cushion. “Whether you are just starting out and have maybe six months of experience and want to get in at the proofreader level, or you are a seasoned writer with seven-plus years’ experience, in order to impress us, you have to have a standout portfolio website, a sharp cover letter and resume and, following an interview, you have to write an effective thank you letter demonstrating you understand how you can make an impact here,” Izidora Angel, senior copywriter at Designory, said. Access your career services department on campus for resume critiques or feedback on a targeted cover letter. Then you can get back to tinkering with gears in your engineering lab.

2. Emails, Emails, Emails

you need writing skills to type emails on your macbook laptop

You’ve already experienced some #adulting on your college email: constantly joining listservs, asking profs when you can go over a problem set or even writing the perfect email trying to convince your teacher that you actually are too sick to show up in class. This influx and outpour of emails doesn’t end after you throw your cap in the air. “Writing is necessary to all fields, including STEM fields,” Elizabeth Lenaghan, communications instructor for Design, Thinking and Communication at Northwestern University, said. “Where you might have picked up the phone to call others, more and more offices rely on email/chat to communicate to large numbers of people at once.” Just as you finally got over your fear of ordering the pizza over the phone, you might end up sticking to email in your swanky new office after all.

3. Coordinating a Meeting

people plan meetings by having effective writing skills

Every student organization knows the struggle of finding a time when everyone is free to meet. But have you ever thought about the necessity of making a clear agenda once meeting times are set? “Regardless of what role you’re in—technology, engineering, creative or account—you have to be able to communicate with your coworkers and business partners effectively,” Angel said. “That can only happen if you can demonstrate a thorough understanding of the needs of the person you’re communicating with.” For your next club meeting, practice sending out clear email reminders and an agenda ahead of time so everyone doesn’t text their way through your hip ideas.

4. Research Updates

plan research labs with effective writing skills

Maybe you’ve made a huge new discovery that the moon is actually blue and you have to tell your co-workers before the news gets leaked to the whole world. How do you phrase your discovery in a way that makes it sound just as exciting as it is to you? “Even in a technical field, you can expect to have to communicate progress and update others on your research,” University of Florida academic advisor Nadene Reynolds said. “Everyone will need to communicate to their managers; it’s not always just about understanding the technical nature of their jobs.” Next time your comp sci. friend tells you that his coding is superior to your essay, ask him if he needs help writing his emails before you dump your coffee on him…Too far?

5. Social Media

social media on your cell phones need good writing skills

Whether you want to start your own freelance blog or invention company, you can’t deny that social media is a key tool in promoting your business. “[Social media’s] just one of the various forms and fashions writing takes in the real world,” Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com Nicole Barylski said. After all, you can’t just copy and paste the link to your new product on social media without a caption or a tag line to pull people in. People will scroll past that faster than you walk through your campus ignoring people handing out fliers.

6. Storytelling

two guys need writing skills to communicate effectively.

If you’ve moved to a new city after graduation, you might find yourself much happier not watching Netflix alone every night. You perform better at work if you find yourself connecting and feeling confident with your co-workers, especially your superiors. “There are always storytelling events around on college campuses, and they’re fun to get involved in,” Executive VP of Flirt Communications Kari McGlinnen said. Even if you work in a technical field, quality of life over quantity of work output might be a smart mindset to adopt.

One of these Top Colleges for Aspiring Writers can teach you the art of storytelling.

7. Article Writing

typing your writing skills

If you actually do love writing a good story, then you’ll find yourself writing more than just some daily emails at your job. “Being versatile and well-rounded is key—we work with clients in the tech, insurance and automotive industries,” Angel said, “you should hone your ability to write on any topic. I’ve personally worked as a travel writer and a food critic, and I’ve also written manufacturing catalogs.” If you plan to write for the rest of your life, make sure to flesh out your portfolio by writing pieces on different topics for student publications or even through a virtual internship like here at College Magazine.

8. Technical Writing

adjust the gears on your technical writing

You may never actually read your instruction manuals, but someone has to write them. Instead of writing Buzzfeed articles about celebrity gossip or life advice, technical writers focus on making technology manageable to the public. “On the client side, so much of the writing we do at Designory is for digital mediums, including writing for highly technical clients. We have to assimilate some pretty complex information and turn it into digestible language,” Angel said. Ah, digestion…something we could all use a little help with sometimes.

9. Advertising Copywriter

advertising agencies need something with excellent writing skills

Promoting a crazy new invention you came up with? How about telling the world about your new travel blog? Knowing your audience and how to write for them make businesses take off in no time. “The way you write to a dean of education is very different than how you would write to a vendor,” Reynolds said. Just as learning how to write an advice piece along with travel bios looks good in your creative portfolio, learning your way around educational and marketing writing will help you in the business world.

10. Letter of Resignation

the sun sets over the city

I know. You don’t want to think about it, but what if that dream job turns sour? Ironically enough, you can turn those writing skills around to write a kick-ass letter of resignation. Even if you wanna get the hell out in two weeks, you can still be polite about it. Make sure you talk about all the good times you’ve had at the company (mostly professionally, but throwing in a little water cooler anecdote won’t hurt). Thank them for the skills they’ve taught you, and ask them to let you know if there’s anything you can do to make the transition easier for them. I mean, at least they can’t deny they taught you some effective writing skills.

So How Do You Get Started?

A man prepares to begin his track race.

Who knew that actually responding to your BFF’s texts could be the first step? “You know that thing we all do where we don’t respond to emails or texts in our personal lives? That is a killer in the professional world,” Angel said. “Don’t ever not respond, and always follow through on your word.”

Going for that dream summer internship isn’t a bad idea either. “Internships can help you affirm your writing skill level or show you where you need improvement,” Reynolds said. “You can also get involved in your campus’ chapter of a professional student association. The projects and information can give students an introduction or guide to the type of writing required in their specific industry.” Buckle up and get to work… but first, take a break and text back those people you’ve been ignoring.

Hi, my name is Meghan and I'm a sophomore at Northwestern University. I've had a passion for creative writing ever since I was creative editor of my high school paper, and now I'm pursuing the creative writing major at the college level. I love writing in my own voice to help other people get through tough times.

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