Tips that Last a Career

 In Blog

This semester at Westfield State University, I took a class called “Career Preparation for Writers.”

The class was geared toward each student’s individual career goals and took steps to make our dreams a reality. We created our own individualized study proposals, and we worked on such skills as completing applications, networking and interviewing. Some students worked on applications to graduate school, while others focused on getting freelance clients.

The skills I learned will be useful in gaining entry into graduate school and in securing my first full-time job, but I realize these skills can also be applied over and over again by business owners and other freelance-based professionals, so I share these tips with you:

Fielding the questions. We learned how to present ourselves in a professional manner while being interviewed, and this is a skill a business owner will always need to call on. Every time you take a call from a new client, they are interviewing you to be sure you are the right person to tackle their project. New clients need to know about your skills and experience, so essentially, you will do new job interviews every week. It’s important to know how to talk about your line of work and your experience in a way that is confident, clear and succinct.

Conducting a good interview. We learned not only how to prepare for job interviews but also how to interview others. We wrote professional profile pieces on writers in our chosen fields (I interviewed and wrote about Janice), and this required us to come up with pointed questions and learn the art of follow-up questions. We needed to be able to get to the heart of the story. Knowing how to conduct an interview serves business owners well because you are continually interviewing new employees, interns or volunteers and must know how to get below the superficial level so you can truly get a sense of who a person is. Also, you need to interview your clients as well when you are first negotiating a new relationship as you need to be sure that each client is a good fit for your style.

Time management is key. Time management is another essential skill we learned that I know I will use throughout my career. Now I’m juggling multiple class assignments, but one day, I expect to be juggling multiple client projects as well as my own writing projects. Efficient time management skills are vital to any business owner or freelancer. Plan your day and in terms of breaking down your workload, and stick to the plan.

Networking is key. We’re also learning how to network with one another. We’ve had to shake each other’s hands, look over one another’s resumes and talk about our interview experiences. These are the kinds of skills we will one day apply to business networking meetings, client meetings, Chamber meetings. Business owners can’t grow their businesses without networking. Sometimes, it happens naturally in the course of doing your work, but it’s also a facet of your business that you need to make sure to spend intentional time on. Network, network.

Blogging grows a business. For the entire semester, we were required to regularly update a blog about a subject of our choice. We’ve learned that blogging can sometimes generate freelance work; for instance, one of my classmates was recently approached to write guest blogs, which may turn into paid work. Blogging shines a light on the work you do, and when used well, can call attention to your website, your products and services, your skills and experience, your clients and their successes. A well-written blog is like free advertising for small business owners.

Career Prep helped me gain professional skills that can be applied in graduate school and far beyond. I know I will continue to refine them throughout my career.

If you feel you are lacking these skills or need a refresher course, check out Westfield State’s course catalog, or look at a local community college. It’s never too late to develop these important tools.

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