Getting started as a professional writer can be difficult.
I know I’ve been asked how I got started as a writer before. I’ve always answered in a very general way that I thought would help the most people. I don’t think I’ve ever shared the full story of how I landed my very first paid writing position, though.
It was over twenty years ago. I was a brand new college graduate. I had been looking for work for weeks. I was scanning the Sunday paper and noticed an advertisement from a very large corporation. They needed account reps and interested candidates could either mail a resume to the address in the ad, or they were invited to drop by the firm’s human resources department in person on Monday between 9:00 and 12:00 a.m.
Face-to-face in Corporate America
Believe it or not, in an uncharacteristically bold move on my part, I chose to do the latter. Without sending my resume on ahead, I got up Monday morning and dressed in my best navy blue power suit. I packed a copy of my newly minted business degree and the resume that the college career center had helped me put together into my otherwise empty briefcase.
I then drove over to the corporate address listed in the ad, which turned out to be fairly close to the apartment where I was living at the time and asked the receptionist for the Human Resources department.
Apparently, I was the only person who had decided to show up in person. What’s more, the HR person didn’t remember that the ad had given candidates the option to come by in person.
The Waiting Game
The HR assistant took a copy of my resume and asked if I could wait. Naturally, I could wait. (I didn’t have a job, so what else was there for me to do anyway?)
I sat in the little HR waiting room for well over an hour reading the business magazines and trying very hard not to wrinkle my suit.
After a while, the HR assistant looked up and said to me, “Are you still here?” She disappeared into the back of the HR area and in a few minutes, the HR director appeared and ushered me back to her office.
“Well, I’ve looked at your resume and we needed someone more experienced for the account rep position,” she started. I was pretty deflated. I felt like I had probably just wasted my entire morning.
A Stroke of Luck
Then she added, “I noticed on your resume that you edited your college newspaper. Did you like doing that? Would you be willing to do something like that here?”
I stated that I had enjoyed it and would be willing to write and edit another newsletter. Then she went on to describe a position with a subsidiary company that involved writing their customer newsletter. She had been trying to find someone willing to take on the newsletter for some time, and I until I walked through her door no one had even been interested.
She made a quick phone call to the marketing director of the subsidiary and within minutes I was sitting in his office answering questions.
To make a long story short, I became the marketing coordinator at the subsidiary company (which just happened to be a software company). I took on the task of writing, printing, and distributing the monthly company newsletter. When the marketing director left a year later, I assumed his other responsibilities as well.
How Did You Get Started?
While I’d like to say that finding my first writing position was a result of brilliant strategizing on my part, it was actually largely a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
How did you get started as a writer? Share your story in the comments.