More than ever before, writing is a critical skill in the working world. Sure, it’s always been important to succinctly translate your thoughts from your mind to the page. But now that a worldwide pandemic has forced many people to cut down on in-person interaction, being able to write well is powerful.
Since many people aren’t confident in their writing abilities, the skill can give you an edge over others on certain projects. Writing is particularly valuable during the process of finding a job – in today’s digital-first era, you’re just as likely to need a tight cover letter as a concise cold email.
The best part: almost anyone can do it. People have been writing messages to each other for thousands of years. If you’re reading this blog post, there’s a good chance you have everything you need to become at least a competent writer, a level sufficient to let you reap some of the benefits of the skill.
Let’s dig into how to improve your writing abilities and then discuss some practical ways to apply them for career advancement.
Sharpen your skills
The first step to using writing skills for your benefit is making sure you actually have skills to use! One of the best ways to evaluate your writing skills is the same way to evaluate any skill: find someone else to give you a critique.
It’s likely that you know someone in your network who has a way with words. Even if they aren’t experts at business writing, anyone with a lot of experience – such as a teacher or an author – should be able to give you a decent critique. While your network may provide you with decent feedback for free, if you want to get serious about evaluating your writing abilities, consider paying a professional editor or writer to go over your work.
If you know that your writing skills need improvement, there are plenty of great online resources. Check out blog posts and educational offerings by companies like Copyblogger and HubSpot, or look into online course websites like edX and Coursera.
Also consider comprehensive professional training courses that touch on other areas to improve your writing.
Volunteer for writing projects in your company
Writing is often required as a component of normal business projects, even if it’s not the focal point. Here are some examples:
- Creating a landing page for a new marketing campaign
- Writing an email newsletter for subscribers
- Sending internal memos across departments
- Communicating with customers and vendors
Even in a company that has dedicated writing talent on staff, there’s a good chance they have a lot on their plate. If you can step up and take on these writing tasks – even if they feel small – you can get noticed by your superiors, especially if writing is outside your usual job responsibilities.
This situation is frequently the case at a small business with only a few employees, or a new startup where everyone wears lots of hats. Taking initiative in the early stages can not only endear you to coworkers, it may help you advance quickly when it’s time to create a more dedicated staff for writing and communications.
You don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, but proactively taking on writing projects at work can provide a number of benefits. Plus, it’s another avenue to practice your writing skills!
Use writing to strengthen your network
Writing is an important part of networking online because it’s critical in two of the web’s most important arenas: e-mail and social media networks.
If crafted properly, email communication can be a great way to earn an immediate audience with someone you might not get a chance to speak with in person. Digital business experts like Tim Ferriss often cite cold emailing as one of the best ways to get in touch. In some cases, cold emails can be used to get in touch with well-known celebrity business leaders.
Social media is another great way to connect via written messages. At Stoa School, we are particularly big fans of Twitter and LinkedIn. You’ll want to bring your best writing skills to direct messages that you send to prospective employers or clients, but no one expects your writing to be flawless – even on a professional social media network like LinkedIn. Making posts to your page or writing about updates in your day is not only a good way to practice your writing, it can help you meet others in your field.
When it comes to private messages, you can make it an ongoing effort to DM people who can help you in your career. Whether you’re trying to find a job or a mentor, writing direct messages on a consistent basis is a good way to strengthen your network and stay top of mind for those who can provide you with key opportunities for professional advancement.
There are several things that go into a great cold DM, but two of the main tenets are to keep it short and emphasize the benefits for the recipient. If you’re writing to a potential employer, talk about why you are the best candidate for the job in a few quick sentences. If you’re trying to recruit someone to work for you, explain the top reason people come to work for the company.
You may feel like you need to throw out as many benefits as possible, but there will be plenty of time to talk about those in subsequent interactions. On an initial cold outreach, write about the top benefit of your offering in the fewest number of words.
Conclusion: The Pen is Mighty
Everyone has varying degrees of natural writing talent, but just because you aren’t naturally a good writer doesn’t mean you can’t become one. Most people can practice to get good enough at the skill of writing to enjoy many benefits, such as advancing up the ladder more quickly or connecting with more experienced professionals who can offer important advice.
Take the time to understand and improve your skills, and then get into the habit of practicing writing by frequently messaging people on social media networks, writing cold emails to important gatekeepers, or crafting updates about your professional experiences to expand your network. Ideally you’ll be able to do all three!
With enough time and consistent effort devoted to practicing, anyone can become more valuable to their next employer or attain the skills needed to pivot to a new professional direction. Whether you’ve been using writing as an arrow in your quiver for a while or you’ve never thought about what it could do for you, sharpening your writing skills could advance your career.
For more information on training to advance professionally, visit our Program page to learn more about Stoa School.