Close up of fountain pen nib writing on paper.

Diverse Career Paths: The Transferable Skills of Writing

To celebrate WriteFest 23, in this article we’ll identify some common transferable skills of writing, as well as careers where writing is a core component or even whole purpose of the job.

Writing is a language, and our skills of language are usually unstated – we hardly ever think about the skills it takes to speak our native language, for example.  Our language skills can be domain-specific.  In my career, I have written geographically (research), creatively (web design and marketing), or didactically (IT documentation).  These different types of writing have their own rules and customs – i.e., transferable skills – but I’d be hard pressed to tell you what they are at the drop of a hat.  Here’s a selection box of thoughts on the transferable skills of writing and what they can mean for diverse career paths:

Writing – the fundamental components

Before we put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) we: define a purpose for our writing; identify an audience; collect information; formulate ideas; translate ideas into basic elements of words, phrases, metaphors, examples; we collate these elements into a first draft; we review and evaluate our text, and our ideas; we alter our thinking and text as needed; we produce a final piece of work that serves the purpose and meets the needs of the audience.

An employer may not be at all interested in your publication record – but they may be interested in how you plan and manage your writing to create an impact.

Local skills – your genre

Footnoting, specific vocabularies, special styles, the ‘tone’ of your field. Writing can be variously discursive, personal, analytical, factual, third-person, formal, or informal – and more.  Dig  deeper – analytical writing in history is different to analytical writing in geography.

What are the local skills can you identify in your writing?

Something that can help you hone in on your local skills is to cross-check them with what other people have identified as transferable skills of writing – including ones I’ve found in job adverts:  Attention to detail, accurate use of numerical data, ‘impactful’, trustworthy, creative, clarity, open to feedback and change, working with and understanding stake holders, persuasive, engaging, time-management, reliable, understanding tone and style, sense of audience, spelling, syntax, grammar, punctuation. Can you think of any other local skills? Which transferable skills apply most to your writing?

Transferable Skills at Work – two examples

“Our Management Consultants help organisations to solve issues, create values, maximise growth, and improve business performance.” Eg.:

  • Writing business proposals and presentations
  • Presenting findings and recommendations to clients in a written report

“As a Public Affairs Consultant, you’ll draw on your understanding of the political system to offer political and public policy advice to your clients.” Eg.:

  • Assist with research and draft written submissions to government consultations and select committee inquiries
  • Write newsletters, briefings, campaign, materials, and press releases

What fundamental, local, and transferable skills do you have that would enable you to undertake roles like these?

A not-exhaustive list of careers with writing

  • Copywriter, editor, technical writer, puzzle editor, proof-reader
  • Public affairs, public relations, policy work: think tanks, civil service, third sector, lobbying, consultancy
  • Content writer, content manager, social media manager, press officer, communications manager
  • Ghost-writer, speech writer, grant writer
  • Video game writer, comic books/graphic novels, greeting cards
  • Writing coach
  • Creating educational materials (print and online)

Within HE (and still not-exhaustive)

  • Research facilitator, project coordinator, research development officer, research manager
  • Copywriter, communications manager, media and PR Officer, marketing executive, training officer/learning and development, publications officer
  • Unicorn jobs – exist once and never seen again: eg., storytelling specialist for the Institute of Cancer Research (media and comms office)
  • Institutional governance and policy, information governance, sustainability programme officer

Find out about some of these jobs and more on Prospects.

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