Monday, April 5, 2010

Communications Tip: Preparing a Professional Writing Sample

It’s that time of year at the Bren School, and the search is on for your dream job or internship. Please remember that the Communications Center is here to help you through this process.

Employers recognize strong communication skills as a major asset in their potential employees, regardless of the position. Your writing sample will be an organization’s first impression of your work, so you want to have a polished, appropriate piece ready to submit at a moment’s notice.


We have prepared a few tips to help you select a standout writing sample:

1) Always ask your potential employer for guidelines.

2) Two pages, or 500 words, is usually an acceptable length, if no requirement is provided. You might consider having two writing samples of different lengths available (e.g., a one- to two-page memo, as well as a five- to ten-page essay). Whatever length you choose, make sure to use a complete piece that has a beginning, middle, and conclusion.

3) Regardless of the subject matter, be sure that your piece is well researched and uses intelligent, persuasive arguments.

4) If possible, choose a topic that is relevant to the position. Alternatively, you could match your sample to the type of writing you might be asked to perform on the job. For example, for a policy internship with the EPA it is important to demonstrate the ability to analyze complex data and make strong recommendations. A more traditional scientific report might be appropriate for a role in the research field, whereas a clear, concise synthesis of a body of knowledge would be better-suited to a communications position. Before starting from scratch, review written work from your previous Bren classes to find candidates pieces to be polished. Also, see Career Services for advice on the topic and style of your piece.

5) Proofread your writing and seek outside assistance with editing. The more eyes that have reviewed your piece, the more confident you can be that it is free of errors.

Our Writing Consultants are available for one-on-one appointments. We can help you with organization, style, professionalism of your writing sample. We are also available to assist you with cover letters.

Before making an appointment with us, please be sure to consult Career Services regarding the content of your application materials.

We look forward to working with you!
--Danica Schaffer-Smith

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