Thursday, April 19, 2007

Career Exercise

IN THE COURSE OF the career-path materials I have been working through these past few weeks, one exercise had a more speculative nature. It asked the reader to look back on the execution of his or her career vision after 5 years in its pursuit. This was a multiquestion, freeform exercise, allowing more depth in response than the stereotypical "Where do you see yourself in five years?" interviewer chestnut.

I have been answering the exercises in this section from two career-path standpoints: as a graphic designer and as a writer. The latter being more speculative based on my current career path, I chose that perspective. At the risk of sharing proprietary information from this company's methods, I paraphrase the questions hereafter, along with my unedited replies:

Most important contribution you have made through your work:
My essays or informational articles empowered readers to take control and make permanent changes in their lives. I inspired them to pursue their own goals and interests. I became a trusted source of information.

Most productive or exciting aspect of my career:
Most productive was having a weekly column for which I produced short pieces, either on specific topics or personal essays, to a wide readership. This series gave me clips to shop around, to expand into larger projects, and eventually to sell as a book.
Most exciting aspect was receiving responses from readers on how my work has helped them.

Most difficult challenge and how you overcame it:
Getting started! I did a lot of writing for spec early, and sent it to a wide variety of publications. Rejection was difficult, and doing work for no immediate money put a crimp in my spending. I made sure to understand my markets, heed submission requirements, work closely with editors to ensure the suitability of my pieces, and never stopped writing. Nothing was as satisfying as making that first sale, and when I was accepted, others followed in buying my work. Never underestimate the influence of being able to provide solid, engaging copy on short notice and regular deadlines to content managers.

What skills have I perfected in my career?
Writing good copy quickly. Research. Interviewing. Accepting editorial advice gracefully. Finding new, regular markets. Taking inspiration and turning it into powerful results on the page or screen.

What did I enjoy least?
For a long time, I worked a second job as a proofreader and copyeditor, so I had to scramble to earn money for retirement and healthcare. Rejection, even for good reasons. Scarcity of markets. Beginning articles and then realizing there isn't enough content to justify word count. And of course that ancient writer's lament, not getting timely payment.

What awards or commendations have you received that were the most meaningful?
My column is syndicated widely via RSS. I have received recognition for my personal blog. I have been invited to speak on topics of my writing. The Village Voice and Time Out New York have both favorably reviewed my first book.

Either this is a brash, presumptuous list of isinglass fantasies or a series of target at which I need to launch myself. I'm not sure which. All I know is that these words came from somewhere.

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