Food, family, and a study break-Thanksgiving is not too soon to think about job application writing samples. This may sound daunting, but hear me out.
The best advice when it comes to writing samples is to get some ready now. Having a variety of samples makes it easier to quickly apply for a job or internship opportunity when it comes. The exact requirements and nature of the writing sample will depend on the field, job details, and the preference of the employer. A research position or a well-cited paper or lab report, a communications position could want a catchy blog piece, and a policy organization could want a concise article.
To be ready for the writing sample request, take a moment to look at what you have written or are writing now. You do not have to re-create the wheel with each application. Students and recent graduates can use academic papers or other work from college. However, it is less encouraged for alumni further out from their degree to do the same.
Most of the time the sample will be no longer than two pages, five max. Chances are the best writing you have done for class has been significantly longer than 2 pages. So, how to cut down your favorite work without losing what made it so good?
First, identify the meat of the paper. Where did you defend your thesis or conclusion the strongest? Where did you really flex your analytical skills? The goal of a writing sample is to measure your ability to write professionally, clearly, and succinctly. Just sending the first two pages of a much longer paper may leave out too much and seem incomplete.
Second, be ready to edit. Even if you do not yet know the specific organization or job that you will apply for, do some preliminary research. Look at the writing style of some different organizations that you are interested in to edit the sample accordingly. When you do apply, use the style and tone of that particular employer and have the sample address a topic, theme, or issue that you could be required to work on in the position.
The key is having something ready in your back pocket, or saved on your computer, that you are proud to share with a potential employer. Thanksgiving break is a good time to pick out blogs, academic papers, news articles, or other projects from this or previous semesters. That way when finals hit and you are applying for jobs or internships you do not have to create an entirely new piece. Preparation and a little research now could save you some precious hours of sleep come December.
For more on writing samples check out the Career Center website.