Literary Studies and Professional Writing

Though it may seem that analyzing the works of Edmund Spenser, Jane Austen, and John Steinbeck wouldn’t have much in common with helping a student craft a resume, my internship has shown me the very real similarities between the two activities repeatedly over the last nine months. My time in the English classroom has provided me with many of the skills that I use every day during my internship in Career Services, and my internship has allowed me to approach research and literary analysis with a new perspective. The crossover between literary studies and professional writing is not necessarily always a seamless one. Sometimes, it can become difficult to identify where one’s proclivity for the creative must end and where an emphasis needs to be placed on clarity and conciseness. However, through practice and application, it’s entirely possible to combine the two skills to create pieces of writing that are interesting, creative, and easy to read for a variety of audiences.

In particular, the study of literature equips students with a very keen ability to identify the intended audience of a piece of writing. This is a skill that becomes invaluable when communicating via writing in a professional setting. In my internship, many writing assignments require that I keep students or employers in mind as my audience. When assisting a student with their resume, it’s always important for me to remind them that the person who will likely read it is a recruiter who goes through tons of resumes in a day. With this in mind, I’m able to work with the candidate to make sure that they’re able to communicate their skills and abilities concisely in a way that is easy to read and that makes them stand out to the potentially weary reader’s eyes. On the other hand, an information sheet about a specific major that will be handed out to students will require a different approach. Knowing that a student might refer to the document later for advice requires me to understand their position and anticipate their future questions. Studying literature has given me a clearer understanding of intended audience by placing an emphasis on the perspective of the reader which is a skill that has carried over into my internship writing as well.

In a more general sense, the literature classroom has certainly prepared me for effectively communicating my opinion to others in a way that is easy to understand, particularly when moving my work from the page to a conversation or presentation. Of course, this is useful in a professional setting for an abundance of reasons! When in walk-in appointments with students in the Career Services Center, it’s helpful that I am able to communicate suggestions to students while considering their perspective and opinion as well. Especially with resumes and cover letters, documents which are personal and unique to each individual, it’s important to be able to contribute constructive criticism to my peers in a professional manner. In the English classroom, analytic discussions on a variety of subjects – from religion, to gender identity, to racial concerns – require the same amount of tact and patience in communication with my classmates as I apply to my internship. The importance of the transfer of skills between the two jurisdictions becomes clear when I have to translate markings on a page to a face-to-face conversation.

From the classroom to the office, studying literature has undeniably left me feeling well equipped for an internship in a professional setting. Literature requires a clear understanding of why people communicate in the way that they do, and professional writing and communication require an understanding of how to tap into this understanding to make a point, suggestion, or start a conversation. The transition between the two means of working require some practice, but students looking to take advantage of an education in English can rest assured that the skills that they hone in the classroom will transfer to a professional setting with diligence and initiative.

One Reply to “Literary Studies and Professional Writing”

  1. Good article, but another key item when assessing the intended audience and the readers perspective is their generation. Each generation typically has a different view of things, how they interpret it, and what is important to them.

    Liked by 1 person

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