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Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

What Are You Writing For? How Your Academic Writing Skills Transfer Into the Workplace

During one of my recent residency presentations on the topic of Writing at the Doctoral Level, one student raised her hand and asked, “What are we writing for?” This short but powerful question took me by surprise, and I have been thinking about all of the possible answers to this question ever since. 

Walden students write in order to earn a higher degree, they write in the hopes of social change, and they write to gain and refine their communication skills. And these few answers don’t even scrape the surface! However, I when I initially thought about the “What are we writing for?” question, my answers were all based on prospective gains, as if students could only write as a way to make a difference or gain something in the future. This got me thinking: What are we waiting for? Since many Walden students already have careers, why can’t they begin to apply the writing process skills they gain while earning their higher degrees in the workplace right away? Below are just a few ways you can begin to use (or perhaps are already using) your writing process knowledge in the workplace.

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Become a Stronger Job Applicant by Using Your Academic Writing Skills

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Many academic writing topics—such as considering the purpose of the document, making adjustments based on the audience you’re writing for, writing concisely, maintaining an appropriate tone for that particular piece of writing—are also important to think about when applying for a new job. Last week, we shared Denise’s recommendations for writing dynamic cover letters. This week, we want to share some tips and resources for additional writing-related parts of the job application process.

Become a Stronger Job Applicant by Using Your Academic Writing Skills | Walden University Writing Center Blog

Resume and curriculum vita (CV)

Bulleted lists are a popular choice for highlighting skills and experiences in a resume or CV because bullet points are easier on the reader’s eyes than blocks of text. Bullet points also allow hiring managers to see key information at a glance (which is crucial when they have stacks of applications to go through). For your lists to read well and be grammatically correct, you’ll need to follow parallel structure.

In your resume or CV, you might use a bulleted list to showcase your professional accomplishments. Below is part of a list from a sample healthcare administration resume available in Walden’s OptimalResume system. I’ve highlighted parallel terms in pink, yellow, and blue:
  • Project ManagementImplemented large-scale healthcare administration projects including standardizing compliance monitoring and streamlining processes for a two-thousand client database.
  • Growth ManagementDeveloped growth strategies that improved quality of healthcare for at-risk populations within the community.
  • Multi-Site ManagementCoordinated the development and expansion of a rural out-patient clinic.

The pink words are adjectives, and the yellow words are nouns (all the same noun, in fact). The bolded phrases use the construction of an adjective followed by a noun. The blue words are verbs. This list has strong parallel construction, which we can see just by looking at the colors in the list and how they line up. An example list with poor parallel structure might look like this:
  • Managing ProjectsImplemented large-scale healthcare administration projects including standardizing compliance monitoring and streamlining processes for a two-thousand client database.
  • Management of growth Responsible for growth strategies that improved quality of healthcare for at-risk populations within the community.
  • Multi-Site ManagementDeveloping and expanding a rural out-patient clinic.

See how the colors in this example are all mixed up? All of the bold phrases still contain nouns, but instead of having the same adjective + noun construction for all of the phrases, as in the first example, the phrases now also contain a verb, another noun, and an adjective. They are no longer parallel.  

Now, let’s look at the first word following each dash. In the first example, remember that all of the words are the same type—they are all verbs. In this second example, we have a mix of the past-tense verb implemented, the adjective responsible, and the gerunds (verbs that show a state of being) developing and expanding.

Understanding the parts of a sentence and how parallel construction works can help you make your lists grammatically pleasing and clear. If you read these lists out loud, you can also hopefully hear how the first example just sounds better.
Tip: Did you know the Career Services Center staff offers personalized help with resumes and CVs for Walden students? Make an appointment to take advantage of this great service!

Job applications

The Career Services Center suggests that when you’re applying for positions, you should organize your application materials and track which positions you’ve applied for. If you apply for several positions and get a call for an interview, you don’t want to find yourself mixing up the name of the company or scrambling to remember the details of the position! Here’s a suggestion from us, too: You know our literature review matrix that we recommend for organizing your sources and research? Download the template—which is really just a big table—and tailor it to your job application process. For example, instead of using categories like “Author/Date” and “Theoretical/Conceptual Framework,” you could set up categories like “Company,” “Position title,” “Position summary,” “Date applied,” etc. Just as a literature review matrix can help writers track, organize, and compare sources, a similar organizational scheme can help job seekers track, organize, and compare applications, as well as keep tabs on each application’s status.

Thank-you email or letter

Another tip from the Career Services Center is to send a thank-you letter or e-mail after an interview. You likely use e-mail every day for work, school, or personal reasons, but this thank-you isn’t just any e-mail; it's particularly important that this communication to your prospective employer is professional, concise, specific, and grammatically correct. You’ll want to consider your tone and audience, stick to the point and avoid wordiness, and make sure to proofread your draft. The Academic Skills Center’s video on e-mailing your professor can be helpful for career situations, too.

Think beyond the grade

Writing Beyond Academia series via the Walden University Writing Center Blog

I hope today's post shows how strengthening your writing skills isn't just about pleasing your writing instructor or getting an "A" on a paper. This month's "Writing Beyond Academia" series aims to illustrate some ways in which the writing skills you're building now can help you in contexts beyond the classroom. If you're just joining us, check out our latest WriteCast podcast episode on "How Academic Writing Helps You Beyond Academia," an explanation of how and why to read the room, and a Career Services Guest post on writing dynamic cover letters.  

As always, we welcome your thoughts and questions in the comments!


Anne Shiell
 is a writing instructor and the coordinator of social media resources at the Walden Writing Center. Anne also produces WriteCast, the Writing Center's podcast.

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How to Write a Dynamic Cover Letter (A Career Services Center Guest Post)

As I read last week’s blog post by Amber Cook about engaging your audience through "reading the room," I thought about the one-page cover letter, a document that we often don’t think about in academia. You put so much effort into writing academic papers; how do you make the shift to writing a one-page cover letter that engages your audience--the hiring manager? 

How  to Write a Dynamic Cover Letter | Walden University Writing Center Blog


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Reading the Room: Adjusting Your Writing to Engage Your Audience

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Have you ever heard the expression “read the room”? This is a concept, familiar to anyone who does public speaking or entertaining, in which the person on stage does a quick scan of the audience. A comedian, for instance, will look for signs that indicate the group will be receptive (or not receptive) to certain material. A motivational speaker might “read the room” and note that the audience’s energy is lagging at the end of a long day. In each case, the speakers will alter their material to suit the needs of the audience with whom they’re working.

Reading the Room: Adjusting Your Writing to Engage Your Audience | writing advice from the Walden University Writing Center Blog

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WriteCast Episode 23: How Academic Writing Helps You Beyond Academia

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"Why do I have to write this? Why do I have to do so much writing? Why is this going to matter after I graduate?" Admit it--you've probably asked questions like these at some point in your academic career. 

How Academic Writing Helps You Beyond Academia - WriteCast podcast episode by the Walden University Writing Center

In this month's WriteCast episode, Beth and Brittany encourage you to rethink your academic writing as building skills that will benefit you beyond the university. 

To download the episode to your computer, press the share button on the player above, then press the download button. Visit the Writing Center's WriteCast page for our episode archive and transcripts. Happy listening!

WriteCast: A Casual Conversation for Serious Writers is a monthly podcast written, produced, and published by staff in the Walden University Writing Center. Join us each month for a dialogue between two experienced and trained writing instructors. Possible episode topics will always be considered from listeners--share your questions and suggestions in the comments. 

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