Take Your Pick: Every Job, No Matter Entry-Level or Beyond, Needs Good Writing—and You Can Take That to the Bank!
“No way do I need to know good writing, man! I’m flipping burgers; perhaps I’ll sign my name to the burgers, but I know how to spell that!” . . . “I’m pulling people out of water: what does a lifeguard need to know how to write?” . . . “This makes no sense: I’m pulling out transmissions all day as an auto mechanic, and now you tell me my writing is important?” . . . “C’mon: my job is keeping inmates in line all day; where does the need to write fit in?” Common questions, eh? And on the surface these questions make sense: someone flipping burgers at McDonald’s or lifeguarding by the ocean or fixing cars in an auto repair shop or working as a correctional officer in a prison–these certainly are not the jobs where good writing is needed, right? Wrong, 100% wrong! Here’s the rub (with a tip of the hat to good ol’ Shakespeare!): every job–yup, EVERY job–needs effective writing skills, whether immediately or “down the road.”
We know the jobs and professions where the need for good writing would be obvious: journalists, business managers, evaluators, social workers, interviewers–the list goes on. Yet it can be easy to overlook jobs such as the ones mentioned in my introductory comments as those where effective writing would prove not only valuable but crucial. Of course, there are “The Great Equalizers” of writing: the cover letter and resume. Nearly every job asks for these, and when typos, grammatical errors, punctuation mishaps, and spelling goofs worm their way into these employment tools, they can cut off an applicant from that de rigueur interview.
But let’s say these folks in the “Oh-I-don’t-need-to-be-a-good-writer” job categories make it through the interview and are hired. Here is where we must lift the cover off these jobs to see where the need for solid, effective, and smooth writing is hiding. First, let’s take a global approach: each employee has done so well that promotions come along. Ah, the promotions, where the need to write summaries, evaluations, proposals, customer and vendor correspondence, and more become a reality. Suddenly, understanding a thesis statement, writing logically flowing paragraphs, the lack of typos, no spelling errors, correct grammar, and well-placed punctuation–even research–shout, “You need me! You need me!” Again, and again, and yet again (and the “agains” keep coming), employees have been demoted, not promoted, even fired because they either didn’t have the writing chops required of an employment position or their writing resulted in errors to their employers. Yet this is the easy case to make for needing effective writing.
It does become more of a challenge to convince those “on-the-surface-I-don’t-see-a-need-for-me-to-know-writing” employees that, yes, you really do need to bring along a duffel bag of writing that can easily communicate, inform, suggest, remind, report, and offer. Let’s look at the four employees:
Hamburger Flipper. Stellar writing skills do not a hamburger make, indeed. So, where’s the need for writing? There are incident reports, self-evaluations, suggestions for store improvements, and applications for promotions these employees often have. When an employer who understands the need for good writing sees one of these employees with ineffective writing, the idea of promoting the person may go down the drain like grease from a grill. Yes, no doubt the person will keep the original job, but the question must be asked: is that enough? Pickles, ketchup, mustard, and good writing: the perfect condiments for our hamburger flipper.
Lifeguard. No, good writing is not going to help rescue someone who is drowning. Yet when that person is saved–or any other untoward event occurs in the waters–there are reports to be filled out, along with daily requisition sheets, self-evaluations, written correspondence to management, and a daily log of day-to-day doings. Certainly, this will not be the case for all lifeguards, but enough that effective writing should be another life preserver ready when needed.
Auto Mechanic. My dad was an auto mechanic, and I saw him repair transmissions, replace fuel pumps, fix broken wipers, and install new batteries, and never was a comma, a complete sentence, or an inviting paragraph involved. Yet he did need to write, just as auto mechanics do today: summaries of completed jobs, occasional letters/emails to customers, extensive written communication with supervisors, and once-in-a-while incident reports. Effective writing should be nicely tucked into a toolbox, ready when needed.
Correctional Officer. Too many TV shows and movies have painted a picture of the correctional officer’s duties: patrolling the halls lined with inmate cells, standing watch over lunch or rec time in “the yard,” responding to riots. Yet their writing is time-consuming: incident reports, inmate evaluations and summaries, daily logs of common responsibilities, and suggestions for solving inmate problems. The need for well-hewn writing should not be locked up, but rather always be by the correctional officer’s side.
The list of jobs that on the surface don’t seem like they need effective writing is nearly endless. Yet this life skill is always needed, sometimes obviously, sometimes not for some time, no matter what the employment position. And how nice to know one can say to any employer, “Oh, by the way, I do write well,” words that not only will boost any employee’s confidence but also have an employer think, “Hey, this person’s got potential.” And how sweet is that?