Landing a Job. Part 1.

This is a writer’s blog, dedicated mostly to creative endeavors. But, sometimes, painful as it may be, even fantasy writers find it necessary to seek out a J-O-B. We got bills to pay, habits to finance (like indie publishing mermaid novellas and collecting Neal Stephensons’s published works…)

So I recently found two freelance gigs and a part-time job. The freelance gigs came first or, quite frankly, I may not have pursued them at all, as my part-time hours are pretty good. But it’s a feast or famine industry, so I’ll take the extra-busy time and say “Thank you.” Want to know how I landed my jobs? Read on, oh unemployed pilgrim.


I have three cardinal rules for those looking for gainful employment:

Get your shit together.

BE creative, then SHOW it.

Put forth the effort!

One of my work-for-pay gigs is working at an ad agency in Knoxville. I don’t have a background in advertising. Most of my professional writing experience is with small publications, blogs and, of course, my personal projects like Mermaid Underground and this blog. So how did I end up at an agency? I followed the steps.

Step 1: Track down the job posting.

I found my current job on, but I followed the most basic rule of job hunting: follow the job back to the original post on the company website. Always do this. Sometimes there are additional instructions or just company culture cues to help you apply for the job, well … better. Going back to the company website also gets you started on the next step in applying for the job (NOT actually applying).

Step 2: Research the company!

Who are some of their past clients? What does their web copy look like? Who works there? What do their bios say? What is the company’s freakin’ motto? This is important, because it directs you to a) know whether you would even want to work there and b) tailor the copy in your cover letter to match the company tone.  Which leads me to…


Step 3: The dreaded cover letter.

What most writers completely overlook is that your cover letter is your first writing sample for a future employer. Make ’em yawn with the cover letter or, worse, make ’em think you copied and pasted, and you’ll never get in the door. Find some specific reasons why you want to work for the place and use those as a jumping-off point. (See Step 1!) Tell them who you are, and why your you-ness makes you the perfect candidate for their company. Drive it home with a colorful anecdote.

Step 4: Follow directions!

If they want samples attached to an email, do it. Some places prefer samples in the body of an email. Give them links to your social media pages (if relevant), online portfolio (why don’t you have one?!) and contact information. Make it easy for them to get to you! You’d think this basic stuff was understood, but so, so few people seem to be able to get it together.


I get it; you’re using the scatter shot method to get a job. You don’t have time to give each job posting this much attention, right? Then let me assure you, you will not enjoy the employer who’s willing to hire you. Put in the time. Job hunting is a full-time job, with delayed pay. How delayed depends on you.

Remember this: You’ll get rejected a lot, but you only need one “Yes!”

On a personal note, it was ultimately my quirky endeavors that landed me this job copywriting at an ad agency. My manager was impressed that I had the creativity, drive and discipline to finish and publish the Mermaid Underground books. You never know when the stuff that makes your parents go “Why the hell are you wasting your time?” might land you a unicorn.

Next up in this J-O-B series, I’ll write a bit about what happens when you get in the door: how to stick the landing in a face-to-face interview.


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