“Writing is a skill, not a talent, and this difference is important because a skill can be improved by practice”- Robert Stacy McCain
Many students steer clear of writing courses, believing the amount of work required will have little return on investment (ROI). While my peers ran the other way, I chose to jump into the deep end of the pool, knowing the reward of learning to write well would more than justify the effort. In a highly competitive job market, being able to crunch numbers isn’t enough; strong soft skills—particularly in written communication—enable a job candidate to stand out in a crowded field of applicants.
Turning our attention to the different business functions: sales, marketing, management, finance, human resources, etc.; all of these require writing, and when it comes to writing for business, one size doesn’t fit all. A blog post like this is far less formal than a sales letter. An executive summary needs to be concise and hit the critical points. Copywriting for marketing campaigns often involves the creative skills of a master storyteller.
While there are business-specific writing courses, I took some that weren’t geared just toward business students, and I’m glad I did. Here are the classes I joined along with takeaways from each.
A course in argumentation and persuasion revealed to me how a salesperson can use writing to turn a prospect into a customer by creating a well-crafted proposal, or how a job candidate can catch the eye of a potential employer with a compelling cover letter.
Another class was not a writing course per se, but writing intensive. The course focused on advertising, fads, and consumer buying behavior. Here, I gained insight into why some ads succeed while others don’t, how fads begin, and what motivates people to open their wallets and spend money.
Finally, I took a course far off the beaten track for business majors—creative writing. What makes a good marketing campaign? Think about the ones you remember most. I’ll bet there was a strong story at the center. What’s the secret sauce to storytelling? It’s an appeal to the emotions—getting at those things we connect with the most.
As a finance major, in my future job role, apart from working heavily with numbers, I’ll be conducting research, diving deep into the authoritative literature related to my function, documenting findings on paper, and drafting reports. I’m now confident in my abilities to tackle the written-communication aspect of finance work because of the solid foundation I gained.
While it seems unlikely that I’ll be creating marketing campaigns or drafting a sales proposal working in finance; my business future may change course. What I've learned from my leap into writing is a valuable understanding of how critical writing is across business functions, making me a well-rounded job candidate-one who stands out in a crowded field—and for where I am right now, that is the ultimate ROI.
Do you emphasize the importance of writing with your students? Feel free to share this perspective on the importance of good writing skills with your students.
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