Friday, February 27, 2009
If you're interested at all in the indie craft community, you're probably well aware of a recent documentary called Handmade Nation. It's not a great film (bad camerawork, among other issues), but it's worth seeing. It features interviews with all sorts of crafters, people who do things like sewing, bookbinding and needlework.

What struck me was that there didn't seem to be much talk about the actual craftsmanship of the crafts. Some of the handmade goods highlighted in the film were downright hideous. Personal tastes aside, if I'm going to spend money on something handmade, I want to know that it's not going to fall apart, that it's well made and that there was some effort put into it, that the maker has pride in his/her work.

Where am I going with this? Whether you're a crafter or an editor, you should pay attention to the craftsmanship of the work you produce. It's not just the ideas you come up with that matter; it's the execution of those ideas that's going to determine how much mileage they get – and ultimately what type of reputation you'll build for yourself. For a crafter, that means making sure your stitches are straight and there isn't glue seeping out everywhere. For editors, it means, among many other things, having the fact-checker make one more call, just to be sure, and not settling for a photo because you're tired of searching the stock files for something better.

And that's what it comes down to: Don't settle. Put conscientious thought into the work you do, be willing to toss something that's not up to par, and take the time to do the job over, if that's what needs to be done. Don't take the easy route just because it's less effort or there's no time.

Work hard, be proud.
Thursday, February 26, 2009

I had a really productive day yesterday. Well, at least up until about 3:00. That's when I crashed. Completely lost my concentration. It probably had a lot to do with my carb-heavy lunch, which I happened to eat at my desk, working.

Afternoons always go better for me if I take a break at lunch – get away from the office and go for a walk, or spend time perusing the nearby Chapters library. I'm looking forward to warmer weather when I can go sit in the park.

The benefits of taking a break is not new knowledge, but it's easily forgotten or ignored (we're all so busy making our deadlines). To renew your energy and improve your concentration and productivity, step away from the grind, even just for 20 minutes. A walk through the mall will get the blood flowing, but a hit of nature will do you one better.

The reason may be that the brain uses two forms of attention. “Directed” attention allows us to concentrate on work, reading and tests, while “involuntary” attention takes over when we’re distracted by things like running water, crying babies, a beautiful view or a pet that crawls onto our lap.
This comes from an article citing research that shows children who are exposed to nature during the school day are better behaved in the classroom and can concentrate more. Stands to reason the same would hold true for us adults. The article continues:
Directed attention is a limited resource. Long hours in front of a computer or studying for a test can leave us feeling fatigued. But spending time in natural settings appears to activate involuntary attention, giving the brain’s directed attention time to rest.

“It’s pretty clear that all human beings experience attentional fatigue,” Dr. Faber Taylor said. “Our attention has to be restored from that fatigue, and there is a growing body of research evidence that nature is one way that seems particularly effective at doing it.”
Monday, February 23, 2009

Remember "the best job in the world" that I posted about – caretaker of Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef? Not only has the competition generated tons of interest and free press for Tourism Queensland, but it's also attracted some creative applications, like this video and blog entry from Vancouverite Marcella Moser.

It's not my taste, but it is completely appropriate for the job to which she's applying. The key is that it's all show, not tell. Marcella has demonstrated that she's capable of writing a blog, producing video and handling the back end by creating a well-designed custom site. The blog also gives a sense of her writing style, interests and personality, and proves that she can come up with a good idea and execute it well.

Now, by no means am I suggesting you all go out and make a video and start a blog for every job you apply to, but think about what would be appropriate. And even if you stick to a simple cover letter and resumé, keep these points in mind:

Show more than tell. In your cover letter, include examples of past situations that demonstrate relevant talents. In your resumé, list accomplishments instead of just duties.

Consider your audience. Include keywords from the job posting and highlight duties and accomplishments most relevant to the position.

Tailor your application to the recipient. Do the above for each job you apply to. Every position is different, so every application should be.
Related posts:
Creative resumés
Putting together a good application package
Writing a good cover letter
Friday, February 20, 2009

I was starting to question my assertion that it's important to send in a hard copy of your resumé and cover letter – email and online applications have quickly become the norm – but this tip from resumé professionals, cited in the New York Times, supports my theory.

[I]f you really want to make an impression, make a hard copy of your cover letter and résumé and send it to the hiring manager by regular mail. Attach a handwritten note that says, “Second submission; I’m very interested,” [Katy] Piotrowski, [author of career books and a career counselor,] said. “I’ve had clients double their rate of interviews simply from doing that,” she said.

[Wendy S.] Enelow, [author of “Cover Letter Magic,”] calls this “double-hitting,” and says she has seen it work remarkably well. She said a senior-level client of hers got an interview and was hired because the hard copy of his cover letter and résumé reached the company president, whereas his electronic application was rejected by someone in human resources because it did not meet certain rigid criteria.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Apparently not only do some internships not pay, but they also cost money to get. A story in the Globe and Mail reports that one charity is auctioning off internship placements (some going for as much as $50,000), and another company guarantees a two-month internship for $8,000 (both US dollars, both offering spots in publishing).

While the author and most of the commentators are outraged – another way for the upper class to get the upper hand, they say – I simply think it's just a stupid idea, not an affront to meritocracy.

In the case of the auction, it's just the charity trying to find clever things to sell and companies donating the placements saying, "sure, we can have some idiot follow us around and ask questions (and do some grunt work!) for the good of some nonprofit." It looks like each internship is only a week or two – hardly an impressive stint to put on a resumé, regardless of what company the internship is with.

And the $8,000 guaranteed placement: Details are slim, but it looks like there is some sort of screening and interview process; it's not only money that will get you the job.

It's the people who pay that I think are stupid. With ingenuity, drive and perseverance, one should be able to arrange their own internship. Why not take the money you'd pay for the placement and live off it while doing the job, since you're not getting paid.

Thanks to Clare Douglas for pointing out the Globe article to me.
About Me
Corinna vanGerwen


Corinna vanGerwen is a freelance editor and writer. She has worked as senior editor at Style at Home, senior design editor at Cottage Life and is the former Canadian Director of Ed2010. She has also held the position of operations manager at a boutique PR agency, where she handled strategic planning and daily operations.

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