How to Get a Corporate Job
I’ve been working my whole adult life. I worked as a kid, too: walking ponies at corporate picnics, modeling (print), making things and selling them to my neighbors and friends. When I was seven years old, I put together a catalog and and wandered the neighborhood selling handknit items door-to-door. I sold lemonade in the summer and Girl Scout cookies during the school year. Later, I worked retail and waited tables. I worked in a shampoo factory and also in a bakery.
Most recently, I worked a corporate job as a writer/project manager. (I have a degree in English, which can be useful for this sort of position.) I’ve made over $125K a year plus bonuses and other salaried benefits, like cheap health insurance — and it didn’t take me very long to get here.
It’s not hard to get a job at a major company’s corporate headquarters, especially if you treat it like a goal. It can feel somewhat amoral (unless you think corporations are people, which I definitely don’t), but the money’s great, and when you have an income you can use it to donate to whatever charitable causes you want. This summer, I’ll pay off my student loans and our car, give money to charitable causes, finally get us out of debt (with the exception of our mortgage) and start to save for a baby.
You can too. Here’s what I did:
Move to a city where corporate jobs exist.
I know, I know, this one is tricky. But there are lots of jobs in places like Chicago, Atlanta, Minneapolis, or Houston. Don’t go to a place like Pittsburgh or Detroit. Yes, the cost of living is cheaper there, but the wages are lower and there are fewer opportunities for writers, particularly if you want to get a job at an agency.
I recommend cities like Chicago because there are still a lot of jobs there, and provided you can fork over $500-800 in rent every month, you should be able to find yourself a roommate or two or three on a CTA line. Same goes for Minneapolis, minus the CTA — plus you could work for Target corporate. Fun, right?
Do your research. Glassdoor is your friend. LinkedIn too. Houston has a low cost of living but you’re car-dependent unless you live inside the Loop. Atlanta also requires a car, but has lots of corporate headquarters. Choose wisely.
Sign up for every single temp agency opportunity you can find.
I literally threw myself at temp agencies until someone got me a gig, which led to another gig, and another, and eventually enabled me to build a portfolio of work. Whenever someone asked if I could do something, the answer was yes (and then I googled how to do it). This tactic doesn’t always work, but it works frequently enough — and once you’re in as a temp, there are lots of ways to get the on-the-job experience that you can parlay into a permanent opportunity.
Join professional organizations and network like crazy.
As a budding technical writer, you may want to join the Society for Technical Communication; they have regular meetings on the local chapter level and it can be useful to get jobs through these opportunities. If you’re going to do medical writing, you could join the American Medical Writers Association and complete their certificate and attend their annual meeting. If you are in internal or corporate communications, there are networking opportunities through LinkedIn and Meetup groups.
Figure out what you’re good at and become an expert in it. For me, it was medical writing. For others, it might be something else, like project management or IT writing, or internal communications.
Get your resume out there.
Put your resume up on all the job sites, OCR it, and make it available to recruiters. That means throwing your resume at Monster.com, CareerBuilder, updating your LinkedIn profile (and yes, probably registering for the $25 a month “premium” edition, though that’s not explicitly necessary), Indeed, and any other aggregator sites that would give you access to recruiters. Try a functional resume if you have a lot of gig work so people can understand what it is you do. Read Ask A Manager religiously.
Prepare to become a corporate employee.
If you want a corporate job, you need to look (and act) the part. That means updating your wardrobe with income from your freelance gigs, getting a good haircut, and even participating in mock interviewing or other opportunities. If you’re a young professional, you can join groups specifically tailored towards those kinds of folks, and network with someone who should be able to get you a job (hello, Toastmasters).
In my case, I worked in a temporary capacity at one company and then applied for the same role at another company. Corporations like that kind of lateral move — and if you’re planning to do it yourself, write your resume so the title of your current job matches the title of the job you want. HR doesn’t read your resume anyway, so it’s okay to switch your current title from Junior Communications Officer to Communications Associate or whatever you need to do, as long as the roles are reasonably similar. That helps you stand out in online application systems and also makes you look like a safe hire.
Remember, a resume is a marketing document. Try matching the bullet points of the job description to the job you currently do or have experience with. When you write your cover letter (and you must write a cover letter), it’s easiest to match the job description to your own experience. If the description reads, “Experience writing copy for internal stakeholders” as your first bullet, your cover letter should introduce yourself and then say something like “Through my experience writing copy for internal stakeholders at XYZ company, I….” Mimicry is really useful here, because often HR doesn’t know what kind of work you do and they have to hire for lots of different types of positions.
That said, after all this, I recently quit my job because I’m writing a book. It’s complicated, but the short version is: I loved what I did when I was working for a multinational corporation, but needed to write full-time. It was a hard decision to make. My main problem is that whenever I start a new job, I go all-in. That’s what essentially happened at my corporate job — it became my life and I couldn’t do that anymore. The book is due to the publisher in March, so I’m mostly working on that full-time until then, and also doing some freelance work on the side.
If I ever need another one of these types of corporate writing jobs, I’m set; I know what I’m expected to do and how to get another job. A lot of it is about learning the language of corporate America, which might not be for everyone — but if you want to give it a try, the money is good, and the people are pretty good too.
Anonymous is keeping door-to-door catalog sales as a fallback plan.
Support The Billfold