Employers often boast of unconventional approaches to recruitment. There is growing awareness that a liberal arts background is beneficial to careers in a variety of industries. A 2015 Time magazine piece highlighted 10 industry leaders with such a background, including Howard Schultz of Starbucks and Susan Wojcicki of YouTube.
The next innovation in recruitment, particularly in the tech industry, should move beyond this to target an even more particular type of individual—one with all the necessary skills to add value to any workplace.
More companies should consider employing fiction writers.
Fiction Writers Are Problem Solvers
Narrative writing is problem-solving. Anyone who’s ever written fiction knows that stories need conflict, a problem to be solved by the protagonist. This might be a murder, a zombie apocalypse, or a lost toothbrush. But creating conflict and solving it demands a particular sort of understanding and thinking.
I recently received edit notes on my second manuscript. My editor isn’t convinced by a certain character’s motivation. She wants me to reconsider the character’s backstory to ensure her actions in the story make sense. These kinds of cause-and-effect issues in storytelling deal with one of life’s great imponderables—why people act like they do—and they make a writer think. Creatively.
Fiction writing involves both high-level and low-level problem solving and, as the creator of the story and the world where it’s being told, it’s all on the writer to find a solution. It’s a huge part of the process and is a skill that can be useful in a variety of contexts.
Fiction Writers Are Empathetic Thinkers
A collegial workplace operates most smoothly when its composite parts understand each other—practically and emotionally. Most effective managers have empathy. It’s how they avoid burning bridges on the way up to stop them from plunging on their way down. The cliché that sports coaches often regurgitate is that some players need an arm around the shoulder while others respond to a bollocking. The key is understanding which is which. That kind of emotional thinking is essential in a team environment of any kind.
It’s what literature is all about.
Storytelling engages with people, their feelings, and their actions. The truth is people—as workers, as friends, as parents, as lovers—are irrational and flawed. Writers understand this. It’s what literature is all about.
Fiction Writers Are Experts at Perseverance
The average writer publishes their first novel in their mid-thirties. If, like me, they first decided they wanted to be a writer in their mid-teens, that means 20 years of rejection, of self-doubt, of failure.
Few other vocations require such a brutal period of losing in the shadows. If you want to be a doctor, it takes about seven years of training. Barack Obama started his legislative career in 1996 and was elected U.S. president in 2008—that’s just 12 years.
“Resilience” appears in many job descriptions (often alongside the seemingly obligatory “sense of humor”). But what does resilience mean? Ask a writer. They’ll tell you all about resilience. And rejection. And persistence.
I stand on a mountain of “thanks for submitting, but…” emails from agents, editors, magazines, websites. But I’m still going—because that’s what writers do.