Welcome to the second edition of Just Ask Stacy, a weekly advice column where you get to ask about whatever you need help with (life, career, laundry, dinner, whatever), and I’ll answer because my head is full of both useful and useless information which I don’t mind sharing. Because I’m a giver.
If you’re wondering how this all started, read this:
Just Ask Stacy
Practical advice for your career, your life, and possibly what to cook for dinner.
If you want to know what people have asked so far, read this:
Let’s get to it, shall we?
This week I received several questions related to portfolios (the writer’s kind, not the financial kind), and two or three related to chicken. (Don’t judge — people gotta eat.).
Let’s deal with the career-related stuff first and then we’ll sort out dinner, m’kay?
Q: I haven’t had to put together a job application in a while and some things have changed. A portfolio is the same thing as a writing sample, right? I’m assuming it is, but if I’m right, why don’t they just ask for a writing sample?
A: Ok, I know you’re frustrated about a lot of things at the moment, but don’t let this be one of them. Times change, which means that phrasing and words have evolved.
Remember when words were called “text” or “copy”? Those same words are now often called “content”, and sometimes “digital content” when those words need to appear online rather than in an actual physical document that you can feel and touch.
A request for a writer’s portfolio is the new way of saying, “We want to see what kind of stuff you’ve written.” So yes, it’s a writing sample.
But it can be so much more than that, especially if you’ve created some words or content that’s now available online (like that script you wrote for that animated video that’s on your former employer’s website).
It would be great to have an online version of your portfolio (like on your personal website, which, ok, I know you don’t have at the moment — we’ll get to that another time), but a pdf should do fine.
Q: I’ve applied for a job as a communications manager and I have to submit a portfolio. What should I include?
A: Take a look at the job announcement to see what kinds of projects are listed. If it says you should have experience writing blogs or press releases or video scripts, include samples of those in your portfolio.
If there’s nothing specific listed in the job announcement, provide samples of your work that are aligned to the job title.
For example, if the job is to write for the C-suite, provide examples of speeches, articles, blog posts, etc., that you’ve written for C-suite execs, making sure to scrub any identifying info that shouldn’t be released publicly. You can also make it clear that you’ve got samples of other types of work, such as press releases, etc.
If both the job announcement and the job title are generic, include samples of your best work from a broad range of projects and make it clear that you’ve got samples of other kinds of work available.
Q: I’m in the middle of an online application and there’s an option to include a portfolio. Can I just skip this since it’s not required? Honestly, I’d rather wait to see how far I get in the process before I share my work with anyone.
A: The fact that submitting the portfolio is an option might mean that it’s not that important at this stage — or it could be that someone forgot to tell Bob in IT to make this field required.
Look at it this way: if your application makes it past the ATS (that’s the algorithm that determines your worthiness based on your resume) and into the hands of an actual human who may have some say in whether you get the job, the portfolio gives that human one more piece of the puzzle that is you.
Your portfolio shows your capability as a writer, your ability to adapt to a particular voice, your range of writing projects and skills, and an idea of whether you can do what’s required in this particular job. If that’s something you want a potential employer to have, you should include your portfolio.
Without the portfolio, the human still has your resume (assuming you get past the decision-making bot). If your resume is so super fantabulous that it stands on its own, well, no worries, right?
Is your resume super fantabulous?
Is it really?
Q: I need a really good, quick and easy recipe for chicken, and I’m not going to the store for any kind of weird ingredients! I just need to get dinner done. Any ideas?
A: You can never go wrong with a chicken recipe from Ina Garten a/k/a the Barefoot Contessa. She doesn’t believe in weird ingredients either. Her husband’s favorite dish is chicken and she’s made some variation of it every Friday for nearly 50 years — and they’re still together! That’s expert level, no doubt. But if you don’t feel like searching for Ina’s chicken, here’s a plan:
If it’s a whole chicken, rub it all over with olive oil.
Sprinkle it all over with salt and pepper, including inside the cavity (and while you’re in the cavity, remove any packets of innards or gizzards; they aren’t usually in a chicken, but just in case…).
If you’ve got a lemon, cut it in quarters and put that in the cavity.
If you’ve got an onion, peel it, cut it in quarters and put that in the cavity.
If you’ve got some garlic cloves, put 3 or 4 of them, unpeeled, in the cavity.
If you’ve got some fresh thyme, put a few sprigs inside the cavity.
If you don’t have a lemon, onion, garlic or fresh thyme, ignore these steps.
Put the chicken in a roasting pan and place it in a pre-heated 350°F oven for about 45 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken).
To test for doneness, poke the thigh with a fork or knife point. If the juices run clear, it’s done; if they don’t, it ain’t, so leave it in there a while longer, but check it every few minutes so you don’t burn it. (Note: if you’ve got a thermometer [no, not the one you use on humans], the internal temp should be 165°F.)
When it’s done, remove it from the oven, cover it with foil, and let it sit for about 10 or 15 minutes before cutting into it.
And don’t forget those garlic cloves and lemons in the cavity (if you used them). Pull those out. Squeeze any juice from the lemons all over the chicken; squeeze the softened garlic out of its skin and spread it on toasted bread. You’re welcome.
If you’ve got chicken pieces rather than a whole bird, follow the same steps in Plan A — rub the pieces all over with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Put the pieces in an oven-going pan and cover with a sliced onion, 1or 2 lemons quartered, 3 or 4 garlic cloves unpeeled, and 3 or 4 sprigs of thyme.
And again, if you don’t have the onion, lemon, garlic or thyme, skip this step.
If you’ve got some white wine, add about half of a cup to the pan, along with a bit of water and a chicken bouillon cube.
If you don’t have wine or the cube, skip it (but we may need to discuss later why you don’t have wine…I’m just sayin’…).
Cover and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes, depending on piece sizes.
Bake uncovered for an additional 5 or 10 minutes until browned to your liking.
Remember to test for doneness, use the juice from the lemons, and savor the softened garlic (see details in Plan A above).
(Told you I was a giver.)
If you want to do a one-pan wonder for either Plan above, add some sliced potatoes to the pan (place them under the chicken) and bake along with the chicken. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, add some frozen peas (or canned, but drain them first) to the pan. And voila — that’s dinner sorted!
Ok guys that’s it for this edition. Hope it’s been helpful. The next edition is already in the works and will sort out some relationship issues…because people…
Stay tuned and keep those questions coming!