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Strategies for defining and marketing our tutoring experiences.

Many writing tutors have had sessions that began with a writer asking, "Will you edit my paper?" This question offers tutors the opportunity to explain the instructional spirit of the work we do in writing centers and address any misunderstandings about our mission and tutors' roles. However, many tutors forget these misperceptions of their role when they send cover letters and resumes to prospective employers, who may also be unaware of the multi-faceted nature of writing center experience. We observed through our discourse analysis of tutors' professional documents that about a quarter of them simply listed their job title and dates of employment. Since not all employers are familiar with the types of jobs tutors engage in, tutors must explain their role more explicitly and find ways to relate it to their future employment. We here offer some suggestions for ways to qualify and quantify the skills tutors obtain from working in a writing center as they seek academic and nonacademic employment. Unlike more generalized advice for resumes and CVs, our suggestions are specifically geared to help tutors make themselves marketable for potential employers.

A few recent studies demonstrate the diverse kinds of professional development offered in writing centers. Sue Dinitz and Jean Kiedasich quote peer tutors who describe the multiple interpersonal, writing, mentoring/teaching, thinking, and professional-insights gained from writing center experience. Their work builds on the Peer Writing Tutor Alumni Research Project by Bradley Hughes, Paula Gillespie, and Harvey Kail, which surveyed over a hundred former tutors to gauge their level of professional development in writing centers. Their responses provide inspiration in the form of real-life examples of writing center experience in action that tutors could translate into lines on their CVs or resumes. While working as tutors, we thought about the best ways to represent our work to employers on professional documents. We were also curious about the ways in which other tutors represent (or, in some cases, do not represent) the various pedagogical, administrative, and technological skills they learn. To conduct our discourse analysis, we collected nineteen resumes, curriculum vitae, and cover letters composed by undergraduate and graduate writing center tutors from around the country. We solicited these participants through emailing writing center directors as well as posting on listservs. We worked out a coding system and recorded the ways participants labeled their role as well as the people they tutor, the activities they included, and the types of verbs they used. Our coding also noted whether or not they explained these activities and if/how they quantified their role. Our results revealed several areas in which tutors could represent their roles more effectively.


Based on the professional documents we analyzed, the most common labels tutors used to define themselves were "tutor" and "consultant." Sometimes these tags were coupled with modifying words such as "peer," "ESL," or "writing." While we do not endorse one label over another--for consistency we use the label "tutor" in this article--we do encourage tutors to reflect before deciding which label to use on their resumes or CVs. While "consultant" may carry a more professional connotation, for prospective employers in some fields, the word "consultant" may bring to mind a temporary worker contracted for an outsourced job. Applicants should also consider the standard label at their writing center. At the Fashion Institute of Technology, Lindsay was labeled a "writing consultant," whereas Jessica was called a "peer tutor" at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Be consistent with what the director calls you and what you call yourself on your resume in order to avoid confusion for prospective employers.

Tutors should also consider if and how they label the people they tutor. Our discourse analysis revealed that many tutors omit any reference to the people they tutor in professional documents. Labeling people with whom we collaborate provides an opportunity to highlight our interpersonal skills. Some professional documents we reviewed used descriptive qualifiers including "undergraduate," "graduate," "international," "first-year," "ESL," "student-athletes," "from multiple disciplines" and "learning disabilities" to better emphasize the diverse background of the people they tutor. Using "clients" may heighten the sense of professionalism and fink writing center work to customer service. Using "students" may be a suitable label for the education field, but it may not express the mutual collaboration that "writers" connotes. Tutors should use these labels carefully based on an analysis of the specific job description and create several versions of their resume to address different employer's expectations.


Tutors should highlight their diverse skill sets in a cover letter, CV, or resume to signal to future employers that they have the necessary experiences to meet the requirements of the job. For example, many corporations are supporting more collaboration and team writing skills. Tutors are well-versed in collaborative writing, understand that there are always various perspectives through which they can view a situation, and know how to communicate these new lenses to clients. Tutors are also used to dealing with difficult clients. Cover letters give tutors an opportunity to emphasize how these interpersonal skills relate to the potential job. In some writing centers, tutors have the opportunity to conduct workshops or make classroom visits. Tutors should include this information on their resume to show how they have learned public speaking skills and determined effective ways to reach their audience. For example, a tutor can specifically state: "Conducted workshops with Exhibit Design students and facilitated discussions of exhibit design prototypes, thesis statements, and arguments of validity." Tutors can also include information about how they designed PowerPoint presentations for the workshops, brainstormed related writing activities, and then conducted a workshop. Including these activities on resumes demonstrates professional development in the writing center.


The above suggestions describe some strategies for tutors to qualify their writing center experience in professional documents, but another important step is to quantify this experience. Based on our discourse analysis, few professional documents included any attempt to quantify writing center work. Those that did merely recorded the average number of hours worked per week. This method may demonstrate time management skills, but simply stating that a tutor worked ten hours a week may not be the most accurate way to communicate the fluctuating flow of traffic in the average writing center. During midterms or finals week, the writing center may be a hectic place with students lined up at the door waiting to work with a tutor. On the other hand, during the first week of the semester or summer session, tutors may find themselves waiting for students to walk-in. In the first case, ten hours of work might translate to 20 individual sessions; in the second case, it could mean far fewer. We suggest that tutors quantify their work by indicating the number of individual tutoring sessions they conducted and the average length of time of each session. For example, a tutor could record, "At X University, I conducted approximately 200, 40-minute tutoring sessions." Tutors could keep a journal or rely on session report forms to calculate the number of sessions they conducted. In the absence of documentation, they could consult with veteran tutors or their director for a reliable estimate. This quantification strategy gives potential employers an understanding of the size and scope of the tutor's writing center. This quantification may also pleasantly surprise tutors, who may be unaware that they have most likely conducted hundreds of sessions and helped hundreds of writers during their tutoring careers.


Angela Laflen offers helpful advice about making professional documents more persuasive to prospective employers, although her suggestions are for anyone writing a resume, not specifically for writing tutors. For detailed fists of the various administrative, communication, technological, and other skills developed in the writing center, tutors should consult Kathleen Welsch's and Lisa Whalen's work. We also recommend that tutors consult veteran tutors and their director for feedback. Revising their professional documents will simultaneously showcase tutors' skills and promote a wider awareness of the mission of writing centers.


Special thanks to Dr. Ben Rafoth, the director of the Writing Center at IUP, for his encouragement and help with this article. We are also grateful for the feedback we received at the National Conference on Peer Tutoring In Writing (NCPTW) in November 2011.

Works Cited

Dinitz, Sue, and Jean Kiedaisch. "Tutoring Writing as Career Development." Writing Lab Newsletter 34.3 (2009): 1-5. Print.

Hughes, Bradley, Paula Gillespie, and Harvey Kail. "What They Take with Them: Findings from the Peer Writing Tutor Alumni Research Project." Writing Center Journal 30.2 (2010): 12-46. Print.

Laflen, Angela. "'To Whom It May Concern' and Beyond: Equipping Students to Write for Employers." Writing Lab Newsletter 27.8 (2003): 4-6. Print.

Welsch, Kathleen. "Shaping Careers in the Writing Center." Writing Lab Newsletter 32.8 (2008): 1-8. Print.

Whalen, Lisa. "Putting Your Writing Center Experience to Work." Writing Lab Newsletter 29-9 (2005): 9-10. Print.

Lindsay Sabatino and Jessica Showalter

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Indiana, PA
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Title Annotation:Tutor's column
Author:Sabatino, Lindsay; Showalter, Jessica
Publication:Writing Lab Newsletter
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2014
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