© 2010 Ugur Akinci
A reader who has just received his Bachelor’s degree (congrats!) sent the following letter the other day:
“I would like to break into the technical writing/communication field, though I have some questions:
1) What should I have as an entry level technical writer? That is, what should my portfolio contain?
2) What are some alternate job titles for entry level technical writer/ technical communicator?
3) What are some good companies to look at for this type of career?
4) Are there any technical writer recruiters in New Jersey or New York?”
I’d like to share my answers here with the hope that they may benefit other junior technical writers who are in the same position:
1) Any of the following would be nice in a tech writing portfolio: user guides, system administration guides, installation guides, quick reference guides/charts, help files, release notes, specs of any kinds (functional specs, marketing specs, software design specs, etc.)… But realistically speaking, since you’re just starting out, I’d write 2 user guides and/or installation guides of any kind (of any home gadget, or a guide describing how to accomplish certain tasks on the computer, etc.) and I’d use them to prove my skills to the recruiters.
2) Business analyst, documentation specialist, business writer, science writer, medical writer, usability expert, user experience expert, web writer, content writer, content strategist, etc. are some of the other job titles that tech writers/communicators sometimes carry within an organization.
3) All software/hardware companies, networking companies, financial/brokerage houses, large banks and mortgage companies like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mack, Sallie Mae etc., military bases and organization, large publishing companies and printing houses, construction companies, power plants and utility companies, all transportation and communication companies (especially telecommunication firms) are good places to apply to find a job as a technical communicator. The list is a very long one… All Fortune 500 companies are prime candidates.
4) Yes, there are tech writing recruiters in NY and NJ but they do not hang their shingle as such. There’s no plaque at their door that reads “Technical Writer Recruitment.” Whenever you have big recruitment firms operating in large metropolitan areas, rest assured they’ll be recruiting technical writers as well. You just need to pick up the phone and ask them if they’d have an opening for a junior technical communicator/writer. Sometimes that’s all it takes. Comb through the Craigslist for those cities and you’d come across tech writer ads as well, although most writing/editing ads in NY and NJ would probably be for creative and copy writing and journalism/reporter jobs.
Got a tech writing/communication question or two? Send it over and we’ll try to answer them in the order received.