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I’m frequently asked this question: “”What kind of job titles I should search for to get a job as a junior (or senior) technical writer?”
To such inquiries, my honest and simple response is always the same: “Forget about the titles; focus instead on what you know and what you can offer.”
Titles come and go and what most writers do on a daily basis always evolve through time and sometimes end up at a point which has little to do with the titles.
Focusing on titles is asking the question: “What can this other person give to me?”
Focusing on your content is asking the question: “What can I give to this other person?”
The second question, in my experience, always opens more doors. It’s not a matter of idealism or morals at work here. It’s just the way the market works.
Focusing on your content/material distinguishes you from the competition, establishes your credentials as a specialist and helps you conquer your niche.
The last inquiry I received on this topic was from an ex-veteran, who used to drive tanks in the army. My recommendation to him was to focus on writing SOPs since the military is the largest SOP factory there is on earth. Actually the whole military communications is nothing but a vast network of technical writing. Everything is either a command, a list, or a description. It’s pure “procedural communication” which lies at the heart of technical writing. So even though they may not be aware of it, I believe all service personnel are technical writers by default and by their training.
I also recommended him getting in touch with all the military installations and defense related organizations in his region. Plus, I told him to market himself as a “military technical writer”. With such a focus on his content he might in one sense be “narrowing” his job chances but that’s only when you look at it from a traditional “searching for a title” point of view.
When looked at from a content point of view, he can now write e-books for adults and children on how tanks work. Forming a partnership with an illustrator, he can generate marvelous books about how the military operates and about a “Day in Life” with an armored cavalry unit. He can become a columnist at a military web site, and who knows, perhaps even parlay that into a radio and TV show. The possibilities blossom when you focus on content and what you know best instead of trying to shoehorn yourself into the job description of an abstract title.
Location is still important as ever in finding a technical writing job these days. But I believe that if you are a specialist in any field, if you have any background in something as interesting and unique as driving a tank, then don’t hesitate to make that your focus in your job search.
This is the age of the specialist. Build your profile around your special content and then allow the title find you.Your eventual rewards will be higher.