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© Ugur Akinci
A student of mine asked the above question in the title of this blog post.
I’m sharing my reply here since it may benefit other first-time technical writers as well.
I think we are entering a good period in terms of tech writing jobs. As the economy gets better there will be more opportunities for tech writers I’m sure.
Location is important for finding a good tech writing job since most salary positions require on-site presence. Those freelance telecommuting jobs will never have medical coverage and other benefits that you get with a full-time position.
The best way to get your foot in the door is to go through your social media channels first, like your family and friends, neighbors, your corner Starbucks store, Twitter, LinkedIn. I’m not sure about the efficacy of Facebook. But I highly recommend you open a Twitter and LinkedIn account today if you still haven’t got one. Especially on LinkedIn, you’ll meet an amazing caliber of professionals that might help you. Let everyone know that you’re looking for a job. Spread the word around at every opportunity. Stand up and sing your song if you want to be heard. You can’t be shy or reserved about it when it comes to your future.
But also: be prepared.
Prepare a basic portfolio, like a short User Guide for a gadget or system. Even if it’s about how to set your VCR or configure your laptop computer it still counts as a work sample.
Then go for entry-level jobs even if their title is “business writer.” I’d say stay away from copy writing jobs because that is the marketing and advertisement writing track that is separate from technical writing.
But do not only think in terms of software or hardware systems, or networking, etc. Also consider HR departments that might need an employee handbook or HR Guidelines document, for example. There are a lot of companies looking for people to write bid proposals, and a lot of nonprofits that need grant proposals. Small businesses always need those kinds of documents plus stuff like SOP documents. The list is pretty long. You can draft a sample email and apply through their web site and then call them for a follow-up.
Military bases, hospitals, universities and medical research intuitions, civic and religious organizations, government organizations and agencies (from city to federal, at every level), are other good possibilities for technical writing jobs. Make sure you contact them and ask.
Another venue is to attend your local STC chapter’s meetings and see what percolates. STC has a great job bank at their main site if you can afford the membership fee. Again, it depends on where you live, how active your local chapter is, and the number of your connections.
It’s spring time now. Where I live, there are a number of job fairs this time of the year. If you see any where you live, you should definitely prepare a dozen resumes and visit them. Even though job fair recruiters usually look for experienced writers, you never know. It’s all a matter of supply and demand. If they can’t find the senior writer they’re looking for, they may give you a break. But you gotta be present there. As Woody Allen said: “90% of success in life is just showing up.”
If all fails, I highly recommend you try your hand at resume writing for some cash. Not only there is a constant demand for quality resumes in almost every part of the country, but also it’s easy to learn and master. Within a couple of days you can learn the basics of resume writing and charge anywhere from $100 to $300 per resume — again, depending on where you live and what your local market will bear.
In addition, I recommend you check out these internet resources. You never know when you’ll hit the jackpot:
The idea is to get your foot in the door in any introductory position and then either climb up through the same company or use that credential and move on to another higher paying position elsewhere. Good luck!
(Public domain illustration courtesy of Wikipedia)