Have you considered pursuing a career as a technical writer? This interview will take you through the ups and downs you can expect when starting out in the industry, and explains one writer’s road to his current position.
I am currently a technical writer for several clients. Some clients pay a wage and I receive a W2 for working with them, while others pay a “per-piece” structure. For the latter clients, I receive a 1099 and am considered an independent contractor with these companies.
The clients for which I do technical writing work, their work is as diverse as can be imagined. I may be asked to write a technical white paper for a particular software product, or I may be asked to write a review about a popular gadget, such as a wireless mouse. However, much of my work involves technical writing with a marketing slant, with titles such as “How to Implement a Mobile Marketing Strategy.”
I found my first technical writing job under serendipitous circumstance. I have always had an interest in creating, shooting and editing video. I came across the opportunity to be the on-air personality for some technical training films through Craigslist. We successfully shot over 50 videos and when we were finished, the film crew introduced me to my first client. It just so happened that the client was also the client they had been filming for. The client was just starting out and needed people to perform technical writing on an as-needed basis. I jumped at the chance to try my hand at it because I had worked for years as a programmer and had a knack for computers.
Needless to say, as the client grew, I stayed with them and was able to take on more and more jobs for them.
Eventually, my technical writing income matched my best months in the IT industry.
Today, they are HUGE! If you have ever heard of a company named Demand Media, this was the company I started with when they were tiny and only employed a handful of writers. At last count, they had over 4000 writers on staff and they supply content for over 100 online and print publications. I recently saw that they had purchased advertising time on one of the major networks during the evening news.
The most important lesson I learned about searching for jobs is that, no matter what people tell you regarding keeping your resume short and succinct, you NEED to include search-able keywords that describe what you do – even if that means your resume becomes lengthy. Because most job searches are database-driven, keywords are your best friends when it comes to being found and notified through sites such as Monster. At one point in time, my resume was about eight or so pages long because my experience was so diverse. As I moved out of IT and into full-time writing, my resume became much more condensed. However, while in IT, I specialized in several platforms and I found that there really was no way to generalize and cover these keywords and terms.
Three pieces of advice for conducting a successful job search include:
1.) Let other people, such as friends, family and recruiters, objectively review your resume and give you feedback. The more eyes on your resume, the better. Others may find typos that you missed, and more importantly, they may be able to remind you of experiences that you forgot!
2.) Treat your job search like a job. In order to conduct a successful job search, you need to be on your game. Set aside at least the time you would spend on a regular job, searching for your new job. This usually means eight hours per day is dedicated to sending and responding to email, calling companies, responding to ads and sending your resume to companies. Searching for a job is not a vacation. Remember that many people are aggressively seeking employment, and for every job you apply for, consider that 200 or more people may be applying for the same job. Take steps to make yourself stand out from the crowd (without being cheesy), like following up on interviews with a Thank You email or call.
3.) Use your network. Everyone has a network, whether it is simply your friends and family, or your Facebook and Twitter followers and other social networking relationships.
The best jobs I EVER got was through people I knew. Either these people were clients I had worked with and recognized that I would be great in a certain position, or a relationship that developed with a “friend of a friend.” Use your network to find open positions and to meet people who may lead you in another direction.
Listen to suggestions from those who know you. We so often dismiss the things that those close to us say. LISTEN to them. They might know something you don’t know about you! It is amazing to realize that people may see qualities in you that you do not recognize.
I have used all three of these methods when searching for jobs. All three have served me well. I am still doing work for Demand Media after nearly four years. However, they are only one client in a list that is growing by the day.
This is a true career story as told to DiversityJobs and is one of many interviews with technical writers and editors.
Guest Article Submitted By Coral Graszer
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