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Introduction to getting a job in technical writing (TW Job)

Sep 22, 2009 • beginners

If you're a college student looking to become a technical writer after you graduate, you face a formidable challenge: you can't get a job without experience, and you can't get experience without a job. Especially in a competitive job market, getting a job as a technical writer directly after you graduate -- without a foundation of previous jobs, experience with a handful of tools, and an impressive portfolio -- can be especially difficult. However, if you follow these seven steps, which are not easy, not something you can do overnight, you will find a job.

Note: In a couple of weeks I'm giving a presentation to Brigham Young University Idaho students with this post's topic (getting a job as a technical writer). My presentation is part of their annual professional writing conference. Oct 09 update: Here's a recording of the presentation.

Last week on Twitter I asked my followers what advice they would give to students on finding a job in technical writing. Here are the responses:

plaindocs: Show that you are interested in learning about everything!

seeb: don't know if i would advise students on a job on technical writing - would be technical communication..more encompassing!

floldun: Advice: emphasize what you can do for the company, and know what they need (read and ask around), instead of what you want.

AndreaJWenger: Students: identify your one greatest strength (writing, tools, tech, or whatever) and promote yourself as an expert. #techcomm

mleeuw: Networking gives job seekers the best chance of finding jobs with the proviso that one needs to be in the right location.

kirstyt: Network. Meet tech comm managers. Got both my gigs through meeting the mgr elsewhere/knowing other tech comm staff.

FeliciaRenee: Do as many internships as you can before graduating.

heidilhansen: A tip for students is to apply at Tyler Technologies, but seriously online portfolios w/samples is best & knowledge of TC field.

larry_kunz: One piece of advice for #techcommstudents: Always be curious, like a reporter or a detective.

altmilan: start by asking yourself "how do people get hired?", and then asking yourself how one goes about finding this out.

jaycie622: Advice to students: Persevere! Keep putting out resumes and don't give up hope.

Wordtree: Take an existing guide and rewrite it so you have something for your portfolio.

skry: I began tech writing via science journalism. Built a writing portfolio there. Offered to write software doc for coders.

All good advice on how to get a job. Some of the advice is reflected in my recommendations below. Here are my seven steps for college students to get a job in technical writing.