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.
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.
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.
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I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. Topics I write about on this blog include the following technical communication topics: Swagger, agile, trends, learning, plain language, quick reference guides, tech comm careers, and certificate programs. I'm interested in information design, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture and findability, and more. If you're a professional or aspiring technical writer, be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here. You can also contact me with questions.