Get real experience doing technical writing (TW Job)
The second step in getting a job in technical writing is to acquire some real world experience by actually doing technical writing. At many companies, employers want someone with experience because the employer plans to point you in the right direction and then let you work independently, rather than providing training. They want to be sure you can manage any situation, and if you don't have experience in a corporate environment or know what you're doing, employers may not trust your ability to get the job done.
During your summers as a student, volunteer as an intern at an IT company. Many times positions may not be advertised, but you can join your local STC chapter and ask other writers if they would accept some free labor from a volunteer for a few months.
If your professor assigns you to do documentation projects, see if you can find real projects at actual companies. Again, through your STC network or other contacts (such as through listservs or local companies), you can connect with professionals who can open opportunities for you to do real documentation.
Connecting with someone you know (or a chapter mentor) is the best route, because he or she can give you direction and feedback. However, you can also get real experience on your own. Many open source or community-based projects have need for documentation. Here are a few:
When you work on one of these projects, you may find that it's not a typical essay assignment. It will require several weeks of time before you can understand the application, determine an approach that will work with the audience, figure out the tools you're using, and create a finished product.
About Tom Johnson
I'm a technical writer / API doc specialist based in the Seattle area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation if you're looking for more info about that. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me. Finally, note that the opinions I express on my blog are my own points of view, not that of my employer.