Volunteer for a position in the STC or other organization (TW Job)
If you really want to get serious about moving your career forward, volunteer to be president of your local STC chapter. When I did this at the Suncoast chapter, it did a few things for my career that I didn't expect. First, it made me extremely visible. Suddenly I was the one making announcements on the listserv, greeting everyone at meetings, organizing and planning programs.
Second, being president also put me in contact with more than a dozen professionals in the area who befriended me and gave me good advice. I'm thinking especially of my friendships with Mark Hanigan, Pam Treme, Mark Lewis, Karen Bachman, Becky Siebenthaler, Kelly Schrank, and about a dozen other people who I got to know precisely because of my participation in the STC.
The STC won't necessarily find you a job, but it will put you in contact with professionals in your area who can let you know about open positions, recommend you, and give you advice about companies and career paths. Probably the greatest value of the STC, above all else, is the networking/friendship aspect. Not just networking with other professionals, but with professionals in your area.
To get involved in the STC, don't just show up and ask if anyone knows of any jobs, and then leave when you find out there aren't any. This happened more than a dozen times while I was Suncoast president. If you do this, your involvement in the STC will backfire. It's through service that you build relationships. And those relationships are what guide you toward fruitful paths in your career.
To recap the seven steps:
- Step 1. Learn the Basics of Technical Writing.
- Step 2. Get Real Experience Doing Technical Writing
- Step # 3. Learn Some Tools
- Step 4. Put Together a Portfolio
- Step 5. Start a Blog
- Step 6. Move to a Tech Hub
- Step 7. Volunteer for a Position in the STC
You can't accomplish any of these steps overnight. But if you're an ambitious student, with a couple of years left in your program, you can line things up so that when you graduate, you aren't sitting at your parent's house without a job. Instead, you'll be working away at your first job as a technical writer, engaged in a new project, learning new tools, interacting with colleagues, and blogging about it every night.
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.