New Job-Hunter Support Group course offered by Bobby Kennedy
Q&A with Bobby
Here’s the Q&A with Bobby about the new Job-Hunter Support Group course.
Q: Bobby, what prompted you to add this new course about job searching and coaching?
A: Learning technical writing is not easy. But after you’ve learned, you can face an Everest climb: finding your first gig, whether freelance, contract, or full time.
I wanted to help people where they might feel most vulnerable. To lessen anxiety with a ruthlessly systematic and practical approach. Helped by colleagues going through the same thing.
I don’t see other courses doing this type of thing, which suggests a market opportunity.
Q: Can you outline what people can expect from this course? What areas does it cover?
A: This is more of a networking group than a course. It’s based on a checklist which I’ve spent a lot of time developing.
It covers the big picture, to include freelance, contracting, and full-time employment. And it deals with the daily grind (hence the checklist) of applying for work you’ve targeted.
Where does job security come from? I believe we find security in our skills more than this or that full-time role. But we too often look for that magical external connection. It can be a phantom. Develop and trust your skills!
This group is part of our main course (at the end) or a member can pay separately.
Q: Can candidates who are otherwise excellent, capable writers be terrible when it comes to negotiating and pitching themselves for a technical writing role? In other words, do many writers fail at business scenarios?
A: Yes! There are many reasons candidates lack confidence. And it sometimes has nothing to do with their skills or potential.
The vast majority of our members are career changers. Harsh self-judgments include their age or (for example) why they chose teaching or journalism and manage to just pay their bills.
Technical writers tend to be introverted and not the most sociable individuals. Nearly all members start by claiming their glass is half empty. My job is to convince them that it’s half full. That they’ve developed qualities that they can leverage as a technical writer.
Regular, straightforward encouragement can be a game changer. It can be the difference between finishing a demanding course or quitting halfway through.
Q: Isn't this a bad time (e.g., looming recession, layoffs at tech companies) to venture into a job coaching role?
A: All the more reason to offer support and encouragement! I worked as a contractor for 18 of my 22 years and interviewed a lot. I know something about grinding this effort out.
Q: What happens if you can't help people land a role at a company? How long might this whole process take?
A: I want people to focus on getting interviews. If you land appropriate interviews, the work will follow. And interviews might be for freelancing work or contracting. The interviewing process is faster and simpler. And sometimes it’s more realistic to seek freelancing or contracting as a new technical writer.
Few employers hire new technical writers without experience. Yet a perception remains that that’s the “safe choice” to pursue. It’s not true. That’s where freelancing and contracting come in. To build our skills. So someday we can win that plum full-time position.
Regarding the networking group: If you spend a month without getting a single interview, you get a second month free.
Q: Have you noticed any particular trends about why some people fail to land a role as a technical writer? Do they live in a place where there are a scarcity of jobs? Do they lack the experience to put together a convincing portfolio? Do they interview poorly?
A: Yes. Interviewing skills! There seems to be a complete lack of perspective on how we present ourselves. We’re communicators, so as candidates we’ve got to be articulate and establish a rapport with the interviewers. It’s the last part of our course, but certainly not the least important.
Last year, before I retired as a technical writing manager at PwC, I interviewed senior-level candidates. And I was surprised by the lack of self-awareness on camera. We’ve got to be clearly visible and centered in the video. And not say inappropriate things.
We live in a zoom world now and we need to come to grips with it to succeed. But I tell members that interviewers can be nervous, too, because the price of hiring a bad candidate can be steep.
Of course, portfolios must be polished. In our main course, we iterate on three documents until they’re highly polished.
Q: How is looking for a job in tech comm unique from other roles? Is the methodology the same for many other roles in tech, or are there unique aspects to the tech comm profession that merit a unique approach?
I see an increasing emphasis on soft skills for technical writers. You can be a highly knowledgeable, brilliant writer, but if you don’t mix well with different teams, you might not get that raise. This is especially true in global corporations.
Q: Are there different strategies for pursuing a tech writing job for a big tech company versus a startup? Do you recommend either type of company more for candidates?
A: Big companies preach culture but sometimes it’s hard to maintain in far-flung global corporations. You can research a startup and get a feel for their vibe and appeal to that in the interviewing process.
If you don’t have to worry about money or long-term stability in a job, and you like intellectual and social stimulation, then by all means, go for the startup. My recommendations are based on perceptions of candidates’ personalities. If you don’t like ambiguity but like structure and hierarchy, you don’t want to work in a software startup!
Q: I often see people on Reddit claiming they've been searching for a technical writing job for several months with no offers. Thus, they assume that no one is currently hiring. However, it can be difficult to determine if the job market is genuinely tight with limited openings or if they are simply an inadequate applicant whom no one wishes to employ. How do you navigate this scenario?
A: Self-fulfilling prophecies exist. I can assume I’m confident, but if insecurity prevails, then I’ll sabotage my chances. Unconscious negative perceptions bring predictable results.
Accountability is a huge part of this new job hunter’s networking group. We have a checklist, which is a great organizational tool. It helps maintain objectivity and fend off overly negative perceptions.
Here are Bobby’s upcoming course offerings:
If you sign up for either the 8-week Jump School, which starts February 6, or the Job-Hunter Support Group, which starts April 3, use the code
tomjohson to get a $50 discount. You must use the code before February 6. When you use this code, I’ll receive a commission as an affiliate, so mentioning the code
tomjohson is a way to support me as well.
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 simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. 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.