Use these links to quickly jump to different sections of this page:
- Searching for a Job
- Applying for a Job
- Recommended Links and Blogs
- Tips for the Underemployed
- Advice from an STC Open Panel discussion
Searching for a Job
- Are you a Good Fit?
Check out the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which describes what technical writers do, how to become one, what compensation you can expect, and the employment outlook for this role. Take one of our recommended career evaluation tests to find out what type of technical communicator job best meets your personality characteristics.
- How to Find a Job
We post jobs on the STC San Diego LinkedIn group and on the @STCSoCal Twitter account. Also browse through our Job Boards page for a list of relevant job boards.
- Update Your Resume
Your resume is a snapshot of your skills and experience, so take the time to make sure it is up to date. Engage someone you trust to look over your resume and give you candid feedback. Putting your best foot forward in a resume is crucial, because even minor grammatical errors can play a part in eliminating you from contention for job openings. As part of your interview preparation, be certain that you know your resume thoroughly, and be ready to respond to questions.
- Assemble Your Portfolio
Consider organizing your sample work by the tools with which you have experience (for example, place your FrameMaker and Word files in separate folders). Be sure that your portfolio files from previous companies have been approved for distribution, as it is not uncommon for companies to want their content kept confidential.
- Update Your LinkedIn Profile
Hiring managers search for prospective candidates on LinkedIn. Make sure your profile is up-to-date.
- Network with Us
Meet us at our next chapter meeting or chat with us on LinkedIn or Twitter. It is possible to find unadvertised jobs simply through word of mouth (the hidden job market). When attending our events, have a business card ready, you never know who you may meet!
Applying for a Job
What to Include
Include the following items as part of your job application:
- Cover letter
Cover letters are your personal letters to hiring managers, outlining what you know about the company and what you can offer. In cases where all resumes are considered otherwise equal, the cover letter can help you stand out. This is your opportunity to sell your skills and experience in more detail.
- LinkedIn profile
A great LinkedIn profile can provide additional information not included in the resume, such as relevant courses, tools, and recommendations from colleagues.
- Portfolio pieces
Relevant portfolio pieces can help showcase your proficiency with specific tools. You may need to prove your skills to the hiring manager.
Sending all of these files will help give prospective employers a fuller snapshot of you. Whereas you might only have one opportunity to draw their interest, keep in mind that the objective of job applications is to land an interview.
If you have landed an interview, congratulations! This means the company is interested in you. Now, you just need to seal the deal. There are two types of interviews: the phone or video screen, and the face-to-face interview.
Hiring managers use this method for screening short-listed candidates. Their goal is to verify aspects of your resume and see if you really are the person you sold on paper. You can expect hiring managers to ask questions about your professional history, what you are currently doing, your goals, length of time at companies, proficiency with tools, and salary expectations. If the hiring manager is interested in you, you will be invited to a face-to-face interview. Your goal is to prove that you are the person you say you are in your resume, and be compatible with their salary range for the position (if they ask for this). Whet their appetite, so they will want to learn more about you in a face-to-face interview.
You can expect to see your hiring manager at least once, and you may meet your potential colleagues in the form of a panel of interviewers. Some companies may also ask you to take one or more proficiency tests.
Prepare for your interview by doing research on the company. Be able to explain why you can do the advertised job. You will also need to prove that you are a cultural fit. Expect behavioral questions, such as how you would handle particular situations.
Speak with enthusiasm and confidence. Be concise and to the point. Avoid “ums”, “ahs” and “you knows”. Equally important is your body language. Relax, sit erect, remain aware of your posture, avoid fidgeting and make eye contact.
Recommended Links and Blogs
- Ask The Headhunter
“The insider’s edge on job search and hiring.” Find a wealth of information on job hunting, interview tips, FAQs, and industry expert advice. You should also follow the blog of Nick Corcodilos, author of Ask The Headhunter books. Corcodilos’ approach to job-hunting makes sense and will help you stand out from other applicants.
- Knock ’em Dead
Knock ‘em Dead is a series of books by Martin Yates covering resume and cover letter writing, job searching, and interview questions.
- 5 Tips to a Great Skype Interview
It is becoming common for companies to conduct job interviews via Skype. Skype interviews are fast, easy, and very inexpensive. But because you are online using your computer and a camera, it can be a tad uncomfortable the first time.
- Smart Resume Risks
Here’s the thing about following common sense resume advice: it’s too common. That’s what everyone else is doing. If you follow “common sense,” your resume will end up uninteresting, ignored, and completely forgotten. Because of this, sometimes it’s better to take a risk. At the same time, be smart about it.
- Tailor your Resume to the Job
Learn how to match and highlight your skills to the job’s requirements.
- Complete Guide to Writing a Student Resume
Identify key skills from jobs or projects outside your professional goals.
- How to Make a Resume–The Only Guide You Need
What to include, what to exclude.
- How to Get Hired by a Startup
Ryan Sapper, Head of Recruiting for TaskRabbit, shares the inside scoop with Simply Hired.
- How to be Found on LinkedIn
The trick lies in understanding how LinkedIn works and how you can take full advantage of its search algorithms.
- How to Optimize your LinkedIn Profile to Get More Jobs
Useful information on creating a persona, using keywords, making the most of the experience section, skills, and endorsements.
Tips for the Underemployed
The following are some general tips from employment agencies and hiring authorities.
While it is not always the case, it is often easier to get a job while you are working. The fact that you are employed may generate a certain level of confidence with some employers. It is also a basic tenet of human nature for someone (such as a prospective employer) to simply want what someone else has.
Use your time wisely to invest in yourself. What are the new tools that employers are looking for? Survey public job listings such as Monster and Craigslist, and determine the tools that are most in demand. Consider taking classes and obtaining certifications.
If you lack on-the-job experience in using a particular tool but have taken enough classes to become certified, this could be considered “close enough” by some employers. While self-teaching is commendable, employers may place higher value on evidence of your having used a tool to accomplish a goal. If you have not used a certain tool on the job, consider creating a job sample using that tool. You can then showcase this self-assigned deliverable during an interview.
Become involved in social networking
Even if you find it a little outside your comfort zone, make the effort to join LinkedIn. Connect with persons who could help you (or whom you could offer help to). Consider re-introducing yourself to past acquaintances from different situations, and ask former co-workers and supervisors to recommend you. Learn to navigate the web of business relationships. Your next job could well come as a result of your becoming better connected.
Watch what you say while social networking
Prospective employers have been known to check candidates’ Facebook pages. Watch how and what you rant or rave about, and be clothed, especially for your profile picture!
Contribute to forums and blogs
This costs nothing, and keeps you writing. Depending upon the situation, your online writing could be a potential selling point for a prospective employer who may see value in forums and blogs within their own organization. Demonstrating your sharp wits and writing skills in these environments could also help strengthen your case.
Think outside the box
Accept a part-time position, even if it is only peripherally related to what you actually want to do. Think strategically. For example, if you take a job as a software tester, do a fantastic job in that role, but also keep your eyes and ears open in case related opportunities arise. Are the test plans poorly written? Is someone keystroke-testing the user guides? Think of how your skills can enhance your position and make you more valuable to the organization.
Interview outside the box, too
If your experience and background are not precisely what the employer is looking for, highlight how your other capabilities can function as an offset. When employers need a particular skill set that you lack, counter with an explanation of how the skills you do possess can complement the role. If possible, offer to take it upon yourself to become the resource they are looking for. If you perceive a need in the organization for skills you have which the employer may not have known about or considered, consider bringing this up. Offer to take training on your own time so that in x number of weeks, you’ll be able to bring exactly what they need to the position.
Address the “overqualified” issue straight on
Employers may be reluctant to hire you because they fear you might leave if something better came along, or that you might be dissatisfied in a lesser position than you are capable of. If you believe this could be true with you, do not give up, but do proceed with caution. In order to increase your chances of landing the job, you might be tempted to state that you have always wanted to work for XYZ Corporation, or that you would be excited to work for the company in any capacity. Such an approach could eventually result in undesirable consequences.
Alternately, you can choose to be forthright and acknowledge that your skills could indeed be appropriate for a higher-level position. Then, continue to build a compelling case for the job at hand with this common understanding on the table. Tell the employer that you are willing to make an investment in the company, that you believe that after the economy recovers or when another higher-level position in the company becomes available, the experience you gain while working in the lower-level position could prove to be very beneficial to the company. Be prepared to describe the qualifications you will bring which might benefit the company in the longer term.
Employers make investments in the people they hire. Understandably, they want to hire people who will remain with them long enough to justify their investments in training costs and learning curves. Clearly, it would not be cost-effective for an employer to hire an “overqualified” resource who is inclined to leave prematurely for a better offer. If you can understand this point of view and are able to talk effectively through it, you may be able to convince a prospective employer that it is to their advantage to invest in you.
STC San Diego Open Panel Advice
A previous STC San Diego Open Panel session held during the 2011 economic downturn shared real stories between discussion participants. The following practical advice emerged from this session, related to obtaining and keeping a job in today’s technical environment:
- Network as much a possible before you need a job. The people in your network are people who can help you. Your network can sometimes come through for you at times when you least expect it.
- Get metrics on how your job made a difference. Employers want to hear how you helped generate a tangible benefit, especially where the bottom line is concerned. For example, “my documentation was credited with reducing support call volumes by x per cent.”
- Prepare a 30-second “elevator speech.” Be able to explain what it is that you do and what you are looking for, within a 30-second infomercial-like pitch.
- Be specific about your value. Do not simply say, “I’m a great writer” or “I’m great at FrameMaker.” It is unlikely that such general claims will satisfy what prospective employers need and want to hear. On the other hand, if your abilities can help the organization lower tech support costs or free up time engineering time, these would be more effective arguments to help you obtain or keep a job.
- Take writing samples to your interview. Be prepared to share a story for each writing sample. For example, outline the constraints you faced in producing the sample and how you accommodated them. Consider bringing hard copies, as well as electronic copies on a thumb drive or smart phone.
- Write a T-Letter as the format for your cover letter. Create a two-column table. List the job requirements in the left-hand side of the table using one row per requirement. In the corresponding cell on the right-hand side, list specific skills you possess which help fulfill the requirement. This enables someone reviewing your letter to quickly scan key checklist items.
- Avoid changing fields in a down economy. Craft a cover letter, a resume, and a story relevant to the targeted position. Put a different perspective on the career you already have.
- Academic environments are places where good writing is valued. Consider applying for jobs at educational institutions, such as UCSD, SDSU and community colleges.