Re: Prospective Tech Writer needs Help in Atlanta

Subject: Re: Prospective Tech Writer needs Help in Atlanta
From: "Eric Ray \(Web\)" <ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2001 04:53:02 -0800 (PST)

Quoting TashaRSuki -at- aol -dot- com:
> help me get started in this exciting yet challenging profession. I am a
> I have done an overwhelming amount of research and the difficulty I am
> experiencing is landing my first position without experience. I have
> gotten some great advice about creating my portfolio. I am mainly
> interested in computer software tech writing. The questions I have
> include:

You didn't mention any other research you've done, but it'd
probably be worthwhile to use the TECHWR-L archives, at
as most of these issues have been thoroughly (or
exhaustively) covered many times over the years.

Additionally, you're likely to get more help if you have
more specific questions ... rather than the very broad
strokes you paint here. That said, here's a shot.

> 1. What materials do I include in my portfolio if I have no previous
> projects?
> 2. Where do I start to look for volunteer work or a part-time job? How
> do I began my approach?

See the Getting Started page on the TECHWR-L site at
(linked from the site home page) for links to
* Developing An Annotated Portfolio, including tips for what
to do if you have few portfolio pieces.
* Networking your Way to Success, with a variety of tips for
getting connections and jobs through the network you already
* Getting Started in Technical Writing, an 18 page PDF file
with collected wisdom from the TECHWR-L community and other
* How I Got Started in Tech Writing Stories, a collection of
anecdotes and discussions from a variety of current and
former list members.
Depending on your experience and interests, you might also be
interested in (also linked from the same page):
* Technical Writing: Look Before you Leap
* The "Techie Writer" series (probably appropriate if you're serious
about software documentation)
* Questions to Ask Prospective Employers

The always amusing Lisa Higgins also has an article linked
off the same page or directly at
entitled "Newbies: One Day You'll Be Just Heartless Enough to
Appreciate Respect." This one should be required reading
for everyone new to corporate culture.

Then, search the TECHWR-L list archives at
for something like
portfolio experience
(the two key ideas from your problem 1 and you'll get
a few hundred links.

Employment Central at
doesn't have the variety of jobs that it did before the stock
market tanked and companies started getting really conservative,
but there are certainly jobs out there and new ones every day
or so.

> 3. Will certification be an asset to me?

That's a good question--and one that provokes heated
debate. A search of the TECHWR-L archive back to 1993
turns up about 2800 messages discussing certification.
There's no easy answer, but most of the issues have
been discussed on the list.

> 4. What is the best way to learn desktop publishing tools?

Which ones? To what end? As resume fodder? To work in a
specific environment? To meet requirements for a certain
job? Just to broaden your range of experience?
Are you a just-tinker-with-it learner? Or a by-the-book
learner? Or do you learn best from standup training? Or
do online classes work for you? How about video training?

You get the picture--there are far too many variables for
anyone to advise you well...although opinions that fit
other people like a glove are easy to come by.

Hope this helps,
ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com


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