Re: advice for newbie?

Subject: Re: advice for newbie?
From: Ben Kovitz <ben-kovitz -at- vertel -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2001 15:04:35 -0700

Anthony Svoboda wrote:

>I want to be a technical writer. Never thought I would say that, but I'm
>completely focused on starting my career.

>Should I consider an online tech writing degree or course? If so, any

There are lots of ways to break into the field. It all depends on your style.

I think the best and easiest way is to ask friends and acquaintances if
they know of anyone who wants to hire a newbie tech writer. Richard Nelson
Bolles reports that this is the most effective way to find a job, in
general. A gap in the resume is not that important if you go this route.
People trust people they know much more than they trust resumes.

In lieu of experience or credentials, bring samples of your work to the
interview. Work samples are very persuasive, at least to some managers.

If you don't have any good work samples, consider volunteering as a tech
writer for some worthy organization. That will give you experience,
samples, and contacts, and it will put your talents to good use before you
"turn pro". Every day you indulge your need to present information clearly
and usefully, the more experience you get and the more opportunities you

If you like taking courses, then take courses. If you don't, then don't.
I think some people have a knack for good tech writing and some don't, and
courses don't change that. However, courses have other advantages, like
making contacts and gaining confidence that you know what people in the
field know. Also, if you like working at Big Organizations, credentials
and certifications will help you get in. If you like working at small,
chaotic companies, work samples and contacts are more important.

If you like schmoozing, consider attending an STC meeting. The more you
interact with other people, the greater your chances of stumbling onto a
wonderful opportunity.

Knowing programming makes you *extremely* marketable as a tech writer. You
can document APIs. It's very hard to do that job well without some
experience programming--that is, without experience suffering with other
people's API docs. API documentation is a job that lots of software
companies need done, and most programmers hate to do it.

Ben Kovitz
Author, _Practical Software Requirements: A Manual of Content & Style_


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advice for newbie?: From: Anthony Svoboda

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