Re: breaking out in technical communications

Subject: Re: breaking out in technical communications
From: Ruth Lundquist <RLundquist -at- prosarcorp -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2002 11:42:04 -0600

> "Joan Wagner" wants help breaking into technical writing.

People on this list always suggest looking for businesses/non-profits that
need help with their business/technical writing, and several have given
examples of how this works. Nevertheless, that suggestion produces a cartoon
bubble in my imagination that goes something like this:

Joan: "Hi Acme Company Big Cheese. Do you need any help with your writing

Acme Company Big Cheese: "Ummmm, writing projects? We don't have any of

Joan: "Oh, okay. Thanks for your time."
(hey--i never said it was a funny cartoon.)

So instead of soliciting companies for the ever-nebulous "writing projects,"
you could try to create the need. Are you involved in any clubs, campus
organizations, or do you work part-time? What document would be useful to
that group? Write it. Voila: experience!

Here's a real life example. I hired this person who was a recent college
grad & had no other experience:

During college she worked at Target. Regular clerk-cashier-stocking shelves
stuff. A huge process and procedure manual existed for these job functions.
She thought the manual was difficult and impractical to use & others she
worked with felt the same way. So she created a colorful 3-ring-binder of
easy to find, useful information. Each of the tabs was for a different role:
cashier, stocker, etc. It pulled out the pertinent information that you
might need for that task & highlighted the important points. It included
instructions, store layout, important phone numbers, etc. She basically
created a usable little handbook based on a behemoth process and procedures

She didn't get paid to do this. No one asked her to do this. But it was a
document that was made available throughout the store & gave her a nice
little portfolio piece. It was not written with the latest
McBigExpensiveSoftware available. She obviously didn't obsess about the
fonts or how she applied styles. In fact, some of the pages were simply
photocopies from original book (things like store layout). But it was
well-organized and easy to read & obviously hit the target audience. What
this showed was an incredible amount of initiative and willingness to not
only identify a problem, but to create a solution. As a manager I thought,
"God I love this." You see, we look for people who solve problems and as
simple as that sounds you'd be amazed at how few people are up to the
challenge (interestingly enough, *everyone* is perfectly capable of
identifying the problems. Hmmmmmm.)

She's turned out to be a fantastic employee and continues to show a lot of
initiative & problem solving aptitude.

Anyhow, a little long-winded as usual, but I hope this helps. Think hard
about what you currently do & where there might be a need you can fill. You
might be able to gain experience through one of your existing activities.
Good luck.


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