What's A TW Got To DO To Get A Job Around Here?!

Subject: What's A TW Got To DO To Get A Job Around Here?!
From: Brooks Family <brooks04 -at- rcn -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 23 Feb 2002 17:40:29 -0500

Dear Colleagues,

I know that the economy has been wreaking havoc on our profession (among
others) in New Jersey -- every Tech Writer of my acquaintance who was
not working in November is still searching for a job. I also know (by
virtue of several months of intense searching) that there are numerous
advertisements for "Technical Writers" and "Documentation Specialists"
in this area.

I've been doing this for twelve years, ever since graduating with a
Communications degree (Specialization in Technical Writing). I thought I
had a pretty good handle on what companies expected of us. Now, along
with my confidence and my net worth, my fundamental understanding of my
own profession appears to be on shaky ground. What puzzles me is when
the definition of Technical Writing became so very broad.

Okay, so the Pharmaceuticals won't hire you unless you have a background
in Chemistry, Biology, Medicine or a related discipline. I find that
defensible when there are so many applicants in the pool. But how come I
all of a sudden have to be able to validate code to get a job? Or write
code? Or prepare Use Cases? Or (so help me!) answer the telephone and
distribute the mail? Or have specialized knowledge of esoteric
manufacturing methodologies? Or . . . well, you get my point.

I'm not so naive as to believe that the kind of technical writing I've
done most of my career is the only kind there is -- I belong to the STC
and I read this list. But there still seems to me to have been quite a

Is this a local trend or a national one? Has it been coming on gradually
while I spent five years gainfully employed by a company that defines
technical writers as writers who prepare technical documentation in
cooperation with subject matter experts? Or is it a phenomenon of the
current economic climate (PLEASE let this be the case!)? Do I need to
get some additional training and, if so, in what? Are there trends I've
missed and, if so, what are they and where do I get more information?

I'm not (too) proud. I'll take a pay cut to support my family. But do I
have to become something I'm not to do so?

Please reply on list, as I think this may help others, too.

Yours in Frustration,

Beth Brooks
Technical Writer and Editor

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