How to get a job in these challenging times

Subject: How to get a job in these challenging times
From: Andrew Plato <gilliankitty -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 4 Aug 2002 11:54:06 -0700 (PDT)

Okay, so given all the consternation over jobs, times, etc, here's some data for
you to chew on while you look for jobs.


1. Despite what our beloved commander in chump says, it *IS* the economy, stupid.
If this is a recovery, I would really hate to see what the recession will be
like. The technology industries - where most of us get our jobs - is suffering
badly. Hence, tech writers are suffering, badly.

2. Technology and businesses are evolving. Back in the glorious 90s you could
show up at just about any company with a resume and a functional brain stem and
get a job. That just won't cut it any more. You have to offer more than just an
amazing ability to see fonts in the dark. Companies are reassessing their needs
and in many cases, a technical writer is simply not something they have the money
to support. Moreover, a technical writer who only &#34;prettys-up&#34; other
people's text is almost a total waste of money. And I am sorry people, but what a
lot of you consider technical writing is really just advanced clerical work.

3. Which leads to the next point. Different skills are in demand. The ability to
write and format text are not particularly valuable skills. The ability to
understand technology at a very deep level and explain that technology to others
is in demand.

4. Maybe you're just not cut out for this job? Sometimes the reason people fail
is because deep down, they do not like what they are doing. Be honest - do you
really like pecking out incomprehensible manuals about technology or are you
waiting for something else in your life? You cannot force your job to become
something it is not. You may want tech writing to be X, but your employer wants
Y. And just because you deep in your soul think the world needs your amazing X
powers, does not mean organizations will pay for them. Y is what pays, you can
either adapt, or you can die. This is a big problem with writers. They get this
idea of what tech pubs *SHOULD* be and they relentlessly try to force it to be
that. All the while, the employer doesn't give a crap about those tech pubs
theories, they want docs. Good docs and they don't care how they get done, just
so they're accurate and finished on time.

5. Your profession has become extremely diluted by font fondling flakes. The
single largest factor driving down technical writers' salaries is writers who
have completely missed the whole point of the profession. Every time a writer
eschews content matters in favor of processes, fonts, style manuals, and other
incidental BS, the salaries for competent writers decreases. If you want tech
writing to mean something again, the profession must purge all the process
freaks, font fondlers, and academic pontificator who contribute virtually nothing
to the profession and divert energy into nonsense.


So what do you need to do? Consider my 11 point action plan:

1. Be ruthless. In tense times the people who survive are the ones that look out
for themselves. Yeah wouldn't it be nice if we could build a cooperative
sensibility to further the greatness of technical communication...that kind of
goopy snuggling might make you feel all warm in places you shouldn't but it won't
feed your cat. Either you make a place for yourself at the table of life or
you're going to have to live off what's left over after ruthless slime like me
take a big helping for ourselves. I don't like it anymore than you do...but I
have cats to feed. You have to make yourself competitive.

2. Exploit people. Get out there and network with NON-technical writers. The
largest mistake most writers make is they commingle with other jobless writers.
How on earth could these people help you? They're jobless too! Tomorrow, I want
all you jobless writers to call up your local Chamber of Commerce and buy their
directory of businesses. Then, I want you to locate all the local technically
oriented companies and start scanning for free seminars or user group meetings,
etc.. A free seminar (such as the one I gave this week in Portland) is an
excellent opportunity to network with key players in a company as well as load up
on waxy pasties. You also might *gasp* learn something.

3. Spin those skills. Acquire an expertise that is in demand. &#34;Hi I am a
technical writer&#34; is the kiss of death among technical people. But &#34;Hi, I
am technical author who specializes in documenting complex Oracle database
systems&#34; will resonate with folks (especially Oracle developers). I can't
tell you how many program managers, executives, and IT directors I meet who have
complete disdain for technical writers. But they will respect a person who has a
solid set of specialized skills. Just make sure you specialize in something that
people want.

4. Broaden your awareness. As I said earlier, many tech writers are obsessed
exclusively with writing issues. This pigeonholes you in the minds of many folks
as &#34;a clerical person.&#34; If you have a strong awareness of business,
technical, sales, and financial issues - you will not only be a better writer,
you'll be able to schmooze non-technical writers and get jobs. You might consider
a subscription to some industry technical rags - like Information Security or
Eweek. Also some business rags like Business 2.0 or the Wall Street Journal. Just
ignore the ultra-conservative bias if you're a more liberal type and soak up the
info on businesses, trends, and markets. You can save the whales next week after
you get a rockin cool job.

5. Leech off others. Glom on to people and companies that are going places. This
is how I made my fortunes. I found kewl companies that were going places and sunk
my claws into them. But if one of those people or companies starts to sink, drop
them like a steaming pile of dog poop. Its not personal, its business. I don't
care how ingenious or promising some new technology or process might seem, if it
doesn't sell it won't help you get a job. As my father always says - birds of a
feather, flock together. If you hang around people with money, some of that money
make fall out on to you.

6. Time is money. Don't waste your time listening to blathering morons like me.
Everything you do must be focused on you and how you're going to take over the
universe. Even if you have nothing better to do, don't waste your time listening
to mouthing idiots who just want to sell you something. Who cares if James
Wankenshammer of Wankenshammer Consulting has invented a new way to pro-actively
leverage his single sourcing synergies. Will this get you a job - probably not.
So, blow off Don and go hang out with people who ARE going places. This is the
fundamental problem with most STC meetings, the topics might be superficially
interesting, but they are rarely going to help you land a job.

7. Ignore Monster. These job boards are mostly a waste of time. You'll never get
a decent job from them. And while you're at it, blow off recruiters. You think
you're having a hard time getting work? Recruiters are an endangered species.
Don't get to close to them, they might contaminate you with their stench of

8. Take a job, any job. Work begets work. Staying busy is better than sitting at
home in a dark room and feeling sorry for yourself. You think its humiliating to
work at Starbucks - try begging for money on the corner. Take any job and keep
moving. Bodies in motion tend to remain in motion (and are easier to accelerate).
Bodies at rest tend to remain at rest (and take a lot more energy to accelerate).
That isn't quip Andrewisms, that's physics. And if you're so prideful you can't
take a lowly job - well good luck. Sour and arrogant is rarely a winning combo.

9. Infect yourself with mindless optimism. Bitterness, resentment, and
self-loathing have a tendency to infect those around you...including potential
employers. If you walk in the door for an interview with a &#34;I am a loser with
no job&#34; written on your face, you're likely to walk out the door with &#34;I
am STILL a loser with no job&#34; on your face. If you walk in the door with the
attitude of &#34;I can do anything&#34; you might just infect them with the same
happiness and they'll hire you (or ask you out on a date.)

10. Execute your fear. Take it out back and whack it with a lead pipe. Trust me -
NOTHING is that hard to do. I've walked into companies without a single clue how
to secure their systems and walked out two days later with a $100K purchase order
in my hands and blind devotion from their IT team. This is because I learned long
ago to manage my ignorance. Not knowing something is an opportunity. if you don't
ever test your ignorance, you'll never know how smart you really are. Don't
advertise what you don't know. Act like you do know and fudge your way through.
The largest difference between and expert and a amateur is that an expert knows
how to tactfully say &#34;I don't know&#34; and then look up the answer. An
amateur acts like he/she knows everything and as such often gets caught with his
pants down around his ankles.

11. Pay attention to your failures. A bad job or a failed business relationship
can be extremely educational if you are willing to accept and analyze your part
the failure. Over-confidence is a common cause of career death among zippy
professionals. They get a little success and then assume they are brilliant. They
then attempt to brow-beat their co-workers and customers into accepting their
brilliance as fact. You are never more than a few moments away from total
failure. If you build a reputation as a peacemaker and as a dealmaker you will
find out that people will be more willing to follow your lead and go along with
your ideas then if you fold your arms and bitch that &#34;they aren't doing it
the right way.&#34;

Remember, the single common element in all your failures is YOU!

Now, get back to work - YOU!

Andrew Plato

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