Re: How to get a job in these challenging times

Subject: Re: How to get a job in these challenging times
From: Tuples -at- aol -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 4 Aug 2002 15:51:42 EDT

In a message dated 8/4/02 11:55:10 AM Mountain Standard Time,
gilliankitty -at- yahoo -dot- com writes:

> Okay, so given all the consternation over jobs, times, etc, here's some
> 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.

Excuse me? I am not suffering. In fact, if I could easily have more work than
I could handle. When you say the "Technology Industries" what do you mean? I
just did a piece on a sewing machine that uses metal cogs and followers to
control stitch patterns. Very much a high tech product, but most likely would
not be considered to be a Technology Industries related product.

> 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
> 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.

I get all my work through direct contact, from people who were not aware they
needed me. Yes, you can just show up and get work if you apply yourself. What
I consider to be technical writing, is far from being clerical work. I will
admit that Tech Writers are forced into doing things that were never thought
of as being technical writing. Page and Doc layout for example.

> 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.

Very true. That has always been the case. That is what we are supposed to be

> 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
> 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,
> 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
> theories, they want docs. Good docs and they don't care how they get done,
> just so they're accurate and finished on time.

This is why I freelance. There is far more security and the money can be

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

I really hate it when I am asked if I can do a layout, arrange for the
printing and all the stuff that has little to do with Technical Writing.
There are people who are supposed to do this sort of thing and they get their
copy from writers. These days, writers are forced into doing page layout and
artists are forced into being copywriters.

A technical writer is many things these days and I will tell you that it
makes it hard on me. No, I will not learn new skills or some software package
just to do something I should never do. I started with a typewriter and moved
on to a computer. All I need is a few basic tools and a WP Program.

As an aside, did any of you read the Wired story about smaller corporations
leaving the web? Apparently people are discovering that the web is more
effort and costs more money than it returns.

> 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
> out for themselves. Yeah wouldn't it be nice if we could build a
> sensibility to further the greatness of technical communication...that
> 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
> me take a big helping for ourselves. I don't like it anymore than you
> I have cats to feed. You have to make yourself competitive.
> 2. Exploit people. Get out there and network with NON-technical writers.
> largest mistake most writers make is they commingle with other jobless
> writers.

Someone said: "It's like when your car breaks down, many seem to feel the
best place to find help is another stranded motorist." To paraphrase -
apologies if I read it here.

> 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
> 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.

Do not forget the bible I live by: The Thomas Register of American
Manufacturers. Tens of thousands of potential assignments.

> 3. Spin those skills. Acquire an expertise that is in demand. &#34;Hi I am
> technical writer&#34; is the kiss of death among technical people. But
> Hi, I am technical author who specializes in documenting complex Oracle
> systems&#34; will resonate with folks (especially Oracle developers). I
> t tell you how many program managers, executives, and IT directors I meet
> 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
> that people want.
> 4. Broaden your awareness. As I said earlier, many tech writers are
> 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
> 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
> consider a subscription to some industry technical rags - like Information
> or Eweek. Also some business rags like Business 2.0 or the Wall Street
> Just ignore the ultra-conservative bias if you're a more liberal type and
soak up
> the info on businesse trends, and markets. You can save the whales next
> after you get a rockin cool job.
> 5. Leech off others. Glom on to people and companies that are going
> 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
> 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
> if it doesn't sell it won't help you get a job. As my father always says -
> 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
> me. Everything you do must be focused on you and how you're going to take
> 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 -
> 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
> 7. Ignore Monster. These job boards are mostly a waste of time. You'll
> get a decent job from them. And while you're at it, blow off recruiters.
> think you're having a hard time getting work? Recruiters are an endangered
> Don't get to close to them, they might contaminate you with their stench of
> failure.
> 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
> 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
> combo.

People seem to be afraid to try anything outside their sphere. My God in the
Heavens above, the available work out there is staggering and endless and

> 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
> 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.
> 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
> order in my hands and blind devotion from their IT team. This is because I
> 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
> 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
> professionals. They get a little success and then assume they are
> They then attempt to brow-beat their co-workers and customers into
> their brilliance as fact. You are never more than a few moments away from
> 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
> with your ideas then if you fold your arms and bitch that &#34;they aren't

I might add, be clever. For example, if you write for a corporation that
makes air conditioners, you will learn about air conditioners. Why not write
magazine articles about them. I can think of at least 25 different slants and
leads. After a few articles, who knows what can come your way.


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