RE: Career Upgrade

Subject: RE: Career Upgrade
From: Richard Lippincott <richard -dot- lippincott -at- ae -dot- ge -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 29 Aug 2002 11:18:11 -0400


>From: deborahleech -at- hotmail -dot- com

>I am new to the list and would like some advice on how to break into
>different types of Technical Writing.

I agree with the advice given earlier: timing is everything, and I don't
think this is the time to try the change.

However, long-term, your goal is a good one. Several years ago, I made a
transition from aerospace into software & telecom, and it was a good move
for a number of reasons.

In '93, aerospace tanked, and software wasn't really doing all that well. I
spent several months looking for jobs, but all I had to offer in a portfolio
were airframe and jet engine maintenance manuals. I went on a number of
interviews, and frequently faced the same wall: "But you've got no
experience documenting software. Aren't you sure you want to stick with
aerospace?" There's no sense arguing this or trying to come up with a
counter-argument, because when the hiring managers say this, what they're
really saying is "I've got a stack of resumes up to my eyeballs and I need
-some- criteria to weed through them. A lack of software writing experience
is one of them."

Things turned in mid '94 when I landed a job at a semiconductor company that
needed someone with hardware skills. While there, I jumped at the chance to
also do -every- software related document that I could: release notes,
on-line help, anything at all. After a year there, by mid 1995, the economy
had turned around and the hiring boom had begun. Now, suddenly those
eyeball-high stacks of resumes were much shorter, plus I had software
related samples in the portfolio. Instead of hearing "Well, you've spent
most of your career in as an aerospace writer, maybe you should stay there"
it was "When can you start?"

Once the foot was in the door, it was easier for the next several years.

The biggest advantage of making the transition? Last year when my telecom
employer (I won't name names, but their much-vaunted logo has been compared
to a napkin stain from a glass of cranberry juice) let a bunch of us go, I
was immediately on the phone to people back in aerospace and bounced back
into employment with almost no down time.

Lessons?

1. Making the transition is good because it gives you greater flexibility
and opportunities during economic crunches.
2. Trying to make the transition is very difficult in times when jobs are
tight, as managers look for specific relevant experience when supply and
demand favor the employer.
3. That same transition is much easier when the times are booming, because
the supply and demand favors the job seeker.
4. You may have some success if you can find a job that utilizes your
hardware skills but allows you to grow software documentation skills. If you
get one, exploit the opportunity.
5. When you do have the opportunity to make the change to a software
documentation job, don't burn bridges. There may be a day when you need to
go back. (Of course...this really applies to any job change.

Hang in there, and try making that change when the economic conditions are
ripe.

--Rick Lippincott
Lockheed Martin
Saugus, MA

As a reminder, I'm on digest so please copy all flames directly to me.



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