Trouble finding work?

Subject: Trouble finding work?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 18 Apr 2005 09:07:02 -0400


Donna Marino reports: <<I've been unemployed since December, and although I've diligently looked for a job, nothing has come up.>>

Sympathies. It's been a tough few years for many people in our community.

<<I don't even hear back from employers when I send them my resume. And if I do, their rates are ridiculously low. Is anyone else experiencing the same thing? I'm wondering if this is just my experience or the state of the market in general.>>

I've heard similar stories, so I suspect that we're in one of those uncomfortable periods of uncertainty in which employers are huddling around the campfire, hoping the wolves will stay away and throwing out an occasional sacrificial victim to feed the wolves. Plus, as a profession, we've done a lousy job of demonstrating our value to the people who make hiring decisions, so employers don't see us as the kind of strategic asset they should be hiring when times are tough.

One piece of good advice that I can offer is that you should seek ways to avoid competing for work with all the other technical writers in your community. For example, if much of the traditional work in your area has been computer hardware and software, look for work in the financial services or pharmaceutical sectors. The April 2005 issue of STC's _Intercom_ had a decent article on this kind of work, and if you're in the U.S. and willing to learn a bit about Sarbanes-Oxley, there's apparently lots of work in this area.

The trick is to spend a few days thinking about the subject areas that most fascinate you and brainstorming to discover who is doing work in this area. My niche, for example, has always been in scientific editing. I've always loved the sciences, went through grad school on a science scholarship, and have always worked in the sciences. As well, I've always enjoyed working with ESL authors. This was clearly the area I needed to research.

When I went freelance a year back, I contacted every peer-reviewed journal whose subject matter I even vaguely understood (there are ca. 15K journals out there... really!) and told them I wanted to work with their problem authors "to provide you with manuscripts so well written you only need to think about the science". I emphasized that this would be an arm's length agreement: the journal would do nothing more than give the authors my brochure (PDF format), with no indication that they approved my work in any way. It was purely a "your English is not acceptable to this journal, so before you resubmit your manuscript, have it edited by a pro; here's one person who can do this work for you".

I'm now busier than I've ever been as a result of this marketing work. Not only are the journals pleased with the results, but authors are referring me to their colleagues at a ferocious rate. Lesson number 1 of this anecdote is discovering what you're passionate about. Lesson number 2 is that the best jobs aren't advertised: you have to find someone who doesn't even know that they need you, and demonstrate that you can make their lives so much easier that it's a no-brainer to hire you.

So ask yourself a few difficult questions: What field of work fascinates you most? Who is doing work in this field? Why should they hire you to do the work for them?

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
www.geoff-hart.com
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References:
Re: Trouble finding work: From: Eva Whitley

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