Technical Writing Job Advertisements

Subject: Technical Writing Job Advertisements
From: Richard Lippincott <rlippinc -at- BEV -dot- ETN -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 6 Sep 1994 12:55:30 EDT

Phillip Hellerman wrote:

>When I see advertisement such as the following, it gripes me.
>(The ad called for specific DTP package experience).

I agree with you, for the most part. I spent last fall, winter, and spring
job hunting in the Boston area. In many cases, I was responding to ads that
called for a specific DTP or WP package. Unfortunately, my former employer
had only used one DTP, not half a dozen. Thus, I'd never been exposed to
Quark, Pagemaker, Ventura, Interleaf, or FrameMaker before venturing out on
the job market. It didn't matter that I told employers about my writing
skills, or years of experience.

But then, that holds true for most of us. Most of us on this list are using
the "hottest" tools out there. Unless our employers dump platforms every
three or four years to bring in the "latest and greatest", we'll all suddenly
discover that our skills are obsolete. (And the employers are unlikely to do
this if the only reason is to keep the tech writer skills marketable.) We'll
all hear the following some day: "FrameMaker? No one uses that anymore.
We're using LaserPage 7.0!" Or to put it another way: I can still use
MultiMate. That was a big thing, five or six years ago. When's the last
time any of us saw MultiMate as a job requirement?

As someone else has noted, I think that many of these qualifications are
inserted (especially in tougher economic times) as just a way of weeding
out candidates. Set up some strict requirements, and you can cut a pile of
30 resumes down to four or five without even thinking too much.

Also, I feel that when an employer asks for an "expert" on a particular DTP
or WP, it means the manager doesn't have a clue how the system works, and
won't be able to provide any assistance if you should have a question.

I solved my problem, BTW, by taking courses in FrameMaker. Then I was able
to get a few contract assignments, and eventually "permanant" employment.
But I'm still concerned that in four or five years, I'll be out on the
street again, with an obsolete DTP skill set.

One teensy area where I disagree with you. You mentioned a list of things
a writer needs to know: 4GL, RDBMS,COBOL, PL1, OLTP, RF, telephony, etc.
Although I -do- know what all of the terms mean, I've never actually used
or referred to any of them in over ten years of tech writing. Some of us
document things other than software....

Rick Lippincott
I can send but not receive at work. Send personal comments to:
rjlippincott -at- delphi -dot- com

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