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Then pull out the portfolio you've culled from the writing you've done, and
show 'em your stuff. This should help with the temp agencies. After a few of
these stints, you will have worked enough techwriting positions to round out
I don't know where Rick lives, or the employment conditions there, but here
in what we Canadians like to fancy is "Silicon Valley North", experienced
technical writers are considered rare, and the temp agencies are eager to get
hold of anyone who can at least say they did some. Also, since the recession
(over or not?) there's been lots more contract work, and a lot less permanent
employment in the technical writing arena (in my experience, we're often one
of the first to go, as "non-essential to the product"--warning!), so there
should be work out there for you, to start.
One advantage you have is your programming experience--it will put you in a
much better position against the many technophobic, techno-illiterate B.A.
English grads and librarians trying to get a job "writing". On the other hand,
there are plenty of B.A. English grads (and librarians) who can _really_
_write_, and are NOT technophobic, so you are really going to have to prove
that you _can_ write. I recently went through a hiring process with some grads
from a technical writing program at our local community college. The applicants
were disappointing--technicians and the like who wanted to "upgrade" to
technical writing (better money), but one year of writing training did not make
them "able" to write. So you may have to combat that perception also (ie.
"programmers can't write"). Get your best samples into your portfolio, and
highlight your technical knowledge, but balance them carefuly. Try to
find out what your interviewer's prejudices are before you emphasize one over
My own advice: Get familiar with document organization and layout, and create a
few sample outlines to go with your writing samples. I have been tested for
this in job interviews, and as a manager I would want to know you can do that
as well as put together a good sentence.
Gwen "Ex-librarian and aspiring novelist" Gall (ggall -at- ca -dot- oracle -dot- com)