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My SATs were excellent (1500). My GPA wasn't. Why? I majored in Zoology, and
one of the courses required was Organic Chemistry. Unfortunately, the
university had a major medical training program, and the Organic course was
designed to weed out prospective medical students. It also rapidly turned out
that although I'd done very well with Inorganic Chemistry, I had a horrible
blindspot for Organic. It took me a total of *five* semesters to get through
that two-semester course. I *had* to; I couldn't graduate without it.
So my GPA works out to about a B-. But if you refigure it without the Organic,
it's an A-, shading to A.
So here I am, with my bad GPA, and a major in Zoology, and I'm a tech writer.
And a successful one. The reason why is that I've been lucky enough to
have started out in responsible positions (conference manager), used what I
learned there to present myself well when applying for *other* positions,
lucked into an excellent mentor when I choose to switch careers to tech
writing, and made the most of my opportunities since.
But there have been a couple of times when I've missed getting jobs because
"you don't have a tech writing/engineering/computer degree; how can you
possibly write for us?" Ah well, their tough luck. One of the most satisfying
moments of my life, while working as a contractor, was to take an engineer with
exactly that attitude, and in three weeks have him saying "you're wonderful;
you express this so clearly. I guess you don't *have* to be an engineer."
Now I find myself in the position of advertising for, and hiring, other tech
writers. I *don't* ask for GPAs or SATs in my ads. Nor do I specify a degree
in tech writing as a must, although the handwritting on the wall says that this
may change in the next decade or so, as tech writing gains credence as a
"legitimate" profession, and more colleges design degree programs for it.
I *do* advertise for X-many years of documentation experience, depending on the
position. I do advertise that experience with certain software packages is a
"plus," 'cause it means I'll have less training time to worry about before the
new person comes up to speed. Depending on the job, I may list other
requirements; if they're going to be writing about client-server networks, it
helps if they've run into such beasts before.
But when it comes down to going through the resumes, and interviewing, I'm
looking at the experience, the quality of work, and the person. That's what
matters. That's what has to come through to me, both from the resume and from
the applicants themselves. And so far, out of all the people I've been
involved with hiring, I'm not disappointed in any of them. So I guess I'm
doing something right.
I feel for the problems of HR types trying to shift through the chaff to find
that wheat; I've seen some pretty horrendous resumes myself. But the ability
to write and communication clearly can develop under all types of conditions;
to exclude possible candidates on the basis of numbers, without context, is
Tara Edwards Barber
Since my opinions belong to me, anyone stealing them deserves what they get.