Re: entry-level positions

Subject: Re: entry-level positions
From: "Virginia J. Link" <LINKVI -at- MAIL -dot- STATE -dot- WI -dot- US>
Date: Thu, 17 Oct 1996 09:04:08 -0500

[Creak heard off-stage = rusty hinges on the Lurk closet door...]

Well, I thought about responding privately, but Megan M wrote:

Subject: entry-level positions
Date: Wednesday, October 16, 1996 5:28PM

Greetings! I'm a college senior who will soon begin my quest for The
Perfect First Technical Writing Job (tm). So far I have only seen one
entry-level job advertised, and that was in an online job database.
Everyone else is asking for two to five years of experience, often with
software we don't run on our network.

What did the rest of you do when you found yourselves in this position after
finishing a technical writing program of some sort?

--Megan McMacken
Megan E. McMacken, technical writer |


I have a bachelor's degree in journalism from a U.S. university. While I
was completing my coursework, I studiously avoided the one technical-writing
class offered because I thought it would be too BORING.

While I was finishing my mass communication degree, however, I found myself
volunteering to write technical instructions for the other staff at my
working-my-way- through-college job. I wrote instructions for maintaining
the reference library, for the "care and feeding of a PC," for formatting
diskettes (we were just getting personal computers then -- 1984-ish), and
for other miscellaneous computer-related tasks.

After graduating, and figuring out that news reporting and broadcast
journalism were not really what I wanted to do, I gave my resume to a
friend, who threw it into the resume system at her state job. I got an
interview shortly thereafter for a temporary gig. They needed a writer
really quickly (and really badly!), and the people doing the hiring were
brave and foresighted enough to trust me. That handful of technical-
writing instructions samples helped me land my first real paid-for-writing

I also wrote for the student newspaper at the university, so I had clips
from published articles, which I took to the interview. However, the
interviewers were much more interested in what I had written in the
instructional field than in the press clippings. They also wanted to know
that I was able to write clearly and write for inexperienced users (and,
having been a novice computer user fairly recently, it was not hard to
explain that!), why I felt driven to write documentation, and how
self-motivated I was.

I was the sole technical writer for months after starting, responsible for
cleaning up the mess created by the other "writer" and also trying to
produce three user manuals (400+ pages each) for a computer system that was
supposed to go statewide any minute and three-quarters of the functions
weren't yet documented. The ones that were documented had to be re-written.

[chapters edited out]

I got the permanent job about a year later, and have been loving my career
"choice" ever since. Good luck on your journey!

Virginia Link
Madison, Wisconsin, USA, Earth

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