Re: Ye Olde Tarheel State...not hiring?

Subject: Re: Ye Olde Tarheel State...not hiring?
From: Mollye Barrett <mbarrett -at- EXECPC -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 23 Nov 1996 19:55:17 -0800

Christy Dawn Langley wrote:

> I graduated 3 months ago with a Master's degree in English
> (Concentration in Technical Writing) and aspirations of starting a
> career in software documentation. I have been on interviews, not for
> full tech writing positions, but, odd as it seems to me, for marketing
> positions -- all of which I have lost to candidates with more
> "experience." A huge barrier to employment for me seems to be "workplace
> experience." Prospective employers have called me on the phone, very
> interested initially, but when they subsequently discovered that I
> didn't have any "workplace experience," I was told, "Well, I don't think
> the managers will hire anyone without real workplace experience." And
> they didn't. So I've got a Masters degree, completed an internship in
> which I developed a brochure for an office, created an email manual for
> the English department at my university, and am proficient in a
> considerable number of software programs...but I don't have workplace
> experience. There were not (and still aren't) but three technical
> writing jobs that I was aware of in my hometown. I think tw workplace
> experience in NC was/is difficult to obtain unless you live in the
> Triangle.

> I traveled to a job interview in the heart of Raleigh for an entry level
> technical writing position. I wasn't asked to bring writing samples with
> me to the interview but was asked during the interview where my writing
> samples were (rule
> requested or not). When I got home, I xeroxed my thesis (which contained
> a brochure and manual), had it ring bound, and sent it on its way to
> Raleigh. The job called for editing financial software manuals. These
> were mammoth manuals that could swallow my manual whole. When I called
> the company a couple of days later to ask if the lady had received my
> writing samples, I wondered by her response if she wasn't thinking that
> my manual was child's play compared to the leviathans she needed revised
> and edited.

> Each day I consult the N&O for entry level tw positions in the area of
> software documentation. I would like to begin my career in some sort of
> apprenticeship, working with a mentor, collaborating, basically
> "learning the ropes." Unfortunately, I can't find any such positions in
> North Carolina. Every ad (with the exception of one thus far) requires
> the future employee to have 3-5 yrs. of experience. A Masters doesn't
> seem to hold the value that I thought it would. Do I need to seriously
> look outside my state for positions?

> Another issue is that of salary. What salary does a person request with
> a Masters in English? Oddly enough, I think I have been asking too low.
> I was hoping someone on this list could mail me some reasonable figures.
> Also, does it matter that my degree is in English with a concentration
> in Technical Writing and not actually in Tech Writing?

> Thanks in advance for any responses.

> Dawn


Let me offer hope! You are not alone and this is not a new experience. Your degree does matter. However, it
may not provide you with an instant job. You have been looking for 3 months--it may take 6-8 months. Maybe
not the best news, but I think realistic. And you face the same problem many recent grads do--you can't get
experience until you work and you can't get a job without experience.

Is there Career Placement Assistance available at your alma mater? If so check in, get a counselor and be
persistent. Contact the English Department--they may know an employer that needs more than an intern. They
want to help.

Do you belong to STC? If not, join. If so, work with your Job Exchange Manager, go to meetings and NETWORK!
Does your chapter have a Web site, a newsletter, any PICs? Volunteer to work on a committee or project and get
some experience. Also, the STC Salary Survey will give you some realistic salary ideas.
Other organizations need volunteers too--offer to do what you do best--write.

Have you considered temporary work? It may not be ideal but many employers want a temporary to prove
themselves before hiring permanently.

Interviewing for a job as a writer? ALWAYS take samples--as many as possible. If uou've got time, make some
up. Be creative.

Finding a mentor is a great idea, be open and direct--find someone you respect and ask for their help.

Finally, it sounds like your area may not be the best pickins for the work you have chosen. Are you willing to

Hope this helps. My job search went for 8 months after finishing my Masters and the pay at my first job was
marginal. I can honestly say that it was brute strength and awkwardness for the first 5 years. However, life
got better after that and continues to improve every year.

So, have hope and remember what John Stuart Mill said:
"Slaves never ask for enough..."

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