What Defines "Entry-Level"?

Subject: What Defines "Entry-Level"?
From: "Jeffrey W. Roberts" <pptcscriv -at- CYBER-QUEST -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 21 Apr 1998 01:43:28 -0700


Hello to TECHWR-L! I've been a lurker on the list for a couple of months
and have learned an enormous amount from the postings here. I'm casting
about (helplessly, it seems, sometimes) for some career direction, and
would appreciate any insight from the assembled wisdom of this list.

Specifically, when one is seeking to enter the technical communications
field, what defines "Entry-Level"?

As background, I have a BA in journalism and English (Indiana
University, 1992). I've made my living as a writer since about 1990,
starting out as a newspaper reporter. For about five years, I worked
for as an appeals writer for a company specializing in Social Security
disability work. When someone was turned down for benefits, my job was
to write an administrative law appeal detailing why the person should
indeed be considered medically disabled and why the Administrative Law
Judge erred in applying either evidence or law. It was a unique
position, though soul-draining. I would call it a type of technical
writing, as it involved careful analysis, comprehension, and application
of often complex medical -and- legal issues. Since July of last year,
when the appeals job went south, I've been trying to make a go of a
freelance writing and editorial concern, which hasn't really gotten off
the ground. Not much call for writers and editors in NE Pennsylvania, I

So I'm no raw recruit fresh off campus; I've made a buck or two off my
writing and editing. I have some authentic, hard-earned experience.

BUT...I've never documented hardware or software, or done many of the
things that other breeds of technical writers do on a daily basis. I
want to. Tech writing seems promising, and reasonbly well rewarded.
I'm computer savvy, and I'm working hard to teach myself the tools and
workings of the TC trade. I want to learn how to do it and believe I
-can-. But I don't yet have direct experience in these forms of

In terms of the tech writing field, then, -am- I only at entry level,
and should those be the types of positions I aim for? Or am I better
off because of my degree and several years' experience, even though I've
never documented a program or written a white paper? If a job posting
asks for five years' experience in technical writing, would I be deluded
in thinking I have it, or at least some level of background that
translates into an ability to write on complex subjects for a living?

I've read with great interest the recent posts about hiring practices
and difficulties getting jobs, as I am feeling that same type of
frustration very acutely. Tech writing seems to be a field of
tremendous opportunity to which, for me, the gate is locked. I would be
grateful for any advice or insight, and will be happy to post a summary
of responses to the list.

Thank you.

--Jeff Roberts
pptcscriv -at- cyber-quest -dot- com

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