Re: What Defines "Entry-Level"?

Subject: Re: What Defines "Entry-Level"?
From: Janet Valade <janetv -at- MAIL -dot- SYSTECH -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 21 Apr 1998 09:34:29 -0700

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

The hiring manager defines Entry-level so there is no single answer.

> As background, I have a BA in journalism and English (Indiana
> of often complex medical -and- legal issues.
If you are trying to obtain a job documenting software or hardware, some
managers are going to consider your writing experience insufficient.
Personally, I don't see it that way. I believe a writer is a writer and can
write in whatever style is required. I consider the fact that you have
written in 3 very different styles (English department academic,
journalistic, legal) as sufficient evidence that you are a writer and that
you can learn the style required pretty quickly given some examples to work

> 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
> guess.
You will not be able to freelance writing software documentation with no
experience. You will need to get some experience first.

> I'm computer savvy, and I'm working hard to teach myself the tools and
> workings of the TC trade.
I would be more concerned about this aspect. I would need to know more
about what "computer savvy" means before I could say whether I would hire
you as entry or mid. A good writer who has always used a pencil is just not
what I need. A tech writer in the computer field needs to be quite
technical. If you have never done any of the complicated word
processing/desktop publishing tasks on a computer, I would consider you
entry level. If you know templates, footnotes, books, variable fields,
fonts, macros, etc., then you might be mid. Also, you need to be able to
understand the technology you are writing about, so it would depend on what
I was hiring you to document.

> I want to learn how to do it and believe I
> -can-. But I don't yet have direct experience in these forms of
> writing.
Depending on how quickly you need a job, there are some things you can do:
1. take a techwriting class or two. It will show that you are serious
about the career; that you know something about the job; and will give you
some samples to show.
2. write some software documentation, an exercise, documenting some
software, as a sample for your portfolio.

> 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?
this is true, and you just need to be in the right spot at the right time.
A hiring manager with an immediate need and you are the person with the best
qualifications and the closest fit who is available.

Janet Valade
Technical Writer
Systech Corporation, San Diego, CA
mailto:janetv -at- systech -dot- com

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