Re: What Defines "Entry-Level"?

Subject: Re: What Defines "Entry-Level"?
From: "Eric J. Ray" <ejray -at- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 21 Apr 1998 13:58:38 -0600

At 01:43 AM 4/21/98 -0700, Jeffrey W. Roberts wrote:
>Specifically, when one is seeking to enter the technical communications
>field, what defines "Entry-Level"?

<Note: What follows is a bit terse--we're on deadline and I
need to get back to work, but I've got to get this out.>

State of mind defines "entry-level". Of course, there's more
to it than that, but that's a fair start. Here's what I mean:

Over the last year, several things have gotten me thinking
more like a manager, and my answer to this question is
considerably different now than it would have been last year.
Getting in as a tech writer at any position, particularly
if you have relatively little experience, is simply a matter of


effectively to the manager doing the hiring. If you're interviewing
for a software doc position and you don't have quite the
experience that the manager might want, just bring up
and rule out the reasons that you might not be right for
the job.

"I realize that you were hoping to get someone with three
years of software doc experience, but I think you'll find
that my three years of experience doing XXXXXX will
be an adequate substitute, because I'm already experienced
with interviewing engineers and getting info out of busy
developers, I'm used to dealing with specs and schedule changes,
and my experience installing and using every piece of
beta software I can download off the Internet gives me
just the experience with picking my way through new
interfaces that you're looking for."

"I understand that you're concerned about XXXX, but

By doing this effectively, you'll show (explicitly and implicitly)
that you can analyze your audience and a communication
situation, provide the appropriate information, AND that you truly
understand what's needed. (Of course, if you don't
really understand, this will quickly become evident too.)

Your main goal in seeking a job is to sell yourself--honestly
and effectively--to anyone who needs your services.
To do that, you must provide reasons to hire you
(step 1) and counter arguments not to hire you
(step 2).

Deborah and I gave a brief presentation about freelancing
last week at the Utah State student chapter STC meeting,
and it really reminded me how alien the concept of
self-marketing tends to be to students as well as to
those of us from a (overgeneralization here)
liberal arts background (rather than a
business background). (No need for flames here--I'm
a German and Secondary Ed major, so I know where
I'm coming from and I know the limitations of
overgeneralization. However, it helps make the point.)

Liberal arts people (in the absence of other influences)
tend to approach business situations with a rather optimistic
viewpoint--the approaches are more pie-in-the-sky,
more idealistic, and more interesting. However, if you're
really trying to get a job, think business:

Minimize risk, maximize return on investment.

Sell yourself in these terms.

That's WHY companies like contractors--minimal risk, 'cause
they're easily fired and there's no risk of getting stuck with
a non-productive one or with extras even when the business
doesn't justify it. There's little or no training expense, so
all paid time is presumably productive--thus, maximum
return on investment.

If you can show clearly in a resume, cover letter, interview,
or whatever that you are a low-risk, high-return investment
for the company, you're in. If you don't effectively show
that, or worse, if you try and fail, you're sunk.

(Note that this also applies, particularly at higher
levels in companies, to everything you do at work.
Teleconferenced into a staff meeting this morning
and listened as the manager running the meeting
asked for plans to resolve a logistics/communications
problem. Then I listened as people who really should
have known better suggested
good/fun/interesting/impractical solutions to a very
real and immediate problem. If you need to get
release notes to your customers this week about something
urgent, you think practical (email, fax, ASCII, or
HTML) and NOT impractical (Multimedia presentation,
Winhelp/Wizard, or full doc set revision and mailing).)

Comments on this diatribe would be welcome.


* Eric J. Ray, ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com,
* TECHWR-L Listowner, co-author _Mastering HTML 4.0_
* _HTML 4 for Dummies Quick Reference_, and others.
* RayComm, Inc., currently accepting contract inquiries.

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