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Let Them Come
2013, Q1 (April 02, 2013)
By Peggy Harvey, Carolina Chapter Member

Peggy Harvey
Peggy Harvey

The field of technical communication isn't what it used to be. It used to be if you could prove you could write and were reasonably intelligent you could get a job as a technical writer with little prior experience. (I should know, that’s how I got my first job as a technical writer.) Today, positions are fewer and farther between and there’s a lot of competition when a good position comes up.

But what if there were things you could do that would increase your chances of jobs coming to you, rather than your having to go out and look for them? I don’t have a crystal ball with all the answers, but the last two jobs I've had happened when the people with the positions came to me. In both cases the positions were unadvertised and the hiring managers interviewed very few candidates, decreasing my competition and significantly increasing the chance that I’d be the one selected for the job.

If you've ever bought a house you probably know the three most important factors in real estate: Location, location, and location. In the job hunt, it’s networking, networking, and networking.


I think networking really goes one step further: It’s not just who you know, but who knows of you. By “of you” I mean people who know you by your reputation—assuming, of course, that you have a good reputation. So how can you increase your sphere of influence and ensure your reputation will precede you? Here are a few ideas and things that have worked for me:

  • Use social networking to your advantage. Use Twitter to follow other technical communicators and tweet about items of interest to you. Follow the #techcomm hashtag and reply to people to “get to know them” via Twitter. Participate in LinkedIn discussions. Comment on blog posts. Once you get into it you’ll find that technical communication is a small world.

  • Start a blog. If you don’t have a blog already, start one. You can use a free site such as Blogspot or Wordpress.com or, if you really want to put your mark on the world, sign up with a hosting site and purchase a domain name that suits what you intend to blog about. Once you have the site up you can share your posts and drive traffic to your site via Twitter, Facebook, or whatever other social media avenue you use.

  • Get involved with a local chapter. Social media is all very well, but nothing beats actual human contact. Local chapters of professional organizations such as STC and UXPA are always looking for volunteers to help plan events and run the chapter. Serving on an STC chapter’s administrative council (for example) is a great way to meet other technical communicators and become a leader in the field.

  • Attend a conference. Admittedly, unless you’re working for a company that’s willing to fund you, this one will cost you some money. The return on your investment, however, could be substantial. Here in the U.S. there are several annual technical communication conferences, including the STC Summit, WinWriters and Lavacon, to name just a few. Attending a conference is a great way to learn about current trends and technologies and meet other technical communicators face-to-face. This is especially effective if you’ve already interacted with the people you meet in social media. Did I mention the field of technical communication is a small world?

  • Write articles for newsletters or guest post on other people's blogs. Most newsletter editors are always looking for articles, and many bloggers welcome different topics and viewpoints on their blogs. What better way to get your name out there than to use a platform that already has an established readership?

Last but not least:

  • Network as much as possible when you aren't looking for a job. Granted, this isn't always feasible, and sometimes a layoff or other circumstances will necessitate networking and job hunting have to go hand-in-hand. But if possible, try to get your name out there before you really need it to be. Desperation isn't attractive in dating or in the professional world, and you’ll have more to offer others if you aren't simultaneously needy yourself.

There’s no way around it: there is no “get rich quick” solution when it comes to finding a job in technical communication. Even if you do everything right there’s no guarantee everything will always go your way. But by making sure people know you by your reputation even if they don’t know you personally, you can increase the chance that they’ll recognize your name when they see your résumé in a pile, or, even better, think of you first when a job comes up. Who knows, you may be just what they’re looking for.

Peggy can be reached at dpharvey3 at gmail dot com. End of article.

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