When entering a new position, there you have a limited amount of time to get a lot of information. The knowledge base you form within the first week will determine the first months on the job. It will also affect how well you perform your job and function in the office as a whole. So which documents should technical writers ask for when they walk in the door?
This post was written before the passing of William Zinsser.
William Zinsser said it best when he claimed the four principles of good English were “Clarity, Simplicity, Brevity, and Humanity.” The author of On Writing Well literally wrote the book on writing ideals, and broke the entire concept down to four simple words. As technical writers, it’s our job to write “good English.” So what do these four principles mean? And how can we apply them to our own writing?
At this moment, college seniors across the country are feverishly searching job boards, mass-emailing resumes, and frantically calling everyone within a 50 mile radius looking for the ever elusive, feared mythical, entry-level job. For aspiring technical writers, this fight seems harder than most. Full-time writing positions require years of experience and even technical backgrounds to be considered. Emerging technical writers are stuck in the cycle of “no job because no experience because no job” (in my opinion, the closest we get to the 5th circle of hell). Which begs the question: how do you get out of it? Here are a few things to remember during your search.
For all positions, resumes are a first impression. They are used to summarize and list your skills and experiences so that the reader may predict your professional potential. A common idiom around resumes is “show, don’t tell.” The idea is to provide examples and statistics along with your claims as support. The more you are able to show your abilities, the better you are perceived. This may never be truer than with technical writers.
Technical writers are in a unique situation where they are tested as they apply. While technicians and engineers must be taken at face value, technical writers must prove their skills on the very paper they submit. Grammar, organization, communication, formatting, and the like can all be meticulously analyzed from first contact. Technical writers are then under the most pressure to provide resumes that are not only flawless, but effective. In a sense, your resume is also your writing sample.