The application letter should be short, but it should include information about your background and the type of position you are seeking. If you have a mutual friend or professional contact who has suggested you write to a company, you should mention it. A reference to an ad in a newspaper or magazine frequently will Contact your local college and ask to set up an appointment with a professor who also serves as a student advisor. This type of information-gathering session will help make sure you're on the right track with your career choice.
In the last few years, a considerable amount of information has been offered about how to get started in technical writing in the form of ads in the newspapers and journals, brochures prepared by the professional societies, professional web sites, and even a few books. If you are seriously thinking about becoming a technical writer, you can take a number of steps that will help you obtain professional guidance and information:
- Get in touch with the education committee of the Society for Technical Communication. The committee exists to inform people how to prepare themselves for the profession. It is ready to answer your questions and will send you the names of prominent members of the Society to whom you may write for advice.
- The Society has publications available on various aspects of technical writing (see Appendix B). Every year at the close of the annual international conferences, STC publishes "Proceedings," which includes the complete text of all the papers presented at the meeting.
This publication can be obtained at STC headquarters, through their web site, and from many technical writing teachers. The "Proceedings" is a valuable tool in preparing yourself for a career because it contains hundreds of pertinent papers delivered by professionals.
- If you are still in high school, make an appointment with your guidance counselor to discuss the profession of technical writing. A lot depends on whether you are planning to continue your education by going to college or taking other specialized training courses. In either case, counselors should have literature available about technical writing careers or tell you where it can be obtained.
- While still in high school, don't be shy about talking to professional technical writers or professors of technical writing.
- If you are in college, talk with the official in charge of the placement office. Job placement is a service provided by almost every institution these days. Throughout the year, college placement officers are in contact with the personnel managers of companies and other organizations that are looking for people to fill important technical writing jobs.
- But don't depend entirely on the college placement office. Throughout the academic world of technical communications are many exceptionally competent teachers, too many to list here. If there is a technical writing program in your college, there most likely will be a knowledgeable person teaching it. And nine times out of ten, this person will have good contacts with business and industrial firms. Contacts of this kind are probably the most valuable way of getting started in the profession.
- Job contacts also can be established by getting in direct touch with the supervisors and administrators of the publications departments of the companies themselves. To establish these contacts, read the large industrial ads for technical writers in the newspapers, especially those in highly developed industrial areas. If you can't find a specific name to send your inquiry to, send it to the director of publications. In time, your letter will filter through to the right person, and you will be able to set up an informational interview-which could possibly lead to a job contact or a full-time job.
- Don't overlook the ease of finding jobs through the Internet. Web sites and databases are updated on a regular basis. The following are web sites of agencies and organizations that will help make your job search a bit easier.