Advice for Those Looking for Technical Writing Jobs

One of the reasons for becoming a technical writer is because you like writing and, of course, you are good at it. Unfortunately, many people come into this field, not because they are interested in technology or in writing, but because:

  • They hear it pays reasonable well.
  • They have heard about the demand for this special breed of people.
  • They are ready to take up any job. When they don’t get their dream job, they are ready to take up anything, they just want to settle in for any job for the time being.
  • They probably want to work for a year or two before going for higher studies.
  • Some ladies want to take up a job after a break and think this to be a good option.

These are not the reasons to become a technical writer. First and foremost try to identify if this is the right profession for you. Money is important, but in this field, interest in the job and writing abilities are extremely crucial. This can make or break your career. Darwin’s Theory of the survival of the fittest applies to this scenario Β as well.

Among all the others, only the good writers, with genuine interest in the field will survive and progress further. The others will get stagnated, bored, and will be disillusioned by their choice! Having said this, I would also like to add that not many of the existing writers have come into this profession out of choice.

I personally know some writers who wanted to make a career in software development or testing. They did not get an appropriate opportunity and hence, they joined as technical writers, have discovered what it is, and have decided that they are content and happy with their profession. But this is a very rare situation and depends on the personal attitude and the basic interest (like reading and writing) of the person. So before you make a rushed decision, sit back and think.

A good technical writer plays a significant and important role in the organization just as a good developer does. Just as an engineer is hired to design graphics, create/develop the product, perform quality assurance, etc., you are hired to create documentation. So you have a specific duty to perform. Whether you agree or not, technical writing is a rewarding career.Β 

My sincere advice can be summarized as:

  • Technical writing will NOT satisfy your creative carving. Technical writing very often requires you to write to in a restricted manner. You also have to follow styles and formats. It will not satisfy your creative appetite.
  • Do not be lured by the money. There are only a handful of writers who see this as a dream job! The rest see it as an optional job that pays well, when they are not able to get their dreams jobs. But do not opt for technical writing just for this reason because when reality sinks in, you will become disillusioned.
  • Do not focus only on documentation tools. Many wanna-be writers believe that knowing desktop publishing tools will get them a job. Instead, focus on:
    • Language, writing, and presentation of information.
    • Subject and technologies (electronics, if you want to document electronics consumer items or finance, if you want to document banking software).
  • Read, read, and read. Try to read about various aspects of technical writing and understand the profile well. Apart from this, also take up reading as a hobby to improve your language. Learn to read for pleasure.
  • Practice. Practice to write in a restricted manner, using the generic rules and guidelines. Refer to books and the style guides. The more you practice, the more perfect you become.
  • Come out of the comfort of the cocoon. If you are basically a loner, try to become communicative and expressive with your thoughts and ideas. Strange as it may sound, this will help you a lot in your career as technical communication is about communicating. You just can’t avoid it!

Here is a paragraph of the well known poem β€œThe Road Not Taken”, by Robert Frost.

I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

More than a decade ago, I chose the lesser known career options of that time and it has definitely made all the difference—I am sure many you will agree with me!

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17 Responses

  1. It’s the best time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I’ve learn this publish and if I may I wish to counsel you few fascinating things or suggestions. Maybe you could write next articles referring to this article. I want to read more issues about it!

  2. Nice read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing some research on that. And he actually bought me lunch since I found it for him smile Thus let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!

    • You mean your friend as looking for an this article on looking for technical writing jobs? If so, i am glad he found it useful
      I am glad and happy that my article earned you the lunch πŸ™‚

  3. I like this web blog very much, Its a rattling nice place to read and receive info .

  4. I simply want to tell you that I am just beginner to blogs and really savored this web page. More than likely I’m likely to bookmark your site . You amazingly have superb articles and reviews. Appreciate it for revealing your web-site.

    • Thanks for your comments. I am a beginner to blogs too. I had a collection of articles I had written and did not know what to do with them. Then came the thought of starting a blog. Please read and comment πŸ™‚

  5. Excellent blog here! Also your web site loads up fast! What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

  6. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be actually something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and extremely broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

  7. Even today its a lesser known career option in India. More than half of my ex-colleagues did not know such a career exists and if i had any idea about this career before, i would have started being a technical write sooner. Technical writing has not caught on the Indian imagination as much as engineering and medical fields have. But there is a saying “β€œA journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” and i am glad technical writing in India has many more miles to go and that I’ll be a part of it. πŸ™‚

    Great article, loved the part where you insist us to take a look at what we really want before jumping onto the technical writing field.

    My question is how do writers assess themselves? How do new writers know whether they are good or bad at writing?

    • Hi Reshma (yets again) πŸ™‚

      Thanks once again for your comment! These days, the most easiest way of assessing your writing is by creating blogs and asking friends/others to comment on your idea, writing skills, and language skills. The problem is the wannabe writers don’t assess themselves at all. Thye don’t check if they have the skills required for a technical writer. During recruitment, I usually speak with the candidates (or ask the HR of one of the team members to do the same) to check their skill sets and then call them for interview. Otherwise it is a waste of our time and theirs.

      Many a times, I have found that when I am impressed by a well written resume, it is actually written by someone else. Hence, it is not even possible to trust the resume as a written sample. Candidates should know that cheating or lying wil not help them at all. The truth about their skills will be out in no time (after they join the organization).

      Having said this, as of 2013, technical writing in India has come a long way. Yet it has to go a little further up too πŸ™‚

      Thanks,
      Sajitha

  8. Sir,this is an excellent article that you have written.I myself am at a crossroad and would like your advice on my predicament.Iam a GET in Jindal Power but i am not comfortable with my job as there is too much hard physical work involved and i am quite a weak person(in terms of physical personality) I am looking for other opportunities and was doing research when i stumbled upon your excellent post.I am good at writing and i write three blogs also.Two on my travels and the other one is a personal blog.I am a Introvert and like to work in a city.Do you think I will be able to choose Technical Writing as a career option? It would be great if you answer my query.

    • If you are a good writer and are technically inclined, you can become a good technical writer. The first thing you need to do is understand the roles and responsibilities of a technical writer. If you think you like it and see it as a career go to the next step. You then need to know the skills required for a technical writer. Check if you have all the skills. If you do, great.

      You don’t have to do any technical writing course, but then, you will have to do a lot of home work on your own. Read about all the aspects of tech-writing—the requirements, the tools, the process, the do’s and don’t, etc. This way, you can get yourself ready for the interview and for the written tests. The hiring managers will also check your interest for the job, your general attitude, team fit, etc.

      Hope this helps.
      Sajitha

      • Thanks for the reply.I have seen your other posts on this blog and I am happy I stumbled on this blog,Especially about depression and suicide and also saw the books you wrote.I am in quite a problem(depression,suicidal feelings and career problem) and would like to seek your help professionally.Would you be kind enough to help me?

      • Thanks! for writing back.

        I agree career problems bring about depression and probably in extreme cases suicidal feelings too. But the question you need to ask:
        – Is it the end of the road?
        – Are you in a severe financial crunch?
        – Are there any opportunities that you can follow?
        – Do you have the support of your family—your parents, siblings, and if married, your wife?

        If the first 2 answers are “no” and last two are “yes”, there is nothing to worry about. You just need to come out of depression. It is easy to say, but not difficult to follow either!! The main thing is to think positive, feel positive, and be positive.

        As a professional, I am an engineer and a technical writer. So, it is not possible for me to give you professional guidance to come out of deep depression (if that is the case). I hope you understand. Yes, you can write to me about your issues/problems if any and I can surely see if I have an answer for the same. I would be happy to know that I am of some help to someone πŸ™‚

        Cheers!
        Sajitha

      • Thanks for offering your help.If you could provide me with your email id then I would like to share my problem with you.

  9. Sorry! I should have addressed the post with ‘Madam’.My apologies.

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