Destination: Technical Writer - Approach

When I began to seriously consider leaving academia to try my hand ‘out there’ in what many people call ‘the real world’ (a phrase that gets right under my skin and festers), I had no idea how to approach exodus. Based on the skillset I had written out for myself, of which I covered in my last entry about Mindset, I could be a technical writer, a product owner, a business analyst, or even a project manager. *note: link these out to definitions or descriptions* Also, I had a pretty well-developed 7-page Curriculum Vitae *link* and no experience. How was I ever going to work with that?

I had TWO main things going for me:

1. I had already created a pretty solid Internet presence for myself based on my experience in my various university leadership positions.

2. I have a PhD in rhetoric. And since rhetoric is employing available means of persuasion toward some end, I should be able to persuade someone to hire me. Excuse me. Persuade someone that I would be a valuable asset to their team. Thinking in business terms is a bit different than thinking in academic terms.

All I had to do next, was gather all my available means of persuasion, and format them into a veritable Valerie Robin marketing machine.

Here are some basic rules I developed for myself:



Really, this is not much different than readying yourself for the academic market. The vocabulary is different, but the process of creating a presence and knowing your resources is largely the same. Instead of using the academic resources available to the rhetoric and composition search (MLA, Rhet/Comp jobs wiki, WPA jobs list, etc), the resources are business related. Technical recruits are looking for critical thinkers that can speak a little tech, and the trick is to market yourself that way, and then make yourself searchable.

After much trial and error, I was able to pare my CV down to a 2-page resume, of which I made 3 versions: Technical Writer/Editor; Business Analyst; Project Manager. I put my resume on several career websites and after about 3 weeks, the firehose turned on and it hasn’t turned off again. By firehose, I mean that recruiters find key words in your resume and then point the hose at you: regardless of your actual qualifications. Fortunately, somewhere in the firehose stream, a relevant job occasionally comes, and then the interviewing process occurs.

Eventually, someone will offer you a job. More often than not, in the corporate world, you may be faced with several job offers at once (something that happens for very few people in the academic world). How do you decide? Next week I will go into my personal process leading to a dip in the corporate pool. Hint: I like food. And shelter.