What would you say to tech comm grads?

26Aug10

I’m putting together a presentation for technical communication students at my alma mater, East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. I already have a bunch of tips on the following topics, but I want to hear your advice!

  • Types of work you can do (thinking outside the “software box”).
  • Specific tools you should and shouldn’t learn.
  • What STC certification means for new graduates.
  • Practical ways to find your first tech comm job (including resume tips and local tech writing companies and contract agencies).
  • Networking that doesn’t always involve social media (e.g., STC involvement and volunteering).
  • Tips for blogging, Facebooking, and Tweeting.
  • Portfolio basics.
  • Continuing education do’s and don’ts.

What advice would you give? It doesn’t have to fit within the topics listed above. Basically, this is “If I knew then what I know now…” kind of advice. Leave a comment below to submit your advice and tips.*

I’m also new at this (I don’t claim to be an expert), so I imagine your tips will help me as well!

Thanks!

*Note: Obviously I’m asking permission to quote you in my presentation. I’m also going to be showing this blog to the students, so if you don’t want to use your real name that’s fine with me! 🙂

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6 Responses to “What would you say to tech comm grads?”

  1. You have a lot to offer, Christina! You might find my recent guest post on Ben Minson’s Gryphon Mountain Journals blog helpful: Back to School: Advice from a Tech Comm Master’s Student. You’re welcome to use my name and quotes. 🙂

    My advice is to take advantage of your student status and network as much as you can before you actually start your job search. Build your network through social media (Twitter, commenting on blogs, etc.), STC meetings, meeting technical communicators who are friends of friends — everyone you can think of to increase your reach. When it comes time to look for a job these people will be the ones to give you leads and introduce you to hiring managers, which could lead to interviews and landing a great job in tech comm.

    • Thank you, Peggy…those are great tips. I will certainly quote you — and I thought of you when I posted this. I promise to go back to your guest post. Best!

  2. 3 Karen Mulholland

    Volunteer with your local STC chapter. Commit to a volunteer position for a full program year, and do whatever it takes (including asking for guidance!) to do that volunteer job really, really well. That will help to establish that you have some of the most valuable traits that employers look for: perseverance and dependability. Find an experienced tech comm person whom you trust, and ask that person to look at your resume, help you assess your strengths and weaknesses, and coach you on your job-seeking skills. Before you accept a job offer, ask that trusted mentor whether the pay and benefits being offered are reasonable. If not, negotiate a better deal. Don’t expect to be driving a Maserati this time next year, but don’t sell yourself short, either.

    • Thank you, Karen, for your great comments and tips. I’ll be sure to include them, especially about the Maserati – that made me laugh!

  3. 5 Julie Norris

    Thanks, Christina, for this post.

    First off, to all new techcomm grads: I’m so jealous! You are so lucky. I’ve been in this business over 20 years, and I can tell you that these are the most exciting times I’ve seen in this industry. What a time to dive in.

    Be ready for a fast-paced ride. Always keep your eyes open for what’s coming: both in writing methodology as well as changes in technology. Devices such as mobile and mode of access will be just as much a factor in developing content.

    Most of all – always keep learning. At the very least, learn HTML and CSS, and XML. With HTML5 coming up, it’s even more important. Even if you use an authoring tool, it’s still useful to know basic code in case you have to go in and fix or troubleshoot something. I’m still amazed at how often I use those very basic items. In WordPress, knowledge of CSS is very important. Just realize that your education doesn’t stop when you leave college.

    There are also a number of “subsets” in the industry. For instance, content management, social media, usability, accessibility, localization. I’d also suggest choosing an area such as that in which you’re interested in and developing expertise in that area on top of the basic skills you’ve already learned. It never hurts! You may end up filling a void on a writing team sometime. Who knows?

    Welcome aboard! We’re glad to see you –

  4. 6 Meghashri

    Great ideas Christina.

    I would stress on two points:
    -Tools is not everything, Content is
    -Learn research techniques

    It would be great if you can tell how to create good and diverse writing samples for resumes.


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