;) The demand for qual­i­fied tech­ni­cal writ­ers is con­stantly grow­ing. For every soft­ware appli­ca­tion or tech­nol­ogy prod­uct that’s devel­oped, there’s an instant need for accom­pa­ny­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion. In a global mar­ket increas­ingly depen­dent on high-tech prod­ucts and ser­vices, it’s vir­tu­ally guar­an­teed that tech­ni­cal writ­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties will never run dry.

Tech­ni­cal writ­ing may be your ideal field if: you love work­ing with tech­nol­ogy, but sim­ply don’t have the desire – or skill – to become an engi­neer or pro­gram­mer; if you enjoy train­ing peo­ple; if you want a step­ping stone to a career in high-tech; or if you enjoy writ­ing and are sim­ply look­ing for a dif­fer­ent way to use your craft.
If you’ve decided to give tech­ni­cal writ­ing a try, but don’t know where or how to start, keep read­ing! This three-step plan out­lines the basic qual­i­fi­ca­tions you’ll need, how to learn the nec­es­sary skills, and how to make a suc­cess­ful foray into the field.
<b>STEP 1: GETTING THE BASICS </b>

Believe it or not, to be suc­cess­ful in tech­ni­cal writ­ing, you don’t need to already have a high level of tech­ni­cal know-how or a master’s degree in Eng­lish. How­ever, you should have the following:

Basic tech­ni­cal skills.

Any expe­ri­ence in tech­ni­cal sup­port, web design, net­work­ing, teach­ing, or even in help­ing your Mom set up her com­puter will be an asset. If you don’t have a basic under­stand­ing of how com­put­ers and soft­ware work, take a class.

Basic writ­ing and gram­mar skills.

If you’re already a writer, you prob­a­bly won’t have to worry about this one! How­ever, under­stand that tech­ni­cal writ­ing gen­er­ally uses active rather than pas­sive voice; the ter­mi­nol­ogy used must be con­sis­tent through­out an entire doc­u­ment or doc­u­ment set; and the objec­tive is to make pro­ce­dures as sim­ple as pos­si­ble. These guide­lines may be dif­fi­cult for some cre­ative writ­ers to get used to.

An inter­est in technology.

It’s not uncom­mon for a tech­ni­cal writer to spend hours por­ing over a half-completed soft­ware pro­gram, try­ing to find hid­den com­mands or fea­tures that need doc­u­ment­ing. You may also have to work exten­sively with engi­neers and pro­gram­mers, who will rely on you for feed­back and sug­ges­tions on the product’s inter­face. So if you’re less than enthused by the prospect of “get­ting your hands dirty” with tech­nol­ogy, and work­ing with very tech­ni­cal peo­ple, you prob­a­bly won’t enjoy this field.

 

<b>STEP 2: EDUCATE THYSELF</b>

If you have the basic qual­i­fi­ca­tions for tech­ni­cal writ­ing and are still inter­ested in what the field has to offer, it’s time to learn the basics of tech­ni­cal writ­ing and the stan­dard tools used.

Explore some tech­ni­cal writ­ing samples.

The first step is to see first-hand what you’ll be doing in your new career! Many soft­ware com­pa­nies pub­lish their prod­uct doc­u­men­ta­tion on-line. And almost every soft­ware pro­gram has an embed­ded Help file – sim­ply click on the ‘Help’ menu. Under­stand­ing the type of writ­ing you’ll be expected to pro­duce is a great way to pre­pare.
Learn the industry-standard author­ing tools.

As an entry-level writer, you’ll be expected to at least have expe­ri­ence with Microsoft Word. You’ll need to under­stand advanced Word fea­tures such as styles, tem­plates, and deal­ing with extremely large doc­u­ments.
Besides Word, the ‘big two’ appli­ca­tions used in the indus­try are Adobe FrameMaker and Robo­HELP. If you have expe­ri­ence with these pro­grams, your chances of land­ing a good first job increase dra­mat­i­cally. Basic tuto­ri­als for these pro­grams are avail­able on-line and at bookstores.

Take a class in tech­ni­cal writing.

Some­times there’s sim­ply no sub­sti­tute for learn­ing from a sea­soned pro­fes­sional. There are books, on-line courses, and col­lege or university-level courses on tech­ni­cal writ­ing that will help you learn the basics of pro­duc­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion, how to write project plans, how to inter­view sub­ject mat­ter experts (SME’s) and so on.
Not only are classes a great way to learn the basics, but cer­ti­fi­ca­tion looks great on a CV / resume, and you’ll have an instant sup­port net­work to help you dur­ing your job search!

<b>STEP 3: STEPPINOUT </b>

If you’ve fol­lowed all the pre­vi­ous steps and are com­mit­ted to mak­ing tech­ni­cal writ­ing your new career, here’s how to land that all-important first job.

Write a CV / resume that show­cases your rel­e­vant experience.

These days, you can’t get any recruiter to talk to you with­out a CV / resume. The CV / resume’s main pur­pose is to get you an inter­view, so keep it short, sim­ple, and rel­e­vant to your writ­ing and tech­ni­cal skills. Include any writ­ing, edit­ing or tech­ni­cal train­ing courses or cer­ti­fi­ca­tions. And the impor­tance of edit­ing and proof­read­ing it thor­oughly can’t be empha­sized enough! A CV / resume with typos or gram­mat­i­cal errors speaks vol­umes about your skills as a pro­fes­sional com­mu­ni­ca­tor.
Put together a port­fo­lio of writ­ing samples.

Prospec­tive employ­ers want to see two main things from your port­fo­lio: that you know how to write clearly, and that you have the abil­ity to under­stand com­plex sub­jects and can break them down con­cisely. The best writ­ing sam­ples to include in your port­fo­lio are how-to arti­cles or FAQ’s, arti­cles about tech­nol­ogy or sci­ence, train­ing mate­ri­als, and any assign­ments you wrote for your tech­ni­cal writ­ing class.
You could even write fic­ti­tious doc­u­ments or help files – why not develop these while you’re learn­ing FrameMaker or Robo­HELP? What­ever you decide to use, try to pro­vide at least 5 or 6 sam­ples in total, along with a table of con­tents and a sim­ple, professional-looking layout.

Start job-hunting!

You can work with a tech­ni­cal ser­vice agency or head­hunter, or try find­ing a job directly. If you took a tech­ni­cal writ­ing class, your learn­ing cen­ter may have intern­ships, co-op place­ments, or job place­ment ser­vices to help you get estab­lished in the field.
Job boards such as Monster.com post new tech­ni­cal writ­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties almost every day. Pro­fes­sional asso­ci­a­tions such as the Soci­ety for Tech­ni­cal Com­mu­ni­ca­tions also have online job boards you can use in your search.
And don’t for­get net­work­ing – tell every­one you know about your new career! You’d be sur­prised who might have a good lead for your first tech­ni­cal writ­ing oppor­tu­nity.
                                         :)   <b>Good luck!</b>

Share