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The Technical Writer Job Search Dilemma – What Is Next?

Posted by | August 20, 2012 | Job Search

As a technical writer do you know what your next job search looks like? The job opportunities are endless within the technical communications industry.  Do you stay documentation creation, shift into content management, or is the pull of informational design too strong?

If a hiring manager were to ask these questions, could you answer accurately and honestly? Do you even know what you are looking for in your job search?

Ideally, you can rattle off a short, straightforward answer with confidence and conviction. If you’re prone to stumble over your answer, blurting out some cliche about leading a larger team, making more money or wanting to wear jeans throughout the week, will make look unprofessional, demonstrating you lack conviction about your job search and professional credentials.

Since the technical communication profession spans so many industries and roles, you need to focus on the essentials of what you want your next position to be.  Don’t wander along the job search path mindlessly—you’ll waste your time and others’ as well.

Kick Off Your Technical Writer Job Search Right

Invest a couple of hours and creating your ideal job profile.  Once you have created your ideal future technical communications job profile, you can easily answer the “what’s my next job” question. What is more, a competent answer to this question can and will help you get the technical writer in their  job search or a new contact.

We suggest you consider the following five areas to uncover and get your ideal job.

1.  Your Objective

What is your objective of a getting a new job? Do you want more money, to change industry, to work on a particular product, or to manage more people?

Run towards a new job rather than away from the old one.  As a technical writer, you have the skills to ferret out exactly what you don’t like about your current job and use it to craft what you want in your next job. For example, if you love content creation but are sick of working in the aviation industry, use this to shift your focus, highlighting your content creation skills and your enthusiasm for digging into a new industry.  Or, if  you’re sick of managing people and dealing with office politics, your objective should be on an individual contributor level.

  • Draw up two columns and create two headings: “What I like about my job,”  and “What I don’t like about my job”. Then start writing. Don’t stop until it covers all your likes and dislikes for your current job.
  • Be honest with yourself.
  • The more you try and pursued yourself there is nothing wrong with your current job your response will affect what your true objective is.

Review your answers, sort them and group them to work out what your objective is for your technical writer job search.

2.  Compensation

It is not all about the money. Or rather it’s not just the money,  it’s about the whole package.  Medical, dental, vacation time, sick time, work hours, work-from-home, available 401(k), 401(k) match, flexible benefits, life insurance, disability coverage, group legal plans, dedicated training or education funds, and yes, the actual financial compensation or salary are all just as important.

Every company has its own compensation mix, and every searcher his own priorities for what’s important. So you need to determine your answer to the question of what is right for you.  Is it a 401(k) match, more vacation time or a good medical/dental package as the family is going to be needing these benefits over next couple of years?

Remember, working in some industries, such as the government, often requires licenses or certifications, individual training and special clearance levels.  Are you required to pay for them or does your employer cover these expenses as part of your package?

Discuss your options and your preferences with  your significant other, including how you both think  the next couple of years should unfold, and determine your ideal compensation package.  Remember to think about the minimum requirements as well.  Be realistic on what’s the minimum salary and package you will settle for.  Maybe the matching of the 401(k) isn’t a deal breaker for your new job, but the medical and dental coverage for your family are.

3.  What motivates you?

Simple question but do you know the answer?

Before you start going down the rabbit hole trying to psychoanalyze when the last time you were motivated and why, take a test on The 5 Love Languages®.  The results will also benefit you in creating the right working environment as well as help in your job search.

Once you have determined if you respond to “Words of Affirmation,” “Gifts,” “Acts of Service,” “Quality Time,” or “Physical Touch,” you have your motivational answer.  For example, if you’re one of those individuals motivated by “Words of Affirmation,” you crave the accolades you receive when as a technical communicator when you roll out the new informational architecture across the company—on time and on budget.

Understanding how and what motivates you allows you to create your motivational framework and determine where you concentrate your job search. Do you select a role with a bonus, educational opportunities, or the chance to be “on stage” or publicly praised when the project goes well. If you hate being mentioned publicly, you should look for other motivators on a more subtle level.

4.  Ideal Company Culture

The culture of an organization has a significant impact upon your role, especially in technical communication.  If you have ever worked in an environment where backstabbing, second guessing and people screaming at each other is the norm you understand how your respond to this environment.  Some people may thrive and others want to go and hide underneath their desks or in the bathroom. Navigating the political landscape may mean avoiding confidential conversations with a fellow technical writer, or trusting only the members of your team. Refer back to your lists of  what you like and don’t like about your current job to honestly assess what kind of corporate culture will allow you to thrive.

Think about the attire of the office.  Is it strictly suits, smart/casual or jeans, and T-shirts? What clothes do you prefer to work in?  Are you more productive if you have a pair of jeans on with flip flops or does the formal nature of a suit jar you into a particular thought process?

Your ideal attire for the office aligns closely with the answer to the next question:  where are you working?  Are you working at home on your own hours;  in the office with an unusual shift (6am until 3pm); or working in the office whenever you want just as long as the work gets done? You know when you are most productive in your job (yes this can mean you need your three cups of coffee before anyone can talk to you) and when you should be in an office environment.

What other company traditions and perks would you prefer to have in your working world? Do you feel it is necessary to have company get-together with the family, free meals, holiday celebrations, access to coffee, Happy Hours, a company endorsed charity, a gym, access to a child care facility, on-site hair dresser, or a company song sung daily?

Have you finished compiling this list yet for your new job?  (Don’t you wish you put this information together for your current role?)


5.       Self Development

Some individuals are content to undertake the same tasks ever day, over and over again.

Many individuals are not content with routine and become bored quickly. And being bored means you become frustrated with your role, leading to a loss in job productivity and ultimately an unsatisfactory relationship with your job.

One way around this is to continually develop your skill base.  Because a company’s ethos towards career development impact the culture of the organization, you need to determine if your new job should be with a company with high employee engagement levels. Many top companies offer employee development programs, such as  having a university, a mentoring scheme, or a training program where funds are allocated on a per employee bases.  This simple investment in employee engagement can transform the company and create extraordinary satisfaction for employees.

Congratulations, after answering these questions you have devised the long version of your idea role profile. This information will be useful for your next round of job negotiations. Plus by finalizing your answers you can articulate what your next role looks like.

The final step is to summarize your answers into a 60 second speech.  Write a simple set of bullet points and then time how long it takes to say them.  Most important items go first (along with the reason why they are important). Practice a couple of times by yourself and then with friends and family.

Now, when you are next asked what your next job looks like you can answer with confidence and take the first step towards landing that new job!

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