RE: Internships (was: Breaking into the tech writing job market)

Subject: RE: Internships (was: Breaking into the tech writing job market)
From: <j-m -at- creativeoptions -dot- com>
To: "'Jones, Donna'" <DJones -at- zebra -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 9 Aug 2006 13:44:05 -0500


I'm also in Chicago at the moment -- began my career as writer here back in
the late 60s. I think you raise an interesting facet of this discussion.

In my case, I started as a cub in a local newspaper...walked in off the
street and told the publisher "I want you to teach me everything you know
about journalism and publishing". I started out a proofreader and advanced
quickly into editorial, reporting, assistant editor. From there I advanced
step by step through all sorts of positions in corporations and freelancing.
I taught myself desktop publishing and grew with the Internet out of
Electronic Bulletin Boards. Meanwhile, I got a degree in Business

The break into technical writing came after a year working on the help desk
for a major computer company, learning to troubleshoot their hardware,
software and web service. Then, I went back to a software company and
essentially said the same thing...I'm at this point, I want to grow in this
direction." This was just the beginning. It began a life of excessively long
hours and continued self education which has become a way of life. (I think
most aspiring technical writers don't understand - it's a great life to
aspire to but not an end. It's just the beginning of your education and
countless long challenging hours to keep yourself up-to-speed with your
industry. Not only are you called on to learn how to simplify highly complex
concepts into plain English that can't be mis-understood but you must
constantly upgrade your technical skills and ability to use and troubleshoot
ever evolving tools of the trade.)

I have serious problems with advice being given to writers that they should
take whatever volunteer work, unpaid gigs and internships they can find. I
think this is skewing the market. There are thousands of wanna-bee writers
out there who will do anything to get their name/work into print. And, the
industry is playing on this big time. Hence, we're seeing a serious
degradation of our role. This is what's fueling the concept that any
secretary can create a website, a newsletter, a book, etc. etc.

More than that, we do beginners a disservice with this advice. Once you've
entered the market as cheap labor, you play heck trying to rise above that.
But that's a whole 'nother issue and you don't want to get me started on it.

Rather, I suggest a person develop a skill set at some level of proficiency
and start stretching it by stepping into work that challenges those limits
-- then work like the devil to exceed expectations.



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Internships (was: Breaking into the tech writing job market): From: Jones, Donna

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