STC’s Career Day on May 19th was a great way to get help planning a career in tech comm or to jumpstart a job search.

On a rainy Saturday morning, ten of us gathered in the conference room at Extreme Networks in Morrisville. After chatting over coffee and breakfast, we got to know a little about each person’s background. From recent graduates, to career-changers, to experienced technical communicators, we were brought together by a desire to grow in this versatile and constantly changing field.

The Career (Presentation Slides)

President Guiseppe Getto shared his knowledge about content strategy and how it is changing technical communication. With a growing emphasis on usability, the job description of a technical communicator is constantly broadening. You may find yourself using Moz to improve your company’s search engine optimization, working with marketing to create a unifying theme across the brand, or tracking content on a user-facing wiki. Guiseppe showed us how far we’ve come from the traditional user manual that lands on the table with a thud. Now users are collaborating to create their own guides and tutorials on websites like iFixit. 

Now that we were caught up on the latest changes, we were ready to start working on our resumes!

The Resume (Presentation Slides)

The resume is the first work sample an employer sees. With Christina Mayr’s advice, you can hook them, so they’ll want to see more.

Christina offered us a practical roadmap to writing a resume. Start by building your own template. Showing that you’ve mastered Styles in MS Word will impress the hiring manager. Keep it simple (no more than 2 fonts) and keep it brief (no more than two pages).

To outshine the competition, tailor your resume for each job listing. Christina’s color-coded method of highlighting a job listing is a great way to narrow down the most important information. Take these keywords, skills, and job requirements and use them to customize your resume. Make the dreaded cover letter easier with this mantra in mind: Why this job? Why this company? Why you?

Feel like you must meet all the qualifications to apply for a job? If you meet 75% or more, go for it. Be sure to show you have experience (whether paid or not), make your accomplishments quantifiable, and show evidence that you’re a lifelong learner. Those $10 Udemy classes count too!

The Job Search (Presentation Slides)

Jonah Schwartz’s presentation reminded us that the struggle is real, but the solution is to keep a schedule and stay focused on your goal. He sees the job search process as a cycle that repeats itself until you land that job. Find the job, create the resume, follow-up, repeat. His presentation stressed that networking is key. Getting in front of people at networking events, job fairs, and STC events is critical to your success. His hack for phone interviews? Dress in your interview clothes. It will help put you in the right frame of mind.

The Interview (Presentation Slides)

After tailoring your resume to the job listing, you’re ready to start getting interview requests. Sree Pattabiraman shared advice for getting ready for and acing interviews.

Sree urged us to begin creating a variety of portfolio pieces. Perhaps a Quick Reference Guide in Adobe Framemaker, a tutorial in Camtasia Studio, and a documentation plan to show that you know how to plan a project from start to finish and meet deadlines. Start small and keep adding.

While you’re waiting for that call back, keep busy. Don’t have work samples in a tool mentioned in the job description? Why not create one now? Even if you don’t get a call back, you are building your portfolio. And if you do get a call back, you will have a work sample to bolster your case when you sit down for the interview.

Once you get a bite on a job, now it’s time to go through the rounds of interviews. Interview prep is key. Get ready to talk about how you handled a challenging project. Prepare to discuss a project scenario in which you devise a content strategy. Finally, be sure to research the salary for the position before negotiating with HR. STC members can use the Salary Database for help.

At the end of the day, it was time for one-on-one resume guidance. With all our new knowledge in mind, tackling that resume felt a little bit easier. As we left that Saturday afternoon, we each gained some new knowledge to take us to the next step. We all know it can be a long road to clinch a dream job in tech comm. We all have different goals. But with guidance from the STC team, we could feel more confident about the path forward.

Event Recap contributed by Jennifer Tse. Jennifer is an active member and volunteer at the STC Carolina Chapter.

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Jennifer Tse