Preparing for Your Dream Job: The Work Before You Work

With graduation looming just around the corner, are you ready to enter the “real world” and put your skills to work? The first thing you will learn in attempting to enter the workforce is that the number one tool in your arsenal is your résumé. That document that you have worked on draft after draft in class is the key to getting in the door to your dream job. Or, more precisely, any job. Let’s face it; the job market is only now starting to improve. Most graduates will still have trouble in realizing their dreams of fruitful employment right out of the gate. It is up to the grad to start working for the jobs he/she wants to get. Here is where to start:

Résumé Wrangling

Take another look at your résumé. Yes, another one. Did you find any of these problems? How about these? They may seem obvious, but I can just about guarantee that you have at least one on your résumé right now. What about the things that may be missing from your résumé?  Have you listed all of your relevant skills (tailored to the job you are applying to, of course)? Speaking of showing relevance, these skills will keep you from sounding like every other job seeker and help you stand out from the crowd. If you need further advice on your résumé, you could always post it on a blog or forum for feedback. I recommend, however, that you have a healthy sense of self-esteem if you choose to do this.

The Great Job Search

Technical communication is a growing field. That is good news both in the United States and abroad. So where are all the jobs? Well, you can look here. And here. And here. And here. And, if you are into nuclear weapons, here. Just be prepared to do lots of research and a significant amount of cover letter writing. Consider it “before-the-job” training. Become a member the STC (Society for Technical Communication) and make full use of their employment resources. Remember to network through the Career Center at EWU and to keep in touch with your classmates. You never know when you can help each other in the future.

Interview Prep and Portfolio

Your resume is now perfected, you applied for THE job… and you scored an interview! Now what?! You must prepare. It’s as basic as practicing for a college presentation, only the topic is you and why you are a good candidate for the job. This is your chance to put your skills and your well-crafted portfolio to the test. And, at the end, ask the right questions.


Congratulations! You’ve been offered the job! Now for the question that they won’t ask you: what are you worth? Salary negotiations can be a tricky thing; but, just like the interview process, there is preparation that you can do to make sure that you get the most for your hard work. The best place to look for current salaries by field is the Washington State Employment Security Department’s Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates site. For example, the 2011 report shows that there are 44 tech writers in the Spokane area making an average of $25.45/hr. In Seattle, this number jumps to 1,216 tech writers making $40.47/hr. It pays to know your market!

On the Job

Now to get the job done. You are ready to start writing, only to realize that you know very little about the topic you have been assigned. While there is always Google, your best resource will always be the experts that you work with every day. These subject-matter experts (SMEs) are your ticket to understanding the technical jargon and instructions that you will be deciphering for the product audience. Working with SMEs can be a challenge; however, there are lots of online resources to help you learn to work with them successfully and management should also be available to assist in working out any departmental issues.

Get Going!

So, now you know the basics, you are ready to prepare, and you hold your future success in your hands…are you ready? Good luck!


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