Career options: Technical writing
Let's explore this career area in technical communication with a typical job description.
The Society for Technical Communication defines technical communication very broadly. According to STC, technical communication can encompass one or more of the following general descriptions:
Communicating about technical or specialized topics, such as computer applications, medical procedures, or environmental regulations.
Communicating by using technology, such as web pages, help files, or social media sites.
Providing instructions about how to do something, regardless of how technical the task is or even if technology is used to create or distribute that communication.
There are lots of available career paths to someone in "technical communication," including technical writer, technical editor, web content creator, information architect, visual designer, and more.
Let's explore one possible career area in technical communication: Technical Writer. We compared several job postings for a technical writer on job sites like Indeed. Every employer has their own needs and may ask for specific skills, but the core attributes of the "technical writer" position remain very similar.
Here is a synthesis of several "technical writer" positions found online. We've changed the specifics of the position and have rewritten the required skills, but we feel confident this represents a wide sample of a typical technical writer job posting:
The organization runs operations across national/international locations. Our product group includes the onsite/remote support of back-office enterprise technology solutions such as software, servers, storage, and networks.
This support requires excellent written documentation. Our organization is looking to update/rewrite standard operating procedures and other internal documentation to streamline operations.
Responsibilities of this technical writer position:
Review current documentation from support team
Review documentation from affiliated teams (such as other support groups inside our organization)
Work with knowledge owners to fully understand the operations and controls
Develop new standard operating procedures and documentation
Review updated materials with business owners, update and post internally
While this job description is fictional, it is based on actual job postings we found online for technical writers. Core skills for a position like this include technical writing, editing for grammar and style, and document design.
While the technical writing and collaboration platforms are not specified in the job description, tools could include Microsoft Office, Google Docs, Markdown, and GitHub - depending on the organization. For example, engineering firms that also do software development are more likely to use an enterprise subscription to a code sharing platform like GitHub.
To successfully apply for such a position, we recommend sharing writing samples using a personal profile website. If you do not have a profile website, update your LinkedIn profile with several sample documents.
Candidates for a technical writer position like this will be evaluated on their writing skill - it is a core part of the position. So provide the writing samples up front. Writing samples should be professional and oriented towards the career field you are applying to.
Also consider including "how-to" articles in your writing samples. Notice that this sample job description indicates the organization is updating their standard operating procedures. These procedural documents are based around how to do something, so providing sample "how-to" articles can help you stand out.