look-at How to transition into technical writing

Technical communication is an exciting career opportunity for everyone.

Right now, technical writers are in demand. Yes, there’s some concern about generative AI like ChatGPT “taking our jobs,” but at the end of the day, generative AI can really only write about what’s already been written. ChatGPT isn’t able to take the leap to write a technical document like a How-to or Technical Description or Instructions Document or Usability Test about something new. For that, we still need professional technical writers.

Positioning yourself for a career change

Technical communication is open to everyone who can do technical writing, technical editing, usability testing, web SEO, or any other of dozens of roles under the “technical communicator” umbrella. While a degree in technical communication certainly helps, there are other ways to position your resume to help you transition into technical communication - even if your background is quite different.

For example, let’s say your professional background is “business analyst” for a large company. In that role, you help project managers and business owners analyze processes and projects to identify how to streamline the work or realize savings. Your resume could look something like this:


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Omni Company

Business Analyst2015–present

Research business processes, identify requirements, document stakeholder needs. Coordinate with project management office and business development teams.

Selected Achievements

  • $1.2 million in support costs slashed by creating strategic sourcing model for desktops, laptops, and servers.
  • $101,500 in savings captured by assisting a department in consolidating three support units.
  • $38,400 reduction in annual infrastructure costs by centralizing and outsourcing web hosting functions.


University of Wisconsin, River Falls

BS, Mathematics (2015)

A sample resume

Initially, that may not appear to be a strong candidate for a technical writer role. But consider these strategies to strengthen your resume:

1. Write a brief statement about your career intentions

If your previous roles don’t match up well with a “technical writer” trajectory, highlight this for any hiring managers or HR directors who will read your resume. Research by Indeed shows that potential employers review resumes for only six to seven seconds before moving to the next one. (Other research shows similar timeframes.) That’s not a lot of time to make an impression.

If your resume doesn’t look like what they expect for a technical writer, a busy recruiter may simply assume your resume was included accidentally in the applicants for a technical communicator role. Placing a career statement up front helps managers to see you as someone who wants to transition their career into technical writing.

This career statement should be brief, no more than one or two sentences, not a story. On the page, this should be no more than two lines long.

2. Identify your technical writing contributions outside of work

Have you written articles for journals, magazines, or websites? Consider including a “Selected Publications” section on your resume, or a “Related Work” section, to highlight any articles or book chapters you have written. Like the rest of your resume, these should be written in reverse chronological order, so the most recent contributions are listed first.

Avoid the temptation to stuff this list with everything you may have written, for all time. Limit it to just the articles you’ve written in the last year, and no more than five. Because of the limited attention span of anyone reading your resume, you need this to be a short and “grabby” list of articles, so make the list as strong as you can. For example, if you write articles on the side - such as “how-to” items for Technically We Write or leadership and management articles for Coaching Buttons - you might identify just five of your most popular articles. If you share these articles on social media, sites like LinkedIn can show you how many “impressions” or “views” your posts made. Keep track of the most popular articles so you can list them on your resume.

3. Move your Education to the top if you’ve taken technical writing classes

Your undergraduate degree might be in a field unrelated to technical communication - but that’s not the end of your education journey. Many folks who want to transition their career into technical writing take classes, workshops, training, or enter a certificate program to help them gain the skills that will help them become a successful technical writer.

If you’ve taken any classes or training about technical communication, move those up front on your resume so they get noticed. If you are currently in a program and haven’t yet graduated, include your expected graduation date. However, don’t include GPA unless the job posting asks for it. Most hiring managers and recruiters focus on the degree, not the grades.