News & Events
Resources & Links
Alumni Advice to Undergraduates
As part of an ongoing effort to prepare undergraduate
students for the workforce, the 2002-2003 office members organized a
"Technical Communication Careers Night" in the spring of 2003. Students
from MSU--as well as other area colleges--were invited to attend a panel
of graduate students, who had a variety of post-college experiences
relating to technical communication
The panel consisted of the following speakers who
chose one piece of advice to give to students:
"Take advantage of every opportunity you have to learn
software while you are still in school."
Susan (Mueller) Hamen
"Don't underestimate the importance of the
interview--your resume is only the first step. The real selling of
yourself comes when you have the chance to dazzle them face to face!"
"Try to get experience in your field while you are
still working on your degree. In the new job market, things are tight,
and having some experience under your belt is nearly essential. Also,
diversify yourself. Don't know just one thing really well. Know a number
of things really well, and be familiar with as many more as your brain can
Editing is great, but opinions are vast and everyone's
background is different. Compromise, correctness, and quality are keys.
In academia, the bottom line often gets forgotten; in business, it is
seldom not the top priority. So, be willing to swallow some pride, and
from time to time, some "standards."
"Be open to the possibilities that life has to offer.
Use your time in school to learn and practice as much as you can. After
graduation, be willing to be surprised by exactly where and how your
knowledge, skills, and efforts can be put to good use. "
"One of the best skills you can have is flexibility.
It seems as though the market today is working with fewer people than it
has in the past. Businesses need people who have a blend of skills and
who can do a variety of different types of jobs. From what I've seen,
those who can fit into a variety of roles are more often hired or
retained over those who specialize in only areas."
Tami was not able to attend as a speaker, but she also
offered her advice students:
Make sure your resume highlights your
professional skills (editor, web designer, lists of computer programs
you know) in a prominent place. Employers scanning through lots of
resumes want a quick snapshot of your skills before they look at your
specific employment/extracurricular experience. Highlight the
communication experience that each job has provided. Chances are that
you have more experience than you think. Have someone look over your
resume critically. Have them ask questions; frequently you will hear
yourself filling in the holes in your resume as you answer (when you
find holes, go back and revise; remember an employer's only impression
of you comes from your resume and they won't be calling you to ask for
clarification, especially if they've got 100 other resumes to look
through). A sad reality is that frequently campus experience and
graduate school experience does not necessarily count as job
experience to most employers. Work with what you have. It's ugly out
there. You have experience, but you may need to help employers see it
Keep track of extracurricular activities that
have anything to do with writing and design and translate it into
experience on a resume. Many jobs want people that have experience
creating training programs, Tutoring, Undergraduate Research
Conference experience, positions like Community Advisors, writing
instructions, can beef up experience on a resume. If you've edited
someone's thesis or designed a poster campaign take credit for it.
Be as flexible as you can. Convince
potential employers that technical writing is more than just writing
instructions. It's important to have wide variety of background. Most
employers want a candidate that has it all (editing skills, web
design, marketing, report writing, etc.). I've run into very few
positions that want writers that are specialized (the few positions
that are like this also want at least 5 years experience). You may
find that your qualifications match positions that are not classified
as technical writing. Apply, if you get the job you have that much
more experience to put on your resume.
Maintain a portfolio of all of your work.
It's important to have a selection of projects to choose from as you
go into interviews. Take some time to select the right projects for
the interview; read the position description to figure out what the
employer is looking for and then deliver it to them before they ask.
Networking works if you've already had a job in
the field. If you've made connections at conferences or with employers
that you've worked with before, then follow up. Networking does
not mean inundating human resource professionals with calls (this may
have the opposite effect you want it to in terms of getting a job). If
you went to an interview and came in number 2 (i.e. didn't get the
job), don't ask why just move on. The position has been filled, focus
your efforts on jobs that have not been filled.
Be patient. Job searching takes a lot of
time if done right. The better your application presentation, the more
likely you will get an interview. Better to tailor each cover
letter to the specifics in the job listing and send out fewer quality
applications than to send out the same cover letter in a mass mailing.
You will send out a lot of applications and get a lot of rejections.
Employers are rude. You may never hear if your application was
received, or the job was filled. I've been sent e-mail rejections
after face to face interviews. It may take you a while to land an
interview. You may need to take an interim job (like through a
temporary agency). Better to fill in with something than to look
unemployable because of a gap in your resume. Remember, if you land
your ideal job straight out of college you are one of the blessed few.
And finally, it is never to early to get
prepared. Start writing your resume and make sure to keep updating
it, build your portfolio, get involved in extracurricular activities
that will help you. Practice interviews. Look through newspapers and
the internet and get a sense of what types of job titles you should be
looking for. And take comfort that you are not alone in the job