My sister has decided to take up a full time career in technical writing. She is good in English and was a science student in her postgrad. What does she need to do?The following paragraphs contain what I recollect of my answer to my friend's query.
She could probably start applying for jobs (Naukri, Monster etc. are good sites, and so are TW-dedicated sites such as TWIN). At this point of time, the "good" companies may not want to hire a fresher, but after a year's experience, changing jobs should not be a problem. Some of the prospective employers may ask for writing samples - your sister could consider writing any or some of the following:
- A How-to describing a small feature in some software she is familiar with; for example, How to create pivot tables in MS Excel. This serves as a sample for a user manual.
- A How-to describing the install procedure of some software that she's used; for example, How to download and install the OpenOffice suite. This serves as a sample for an install guide.
- A How-to describing the steps for doing something she may be doing regularly; for example, how to clean the spark plug of a motor cycle. This, again, could be a sample for a user manual.
- A white paper for a business scenario (for example, whether or not Company X should enter into the business of virtual worlds). This, besides being a sample white paper, doubles up as a sample for other marketing collateral that tech writers are sometimes asked to create. And also showcases skills such as the ability to research, sift out useful data, analyse them, and organise the stuff into a coherent argument.
- Authoring tool: OpenOffice Writer (is similar to MS Word)
- Help compilation tool: MS HTML Help Workshop (is similar to Adobe's RoboHelp)
- Image editing tools: The PrtScr button on the keyboard plus MS Paint. MS Paint is not a freeware, but it comes bundled with the Windows OS...
Some of the other things that one may be asked about in interviews are: structured authoring, DITA, XML. Your sister can read up on these things (Wikipedia is a good place to start).
Additionally, I found these to be useful:
- Wandering around at sourceforge.net, looking for "help wanted" for documentation, and volunteeriing. This is non-paid work but it showcases several things; such as your ability to interact with a remote developer, your ability to understand a piece of software as it develops and write about it, your interest in and commitment to the TW profession, etc.
- Reading Peter Grainge's site: http://www.grainge.org/
- Joining TW mailing lists such as the TWIN mailing list and TechWrl.