Posts Tagged 'career advice'

FSBO: Selling Yourself with a Free Personal Website


Things are looking up for tech writers. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts an above average growth trend for technical communicator positions nationally. Despite the good news, many of us still face a competitive and often frustrating job hunt. We mine through job postings, submit cover letters and resumes, attend job fairs, and meet with college career counselors. Yet, we still cannot land that dream job. What’s missing? How can we get a competitive edge?

More and more people are discussing the benefits of having a personal website while searching for a job. Forbes staff writer Jacquelyn Smith believes that personal websites are now crucial resources for the job hunter. She finds that a majority of “hiring managers are more impressed by a candidate’s personal website than any other personal branding tool.” Yet, only a small minority of job hunters actually has one. Considering this increased interest by hiring professionals, job seeking technical communicators, always mindful of their audience, should give hiring personnel what they want.

WWWThe personal website becomes a single dwelling that houses all the relevant information necessary to evaluate the prospective employee. Smith provides a list and explanation of the necessary requirements to promote your qualifications, which includes both traditional forms, like resume and writings samples, and more innovative forms, like links to blogs and multimedia. Including links to your works published online gives employers a sense of your capacity to write in multiple genres.

For the tech writer, the personal website becomes an online portfolio. Portable and easily updated, the online portfolio provides human resources personnel an opportunity to review functional examples of your work prior to an interview. Tom Johnson suggests including a “quick reference guide, a user guide, online help file, video tutorial, newsletter article, release note, magazine article, and any other format you can think of.” Experienced tech writers can be discriminating in what to place on the site. Students with limited samples should put what they have available and create samples of other genres. Examples should highlight your diverse skills and demonstrate your ability to communicate persuasively in a sophisticated, relevant, and technically savvy manner.

If you remain reluctant, thinking that perhaps it is too expensive to launch this innovative job hunt tool … DON’T.

A personal website designed to market yourself as technical communicator par excellence does not require a domain name or expensive hosting. Rather, you can easily create a personal website through various do-it-yourself website builders at no cost. Beautifullife offers a comparison of the top fifteen free website builders and their basic features. Among those making the list, I personally reviewed Wix, Doodlekit, and Moonfruit and found each user-friendly, requiring no coding knowledge whatsoever. All three provide user support to set up and maintain the website. Wix and Moonfruit offer video tutorials, as well as help forums to assist users in the website development. Doodlekit offers a more limited help page through a support forum. Each of these website builders provides various template designs to create the job hunter’s professional online image and to house the owner’s sample work and credential information. Wix, however, offers the most variation and sophistication in its gratis offerings.

One notable absence from Beautifullife’s listing, which reviewers note, is Google Sites. Google Sites allows those Google Gmail account holders to create multiple, individual websites – something the other three sites do not allow without a charge. Google SitesMore streamlined than Wix, Doodlekit, or Moonfruit, Google Sites can still generate an aesthetically pleasing self-marketing website through its dozens of templates. Like other website builders, Google Sites offers step-by-step instructions and includes links to video tutorials on YouTube. Easy to use and effective for creating an individual’s basic personal website, Google Sites may serve all the functions you need. One downside of Google Sites, however, is the limitation of situating images on the pages. For the job hunter wanting to include images on the personal website, Wix, Doodlekit, and Moonfruit allow greater maneuverability.

Using one of these free website builders not only saves you money, but it also allows you to emphasize your technical communication skills through creative and effective design. Technical communicators, more than most other professionals, benefit from this novel means of presentation because the website itself becomes an example of their work and, if done effectively, should make the sale.

-Val Mullaley


What is at Stake in Social Networking? Your Job.

A decade ago, I lost my job at a company I had been at for a number of years because of a questionable post I made online that indicated I had not so friendly feelings for “the ole boss lady.”

Back in 2007, a couple of reporters from The Columbus Dispatch surveyed a number of Ohio teacher’s profiles and also provided snippets of their posts and descriptions.  In a side bar, they also recounted the tale of 4 teachers who had been “reprimanded, resigned, or lost their licenses because of email, IM, chat, online gaming, text, blogs or postings involving students” (Maranto and Baron 36-37).

Recently, the National Labor Relations Board reviewed 129 cases involving social media in someway, where they have found that the crux of the legal issue resulted with an employer unlawfully discharging or reprimanding an employee on the grounds of social networking misuse.

Here are the two links to the archived articles from The Columbus Dispatch and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Survey:

U.S. Chamber of Commerce, A Survey of Social Media Issues Before the NLRB: issues-nlrb

Consider also that a year ago, while I was working for a background screening company, I learned it was not uncommon for human resource managers to search the web for additional background information on potential candidates.  They were trying to discover what their extracurricular activities included: the results ran the gamut, from drunken sprees and skinny dipping to squeaky clean photos at fund raising events or weddings.

So what is at stake in social networking?  The quick answer is obviously reputation.  Another answer?  Your job.

My company chose to terminate my employment because of the potential readers in my network, citing that it would reflect poorly on them to have someone like me on their payroll.  Someone like me?  Who exactly am I to them?  A dissident?  A slacker?  Possibly.  The possible interpretation by others was a very real threat and potentially damaging to their reputation as an employer.  Thanks to my ruminations on “the ole boss lady,” I wrote my way to the unemployment office.

Two things were happening here: 1) My virtual identity was no longer a free agent and 2) the information on my chosen social networking site was no longer just an update among friends.  It was public domain and my employer was monitoring the site.

That revelation seems so obvious.  So why do people continue to risk their reputation by posting questionable or inappropriate material?  There is no easy or fast answer – people make mistakes, but I suggest the very structure of the site we find ourselves on influences our attitudes about the things we post.  When we sign up for Facebook, it asks a host of categorical questions in order to network you to others like you.  What music do you like?  What books do you read?  Where do you live?  All of these personal questions, lull the applicant into forgetting that this site is public, public, public – but once you have 200 plus friends, who can remember if their old boss or coworker is a “friend?”

What all of this boils down to is intention.  Did I intend to mar the corporate image of my company and disrespect my boss or did I intend to sound cool to my friends?  As a student, as a teacher, as a technical communicator, it is important to keep in mind your purpose and your audience– just as you would when you are speaking or writing at school, in the classroom as a teacher, or at work in a corporate environment.  What’s critical here is not only your self image displayed online, but also the many social spheres your image is tied to.  For instance, many corporations now have social media policy that asks you to be yourself, but to be mindful that you are also a company representative.

As a teacher, the online world can be perilous.  On one hand, networking with students can be a fantastic opportunity to become a virtual representative of and for the interactive classroom.  On the other, it could simultaneously undercut ethos and authority, opening the possibility of seeing students as “friends.”  The online world may behave differently, with its fast moving bits and clips, but the reputation you build for yourself through dialogue is the same – keep it clean, positive, and professional – and your social network won’t get you into trouble.  Post like your mom is reading every word you type.

On the flip-side, even if you do have a horrible interview because human resources found some pictures of you doing a keg stand in college, there’s probably still a friend on Facebook that can help you find a lead elsewhere.

Want a refresher?  Check out this Toshiba sponsored YouTube clip for Do’s and Don’ts of social networking.

Rachel C.

Lessons from Technical Communicators

Rahal Prabhaker offers the top 10 lessons he’s learned as a technical communicator. Meanwhile, freelancer Will Kelly provides some quick thoughts on lessons he’s learned by freelance writing.

Advice for Technical Writing Students

The blog I’d Rather Be Writing recently posted some feedback to a graduate student interested in technical writing. The responses are collaborative, so there are interesting insights in the comments section as well (until it gets off track with a tangent about moving to Utah).