Tips on finding technical writing work in Australia

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A fellow tech writer (with some experience as a TW overseas) mailed me yesterday:

I have read your blog and your profile and I am very interested in your career development.
I am a new migrant in Australia and now I am looking for a technical writer position.
I am frustrated that I got few responses for my application. Can you give me some suggestions on how to hunt a technical writer job here in Australia?

Over the last few months, a number of other fellow tech writers (migrants and aspirants) have contacted me about sharing tips on finding technical writing work in Australia.

Australia’s market for technical writers is relatively small compared to that in US, UK or Europe. As a result, many technical writers in Australia often know each other, either through forums/mailing lists or by working with each other.

Being in a position of having to go through the whole apply-interview-secure contract cycle every few months, I thought this was a good time to share my experiences (and a few things I’ve done) which has landed me some good tech writing work.

Note: I suppose these tips could apply to anyone looking for technical writing work in the world, but I’ve only stated my specific experiences here.

Network

Much as it sounds trivial and a part of common sense, it is important to build a network of other technical writers, recruitment agencies and as many people as you can who work in IT teams. Of late, I’ve discovered my chances of hearing or finding about tech writing work has vastly improved through the network. Often, I’ve heard about a role or potential opportunity because people in my network let me know if they hear anything. Agencies have often called me before the role has been officially published online through their channels. I reckon you stand a better chance if you have the first-mover advantage in such cases.

A lot of tech writers are actively using Linkedin and other popular media for getting in touch and sharing their stories. I’ve used Linkedin for communicating with other writers that I haven’t met before and they have all been very encouraging in their responses.

Approach

For 3 jobs out of the last 5 jobs, including my current one, I felt I stood a better chance at succeeding while presenting myself to the clients directly, rather than through recruiters. Of course, you can’t control how the jobs are advertised, but if you have a strong network, you may often hear about tech writing work, much before recruiters get into the picture.

I do not have anything recruiters. In fact, 2 of the other contracts I’ve successfully completed, was working with some excellent recruiters. My only gripe is against recruitment agencies that are so far removed from understanding what a technical writer does; it does not help your cause. This ignorance, I’ve felt, has often jeopardised my chances because the recruiter was unable to present my skills and what I brought to the role sufficiently.

Majority of the jobs are advertised via Seek, Careerone or Mycareer, but I’ve found indeed.com and Linkedin equally useful in looking for potential opportunities.

Customise

Again, common sense to have your Resume and/or Cover Letter customised to fit the requirements of the role. No point highlighting your application-specific experience, when the role demands more analytical, information gathering and business skills. In my opinion, a good technical writer should be able to use words effectively to customise a document according to the user needs. This is no different. If your Resume/Cover Letter can impress the client/customer, you stand a far better chance to at least getting an interview.

Demonstrate

I carry a combination of a CD (work samples) and hardcopy technical documentation to all my interviews. I used to lug around a laptop, but even the best technology fails at the most crucial of times, hence I switched to a medium that was not time and technology dependant. I can show a couple of work samples in a hard copy format, but also can choose to leave a CD (if the client wants) showing samples of my previous work. Most of these samples have been redacted for private and company-sensitive information, and often only contain snippets and random pages, but show enough of my skills with technical documentation.

Study the market

Even while I am working on a contract, I tend to keep an eye out on potential roles coming into the market. Not only does it keep me updated, it also helps to know the kind of roles and timing around when they get advertised. More often than not, I’ve seen similar kind of roles been advertised around the same time each year, definitely indicating a pattern of work. For example, around financial year, a lot of roles come up, mostly around documenting processes for organisations.

The last few years have been tough. I haven’t seen the same amount of technical writing work come into the market as last year or the year before that. A few recruiters that I spoke to recently confirmed this. A lot of the tech writing work is currently outsourced to India. Fellow tech writers from my network have commented on this, but the fact is, there simply do not seem to be enough new tech writing jobs coming through, not regularly anyway.

How are other technical writers looking for work? Have I missed anything that is important?Would love to hear your thoughts.

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