I think, as with many fields that rely on experience more than education, technical writing is a very tough field to break into. In fact any writing field is a tough field to break into. Why? Because you have to prove yourself and get solid writing experience before someone wants to hire you, but then you often need someone to hire you in order to get published.
I broke into technical writing by accident. I started as a project administrator in an IT department. They asked me to edit some documents because I had an English degree, and they loved my work. Before I knew it I was the new technical writer. Then I was managing technical publications and entire help systems, and localizing documents for clients all over the globe.
I think a good way to break into the field is to get on with an IT company. Even if it’s just in an administrative role. You can get a feel for the products, try to learn more, and then ask to edit some documents or to participate in some projects. It’s a good way to demonstrate your abilities and to absorb skills from the pros.
Ask questions. Ask how they create documents. Ask for suggestions about how to write more effectively. I have used this technique to move from technical to marketing communications. It shows you are interested, and usually people are happy to share knowledge.
And remember, most companies would be happy to give you extra work if you ask for it and if they think you are qualified. Don’t forget that. They get more bang for their buck if there is one person doing multiple jobs.
I successfully asked for, and took on, marketing projects alongside my technical writing projects because I wanted the experience and to learn the field. These skills propelled me forward and allowed me to expand my career even further.
Final thought: if you find yourself stuck and stagnant in your job, keep it moving. Especially if you receive good feedback from colleagues about your writing but the company won’t let you move forward. Find a new company that will. Sometimes managers will peg you in a job because it’s cheaper for them to keep you there, or because they think you are very skilled at it (even if you are trying to move elsewhere).
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