Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Career Day Report

Our Sept. 29 Career Day was a great success! Held in a modern presentation hall at Seneca@York, attendees were treated to a wide variety of topics and speakers.

Self Directed Development
After chapter President Anna Parker Richards welcomed everyone, Milan Davidovic began the first presentation on Self Directed Development. This is the process by which we make ourselves into technical communicators, and then later "grow" that role.

Exploring the definitions of develop and directed, we see how self-directed learning is really about self-development and therefore requires knowledge of self. Development actions include asking questions when learning a new tool or subject. Note that the learning must be driven by you, not the other person. With a provocative quote from Stalin, “The writer is the engineer of the soul”, Milan explored the idea of manipulation and how writers can "manipulate" users for good, not just evil.

To grow in your profession, you need to question assumptions and established ideas. To keep your current job, you must meet expectations from customers, managers, and co-workers. However, these groups also have their own expectations that may relate to yours. The challenge is that people are not always honest about describing their expectations, so you need to confirm their answers, and find out how meeting your expectations serves these other people . Ask the classic "who, what, where, when, and how" questions. Think about yourself and your peers. Understand that questions are objects in development, and that they often lead to even more questions. Finally, it's important to understand that development is not a one-person show - you need to collaborate with others on your own development. In turn, you can help them with their growth.

Personal Branding
After a coffee and snack break, Michael Barwick led a lively presentation on Personal Branding. Michale noted that he was channeling Carloyn Watt, and using her slides. Carolyn asked Michael to present on her behalf and he did an outstanding job with tremendous energy.

All major corporations (such as Dell, IBM, Ford, and Apple) use branding to identify and distinguish themselves in the marketplace. Brands and logos can evoke a wide variety of emotions and reactions. But what exactly is a brand? Essentially, a brand is a set of promises that reflect your values. It's about hearing your customers describe you in the way you want to be remembered, and is therefore much more than simply a logo or slogan.

To develop your own brand, you have to ask yourself some tough questions. How do you want to be known? Are you reliable? Organized? Thoughtful? Honest? What are you core values? What do people say about you? What are the behaviours related to your brand? For example, if you call yourself reliable, a behaviour for this would be that you always deliver your documentation on time.

There are many aspects to a brand. Your organization drivers include your mission statement, representing your values and telling your story. Your brand drivers are your brand principle, personality, and associations with others. Your brand conveyors are the ways you communicate or position your brand: these include your resume, business card, and elevator pitch.

There are many tools for promoting yourself and your brand: your resume, articles, speeches, and volunteer work. Note that professionals are constantly developing, evolving and refining their brand; Madonna being an excellent example.

Remember that you control your brand. It's all about what you want others to think about you, and the promises you make. A brand is like an iceberg - it must be built from ground up.

Ultimately, a brand is about relationships and the hopes and dreams of your customers. It's not simply a set of problems to be managed. You must take great care not to damage your brand, because it is not just a separate part of you - it is you, a co-created reality, and it must be honest and authentic.

Job Hunting Secrets That Might Surprise You
After lunch, Jack Molisani gave a dynamic presentation on Job Hunting Secrets That Might Surprise You.

A resume is a vehicle that shows whether an applicant matches what the reader is looking for. Therefore, the reader must clearly be able to see that there is a match between the applicant and the job - that is the resume's one and only purpose. The scary truth is that most people only scan resumes; they usually don't read them in full. Also, people are never hired because of their resume; they are only rejected. The longer the resume, the greater chance of rejection, so be as brief as you can. The reader often has a short attention span; this is another reason to have a short resume, ideally two pages.

Managers often read only the first part of the resume: the summary. You must therefore have a detailed summary section with matching relevant information. Recruiters assume that you're not qualified for the job, so you must prove you are. The first page must show that you have what the reader is looking for. Companies want you to be doing what they want now, so your summary must show this.

Feel free to add to your job title if it more clearly indicates your duties, for example: Technical Writer/Courseware Developer. But remember that what you do is more important than your job title. Your stated accomplishments must therefore match what the company is looking for. Finally, you must have someone else review your resume - errors and improvements will always be found.

A cover letter has the same purpose as the resume: it shows how the job requirements match your experience, but in a brief list format. Include the cover page with the resume as one document; don't separate them into two. The first sentence of the cover letter must match the job.

To find out areas that may be hiring technical communicators, look at the industries that are hiring now or will be hiring in the future. These include health care and "green" jobs.

To sum up:
  • find out what the hirer is looking for and include that information
  • make sure this information is clear and easy to find
  • be brief
  • don't give people ammunition to reject you
  • make sure your accomplishments appear early on
  • keep what works, discard what doesn't
What Makes an Excellent Résumé?
Finally, Pamela Paterson gave the final presentation on What Makes an Excellent Résumé? She discussed interviewing strategies, explored ways to set your resume apart and ensure that it will float to the top of all human resources filters both online and offline, starting us off with an important note for the day, "Always use your own judgment, take what is relevant to you, and leave the rest."

As a recognized senior member of the STC Toronto community, Pamela has helped many tech writers with career coaching and resume reviewing, and has gleaned a lot of experience in the craft of resume writing. Her workshop reminded us all that our resumes are like any other document we write in that it must focus on a specific target audience. One resume does not fit all; it must be modified for each job opportunity.

Pamela took us through examples of targeted writing and had us working in groups to review each other's resumes. At the end of the day, Pamela left us with the following nugget of wisdom, "Using the most appropriate and strategic words in your resume - for your goals and audience - is your best change at getting an interview. If you market to everybody, you are marketing to nobody. You need focus.

Anna closed out the day with a thank you to everyone in attendance.