Meetings: Who You Know Can Be As Important As What You Know

During my career as both a contract and a permanent Technical Writer, I have gotten much of the information that has led to my being hired because of my relationships with other technical writers. Notice that I did not say contacts, I said relationships, because most of those who gave me information about employers were people I had been acquainted with for a significant period of time. And, by maintaining relationships with technical writers and other professionals, I not only learned where to work, but where not to work.

An STC meeting provides one of the best opportunities to meet and get acquainted with an entire roomful of technical writers at a time. Yet despite the opportunities to meet technical writers, speakers and guests that STC meetings provide, only a relatively small percentage of STC members come to even one STC meeting a year. And some members do not make their e-mail or telephone number available to the rest of the membership. How can anyone be known to their peers when they choose to be almost invisible? And how can you be invisible and still be hired by a good employer? Do most STC members just want subscriptions to STC publications for their membership dollars?

Other members attend meetings only when unemployed, and then stop attending when a job opportunity presents itself. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get job leads and recommendations from people you have known for a short time. People feel comfortable recommending people they know, and the most desirable employers hire more than 50% of their employees through referrals.

While you are waiting for a good job opportunity to come along, meetings give you a chance to upgrade your skills by learning from your fellow writers and guest speakers, often while enjoying a good meal.

And how much do you pay for an STC meeting, you ask? Usually less than you would pay for a meal at a good restaurant. Local chapters often charge so little that they break even or lose money each time that they hold a meeting.

Networking is is the topic that I have been alluding to in this editorial. It is a social skill that we already use as we go about our daily activities, and it can improve our job prospects, our job security, and ensure our social survival. To learn more about networking, refer to the resources listed in Networking, Virtual Networking and LinkedIn.

This entry was adapted from my lead editorial in the September/October 2006 issue of the Baltimore STC’s Chesapeake Bayline.

About the Author

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Hugh has worked for a wide range of high technology companies, both large and small, in the Baltimore-Washington area as both a permanent and a contract employee. He specializes in writing about electronics hardware and computer software, and he has an M.S. in Computer Science from The Johns Hopkins University. He is an Advanced Class Radio Amateur.