Vol 44, Issue 4

March/April 2005

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Networking Works

by Charlotte A. Hoaks, Technical Writer, JDA Consulting

Today's job market demands that job seekers be creative and have an edge. The Internet and newspapers offer a limited number of job openings. If you have exhausted those openings to no avail, there is another opportunity: networking.

We've all heard the word, networking. But how do you apply it to your specific situation? Simple. Tell everyone you meet that you're looking for a job. That's networking.

Don't beg for a job. “Desperately Seeking” may work for Susan but not for job searching. Being upbeat and just sharing or gathering information is the key.

This past year I spent several months applying for technical writing positions, to no avail. My working career has been divided between computer-aided drafting for the engineering industry and technical writing. Working in the engineering industry provided lots of opportunities to write, in addition to maintaining skills in the latest CADD technology.

Despite my crossover proficiency, writing was seldom my primary function, which left prospective employers questioning my suitability for a dedicated writing position. For the right job I have great credentials, but finding that position has proved to be a challenge.

That's where networking came in. I had mentioned my lack of employment at a church function and someone sent me the STC link, suggesting that I look into the group. I attended the STC Houston meeting in September. This was the first networking link to my current writing position.

At the STC meeting I met a writer who was leaving her job. We visited, and she shared background information about the position she was leaving (my second networking link).

A contractor called about the soon-to-be-vacated position (the third networking link—I was referred to him by a fellow writer who knew I was job searching).

I can attribute networking to one more step by adding that I worked with one of the interviewers and he “put in a good word” (my fourth networking link).

Add to that the specific information that helped me gauge my interviewing comments to better fit the job from visiting with the writer at the STC meeting, and I was employed by October 1st. Take out a single contact, and I would still be looking for a job.

If you're job-searching, talk to everyone you meet about your job search and your expertise. Don't be afraid to share your needs; people love helping. It's in our nature. Be friendly. Don't whine or complain about the situation, just share information.

Never ask for a job outright or put the person you're talking to on the spot. Even if he's president of the company, it won't happen. He'll refer you to Human Resources and avoid you like the plague in the future.

These types of questions will get you information: Have you heard of any large writing projects at You-name-it Company? Is your company hiring additional writers at this time? Does your company use writers? Does your company have an information development department?

Carry business cards, and don't be afraid to give them to people you meet. (Be sure to put on the card that you're a writer.) The person that you give the card to may not be able to help that week but in two weeks may be required to find a writer or may talk to someone who was assigned the task. It would be disheartening to hear later that because someone couldn't remember your name you lost out on an opportunity.

Another unique approach to job searching that I gleaned from my first STC meeting was the use of a “T-letter.” Resumes are a necessary tool, but prospective employers have to read through lots of information to see if your skills match their needs. The T-letter provides the information that the employer needs in an easy-to-read format. I used networking to get my current position but received several calls as a result of the T-letters that I sent out.

Networking was the key. I may not have found the perfect job, but my current position is a step in the right direction while I look for that elusive “ideal” job.

Sample T-Letter

Provided by Terry Devlin, BH Careers, at the Employment STK

The “T” format provides an easy key to the information on your resume, allowing the employer to see at a glance how well qualified you are.

Terry recommends that you always use a T-cover-letter for your resume when you respond to a job listing.

Dear Mr. Freeman:

I am sending this letter in response to your search for a Flooring Sales Manager.

I have more than ten years of experience in the industrial coatings field, with heavy emphasis on concrete protection in the chemical, food, water processing, manufacturing, storage, and automotive industries. I have worked closely with engineering firms, “specing” my products to projects, and have developed strong relationships with numerous contractors in the Texas-Oklahoma area.

I have taken the liberty of matching my qualifications to the job requirements below for your review.


My Qualifications

A proven track record of sales success.

More than 16 years of successful technical sales experience.

The ability to evaluate a market and develop a business plan.

Exceptional analytical skills and highly experienced at evaluating customer needs.
Involved in numerous new product rollouts.
Proven ability to develop marketing plans.
Experienced in market penetration strategies and market share improvement plans.

Capability to implement the business plan.

Proven record of success executing to plan and developing markets and territories.


I look forward to discussing this position with you in more detail.

Copyright © 2006 Houston Chapter, Society for Technical Communication
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