This assignment consists of three separate but related components, two of which (the cover letter and your resume) must be of professional writing quality:
The first component, your Job Search, should be a typed listing of the elements presented in “Organizing Your Job Search,” the handout provided for this assignment. One paragraph (a paragraph being defined as three or more related sentences) for each subheading (“Types of Technical Jobs,” “What Job is Best for You,” etc.) should suffice, if composed thoughtfully and presented formally. For “Choosing References,” the contact information for each reference is not necessary; however, this paragraph should include the names of each of your potential references (at least three), why you feel each would be a good reference for you, and what that person is likely to tell potential employers about you. DO NOT include contact information for your references. 
The second component, your Cover Letter, should respond to a potential employer’s advertisement, job posting, or some other avenue for developing a lead you might be interested in pursuing. While your interest in the specific job itself may be imagined, the job for which you are applying MUST BE GENUINE; i.e., you should write your cover letter as though you were actually applying for a job listing you found in the employment section of the classified ads in a newspaper. Please provide a copy or working internet link to the job advertisement to which you are responding.
The third component, your Resume, must be LETTER PERFECT and appropriate for professional use. Regardless of other content, the LAST category heading should be “References” and state, in proper format, “Available upon request.” The purpose of developing this formal document NOW is to have it ready for potential employers when you are ready to enter the job market in the near future, so DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME working on bogus or “padded” WORTHLESS PIECES OF PAPER simply to fulfill an assignment! You must also prepare a SEPARATE page, with the same heading, layout, and style as your resume, with the single category heading of “References.” This page will contain the names of your potential references, arranged in alphabetic order, with CONTACT INFORMATION REDACTED OR OBSCURED for each source.English 2311
Organizing Your Job Search
Once you’ve made the decision to look for employment as a technical professional, the first step is to think
carefully about the types of technical jobs available in your field, what job is best for you, where you might like
to work, and how you can find the best leads.
Types of Technical Jobs
In most technical fields, jobs are either in management or in hands-on practitioner work, and in most instances,
you must “pay your dues” as a practitioner before you can move into management. For example, in an
engineering firm, you can opt for the management and/or executive track, but you must prove yourself first as a
junior-level engineer and move through the ranks toward project manager, vice president, or ultimately higher.
But not everyone wants to have a supervisory role. Many technical professionals prefer to hone their skills as
practitioners and leave the worries of supervision to others. It’s important to decide for yourself what your
long-term goals are and how your personality and skills will support your interests. Though you needn’t make
these ultimate decisions right away – the early stages of your career can be used for exploration – you should
keep them in mind as you research the job market.
Another factor to consider when you look for a job is whether you like to be in an office or laboratory, or out in
the field. Job types vastly differ in environments, and you want to be sure you choose the location where you
will be the most happy and productive.
What Job is Best for You?
This question is a serious one that requires you to do some digging for information and to be honest with
yourself about your own likes and dislikes. Although your education will probably prepare you for a particular
area of employment, the types of jobs within that area require distinct skills and personality traits. It’s a good
idea to read journals from the profession to see what opportunities exist and where the future of the profession
is headed. In today’s rapidly-changing world, traditional jobs may not be the best place to settle; perhaps new
directions have created needs you hadn’t considered. Another strategy is to contact people in the profession to
request an informational interview. If they are amenable to the idea, spend some time with them at their
offices and find out what it’s really like to work in that field.

Remember that informational interviews are not employment interviews. You will make a negative
impression if you ask someone to generously give you some time to discuss the field of work and then
push for that person to hire you. Such false pretenses will be unappreciated, and may cause ill will that
can spread to other employers in the field. The job world within most fields is networked – and negative
impressions can do damage to you well beyond the specific instance.
Once you have considered the various opportunities you might want to pursue, think about your own strengths
and weaknesses. Be honest! Will you be happy and successful in a job that requires interaction with many
people, or would you prefer a job where you work alone? Do you like to work with high-tech tools, or are you
more interested in marketing strategies? Do you ultimately want to be a manager, or do you want to be an
individual contributor? Have you thought about being a freelance consultant? What work environment will
make you most comfortable? These questions are central to choosing the right career – and the right job within
that career. Studies have shown that most technical professionals stay in one job for approximately two years
before moving to a different company or moving up in the same company. Remember that you want to choose
a job where you can be happy and productive for at least that length of time.
Where Do You Want to Work?
Answering this question requires you to think about the specific work environment and the geographic location
of your job. The first step is to think about the work environment. Generally speaking, there are three types of
environments for technical professionals: the large corporation, the smaller company (perhaps even a start-up
business), and the home environment.

Large corporations usually have many technical professionals in each department, and have
established career paths for employees to follow. You may progress from junior contributor to a
senior contributor to principal contributor and ultimately to a project or department manager.
Your job description will be fairly well set, and you can expect a great deal of help in terms of
training and mentoring. You will probably be assigned to one project for several months, and
then move on to the next.
Small companies hire one or two technical professionals in each department (sometimes more,
but rarely a large number) whose job it is to do everything connected with designing and
delivering technical products. In many of these organizations, the hierarchy of management is
“flat” – that is, everyone pitches in together without paying much attention to the formalities of
supervisory structure, and there is greater opportunity to do diverse tasks. While camaraderie
is high, late hours and very little mentoring are common characteristics of this kind of work
The home environment appeals to some technical professionals who opt to leave corporate jobs
and work as freelance consultants. These people usually have been in full-time jobs for a few
years to establish credentials before striking out on their own. As freelancers, they work at
home, or they combine work at a home office with varying intervals spent at the company
currently employing them. This type of life has an appealing degree of freedom, but it also has
its price: no job security, no employee benefits (health care, insurance, paid vacation and
holidays, retirement packages), and no staff of company lawyers to which you can turn if liability
issues arise. It also requires self-discipline, and the ability to set your own rules while still
abiding by many different employers’ deadlines and requirements.
Another type of employee who works out of the home is the telecommuter. If your company allows
such arrangements, you may be able to combine the benefits of working for a corporation while still
working in the privacy of your home. Telecommuting requires you to have professional equipment in
your home office, and it also comes with the potential for family interruptions and the lack of informal
hallway or “water cooler” conversations with colleagues.
Geographic location is also an important element for most people. If you are able to move anywhere in the
world, your job opportunities expand, but you also need to recognize that different locations focus on different
types of technical communication. And remember that the salary ranges vary from job to job and location to
location, as the pay scales reflect the cost of living and the value of particular industries to the local
environment. Geographic choices also include lifestyle choices and climate.
Looking for jobs on the international front requires you to know what U.S. companies have branch offices in
which countries, or which companies in the United States are subsidiaries of large corporations overseas. If you
plan to move to another country and find a job, it pays to know someone who knows someone. It’s also a good
idea to research the corporate culture of international companies. Often, the way business gets done varies
greatly from country to country, and you may find yourself in an unexpected and unhappy situation if you don’t
do your research.
In short, finding a job that suits you means more than looking at the salary figures. Think carefully about where
you might find the best fit between you and the job you might want to have.
Where to Find Leads
Successful job seekers no longer think that the only place to look for a job is in the classified ad section of the
Sunday newspaper. While this is a good place to get an idea of the types of jobs available, there are many other
avenues for finding employment opportunities. You may want to consider these:

Classified ads
Job fairs
Professional organizations
Electronic bulletin boards
Computerized internet search engines
Academic institutions
Personal contacts
Recruiting agencies
If you are working with a recruiting agency, be sure to work with only one. It’s embarrassing to have an
employer receive the same resume from several agencies – and the resumes will be formatted
differently. Instead of looking like an attractive candidate for the position, you may look desperate and
somewhat dishonest.
Choosing References
As you think about who might serve as useful references for you, it may help to know the kinds of questions
most often asked when employers contact the people you have listed. Some employers are informal and simply
ask the reference for a general impression of you as a person and of your qualifications for the job. But others
have a set list of questions they ask of all references. The lists usually include questions like these:
How long and in what capacity have you known the applicant?
Can you name the applicant’s major strengths?
In what areas can the applicant improve?
Is the applicant a team player? How does the applicant work with people?
Does the applicant take initiative or wait to be told what to do?
What kind of a manager would be best for this applicant?
Is the applicant familiar with the latest technology important for the job?
Would you hire this applicant if you had the opportunity?
Think about choosing people for your references who can answer these questions well and put you in the most
positive light. That means asking people who have supervised you in some capacity – on the job or in the
classroom. Don’t include friends and relatives. They can be character references only; they can’t speak about
your job performance capabilities.

Make sure you ask your references for permission to use their names. It reflects poorly on you if
potential employers contact references who aren’t aware you’ve listed them as such. Informing your
references ahead of time also gives you the opportunity to discuss with them the nature of the job or jobs
for which you’re applying. They can then be prepared to speak more directly to the employers about
how your abilities match the job.
When you have considered all of these elements of the job search, you are ready to target particular types of
jobs – or maybe even particular companies – and begin preparing the written materials you’ll need to submit
your application.
Adapted from Kristin Woolever, Writing for the Technical Professions, 2nd ed. New York: Longman, 2002.

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