Finding Your Future Workplace

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Last month, I discussed self-assessment, which included knowing exactly what work you want to do and where you want to do it. This month, we’ll look at the best ways to find the place where you want to work.

At first this may seem like an overwhelming task because there are literally thousands of companies that exist. However, by doing some logical analysis, you can narrow down the list to a manageable few places.

The first step is to decide the size of company you want to work for. Most job growth is happening in small to medium size companies, with about 200 employees or less. The large corporations are simply not hiring like they used to, and even if they were, consider this: at a large corporation, you may be one of many technical communicators, either at a specific location (if the company has several offices) or within the organization as a whole. You will therefore be more expendable than if you were the sole technical communicator (or one of a small group) for a smaller firm. Therefore, it makes sense to target the smaller companies. I am fortunate to work for a company of about 90 people, and am the sole internal technical writer. Although there are no guarantees, the smaller the company, generally speaking, the greater your value and the opportunity for growth.

Another step to reducing the number of companies is to consider location, not just in terms of distance but travel time. How far are you willing to drive to get to work? If you live in Toronto, are you willing to commute to Mississauga? Are you willing to work downtown?

But more than just size or location, consider the specific industry in which you want to work, and be more specific than just choosing, as an example, “the software industry”, which could mean almost anything. To narrow things down, you must study the trends in business and industry as a whole. For example, because of Canada’s aging population, there are tremendous opportunities in the medical profession, and all of its associated industries like medical diagnostic software and equipment.

Although you can use the Internet to research specific companies, keep in mind that a company’s website is simply the picture that the company wants to paint of itself. It won’t have all the inside information such as the problems the company may be having or the specific challenges facing its documentation department. For this kind of information, you must turn to other sources such as newspapers, trade journals, business magazines, and most importantly, networking.

Many people think networking is a tool only for discovering hidden jobs. In fact, it is one of the best ways to gathering information about companies and industry trends in general. Ideally, you want to develop a network of contacts that will include people who work at companies that you wish to work for, or people that know these people. This allows you to make a “warm call”, where you can introduce yourself as a mutual friend of the person you are contacting.

The purpose of the warm call is not to ask for a job but simply to arrange an informational interview. I’ll cover this topic in detail in the next issue.