Using the Internet as a Career Tool
One of the great unintended consequences of the Internet and Worldwide Web is the creation of the ultimate career tool. At your fingertips is a wealth of information about careers, companies, networking possibilities and even the jobs themselves. If you know what you're looking for, you can clarify your job goals, target specific companies and geographic regions, even train yourself for a new career.
Your goal in this conference is to create a useful career resource for yourself. This resource should be a Word document that contains the following:
a list of the umbrella associations and societies that serve your profession--both national and regional. You will find many; some will be of more use to you at this stage in your career than others. Some will have membership requirements that you do not meet--yet. Regardless, these sites will still offer valuable advice and resources in career preparation, regional affiliates, networking opportunities, free e-newsletters, print publications, free archives and a list of links to other resources.
organizations that you can and should join NOW at a special student rate. Some of these may be same as those in the above list. But these join-now groups with student rates deserve special attention and their own section in this resource because you want to take action now. Spend your money wisely. In addition to saying how much it costs to join, you also want to list the benefits of joining.
URLs of job boards serving your specific career. Everyone knows and frequents the mega-boards like Monster, HotJobs, and so on. And that's their problem. Of more value to you are the job boards maintained by career-specific organizations. You should make special note of job boards where you are allowed to post your resume. Unlike on the mega-boards, these organizational boards are looked at more closely because there are fewer resumes.
networking contacts. You are looking for working professionals that you can schedule an informational interview with. In an informational interview you say something like: "Hi, I'm Pat Michaels, currently a student at the University of Maryland University College, and I'm preparing for a career in (your field). I'm talking to experts like you in to gather the latest information on current trends, legal issues, and other aspects I need to know about to best prepare myself. May I ask you a few quick questions?" List some personal contacts that you can start with, but also list the names of leading professionals and officers of the professional organizations whom you will call. Don't want to do that? That's fine--others will and they will reap the benefits. Ultimately you will only get the job that you want and are willing to work for.
training sites/pages. At the sites you visit, look for the group's "training and career preparation" area. Here you will usually find an archive of free resources that provide essential background and insider information for anyone preparing to enter this field.
must-have resources. In every field there are often a few resources that come up over and again as essential tools for anyone in that field. What are those tools/books and can you get affordable copies of them right now? My recommendations: Rodale's The Synonym Finder, Chicago Manual of Style, American Heritage Dictionary (unabridged), Microsoft's Manual of Style for Technical Publications. a good grammar book like Diana Hacker's A Writer's Reference or The Gregg Reference Manual. For a more extensive list, see: RefDesk.
the results of one informational interview. To finish off this document, conduct at least one informational interview. You will collect the subject's history--how they became interested, what drew them to the field, their preparation and job history. But most importantly you want their advice about what someone in your position should be doing right now to get ready to get employed.
job variations.One of the effects of doing this work will be to expand your understanding of the many different job titles/career sidelines that may be possible in what you once thought was a unified field. For example, on a magazine staff you know that there are editors. But some editors have very different duties and skills. Some specialize in copyediting (rewriting), some in assigning story ideas and managing freelancers, some in writing a special kind of feature (health, beauty, fashion, equipment, and so on). As a final entry on this job resource, list any and all new job possibilities that you discovered by virtue of doing this work.
Assignment: How long should this document be? I have some familiarity with many of these fields. Truthfully speaking, you could easily fill up 30 pages with this kind of stuff as you conduct your job search. During my last job search, I ended up with over 100 pages. Regardless of page count, be sure to ask these questions about every source you visit:
Sample: Organizations, Societies, Portals for Careers in Communications
In addition to Googling "technical writing," "business writing" or whatever communication field you are interested in, here is a sample of the major associations and societies that should be evaluated as job resources.
Society for Technical
Communication (most states and major cities have branches you can join; job board)
Society of American Business Editors & Writers (student membership rates; job board)
International Association of Business Communicators (student membership rates; job board)
Association of Proposal
Management Professionals (includes grant writing)
Society of Indexers
Public Relations Society of America
National Communication Association
American Society of Journalists & Authors
Online News Association
IEEE Professional Communication
EServer TC Library
Association of Teachers of
Newbie Tech Writer
International Science Writers
World Association of Medical
Writing (look for list of links at end)