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What To Do When Unemployed

Lost your technical communicator job? Wondering what to do? Wondering where to go?

This article is intended for two main groups of technical communicators:
  • Those of us who are out of a job
  • Those of us who are looking ahead for the next job

by Wanda Hill, STC Austin Employment Director

You can take some key actions when you discover that you have no job to return to the next day.

File for Unemployment

As soon as you have finished your final hour of work, write out information that you'll need BEFORE you contact Texas Workforce (TWC) to tell them you're unemployed. From TWC's Unemployment Benefits Services webpage, you need to submit information as follows:

  • Last employer's business name and address
  • First and last dates (month, day and year) you worked for your last employer
  • Number of hours worked and pay rate if you worked this week (including Sunday)
  • Information related to your normal wage
  • Alien Registration Number (if not a U.S. citizen or national)

The webpage also provides more thorough information about the filing process. If you worked as a contractor, you need to provide the information of the agency that paid your wages, not the client where you worked. Do not postpone contacting TWC, as postponing delays whatever compensation that you should receive. Visit TWC's Unemployment Claim and Appeals Information page for further information.

Note: If and when you collect unemployment compensation, pay special attention for how you obtain payment. The state issues a debit card and deposits the funds to Chase Manhattan Bank. Visit the UI TWC Debit Card FAQ. Pay special attention to activating the card and spending, particularly with a goal of avoiding usage fees. (Suggestion: At each benefits period, transfer the entire amount into your own liquid account.)

Sign Up for Job Listing Notifications

At some websites, you can can easily save your job hunt preferences (keywords, geographical areas), then have them send you email with aggregate openings that fit your criteria. Frequently. YMMV regarding the appropriateness of results that you receive. (The last website at the end of this section does not provide email notification options; however, the search and results features are so similar to others listed, it seems appropriate to list it also.)

ChangeDetection.com—Go to a job board like Monster or CareerBuilder, build a job search with criteria you want, copy the resultant URL, go to the changedetection URL, then follow the directions. Paste the job board's URL and enter your email address where applicable. Whenever your monitored job board's page changes, Changedetection sends you email with the job board's URL to click.

Indeed—Choose a simplified or advanced search:
  • Fill the two main fields, then click Find Jobs.
  • Select the advanced feature, build a search agent with the criteria you want, then click Find Jobs.
At the results page, you can click the link to receive email notifications of new job listings that fit your criteria.

Simply Hired—Choose a simplified or advanced search:
  • Fill the two main fields, then click search jobs.
  • Select the advanced feature, build a search agent with the criteria you want, then click search jobs.
At the results page, you can click the link to receive email notifications of new job listings that fit your criteria.

Jobster—Perform a simplified search right away or click the link for receiving job notifications. At the simplified search results page, you can do one of the following:
  • Click the link for receiving job notifications.
  • Modify (refine) the criteria, then click the link for receiving job notifications.

Jobing.com—Fill the field with location, then click Go Local. At the results page, you can do one of the following:
  • Fill the field, then click Search Jobs.
  • Select the advanced feature, build a search agent with the criteria you want, then click Search Jobs.
Note: Although Jobing does not provide an email notification option, one attractive feature is the option to map and view the job's location.

Look into Networking and Job Resources

Visit the WorkSource Solutions website. Find resources for support and for job searching. Learn about attending short classes, such as job search planning, interviewing practice, and salary negotiations. View the calendar of jobhunt help classes. View the map to find various facilities locations.

Attend Launch Pad Job Club (LPJC) meetings for job search information, programs, and networking guidance. Attend at least one LPJC meeting so you can sign up for job-lead emails. (Most job listings are not about writers, but often, there will be several listings that bunch up together that point to a particular employer of interest.) Meetings occur every Friday morning.

Join LinkedIn (LI) to connect with other professionals, inform others that you're looking for work, build your professional profile, and join LinkedIn groups. Upload your resume and work samples to your profile by using the Box.net utility that's already available through LI. Be mindful that recruiters and hiring managers also have LinkedIn accounts and find many candidates within the network. Control the type and amount of information that you want to display, depending on how stringent you make your privacy settings.

View the door64 events calendar to find special-interest meetups you might want to attend. Visit the door64 home page and consider becoming a member of this technology community.

Visit various work agency websites for job-hunting advice. TheLadders, which specializes in $100,000 salary positions, might be more appropriate for managerial technical communicators. Their Career Advice page, however, has numerous articles with worthwhile career advice.

Become a Part of the STC Community

STC is an organization that includes the following professionals: technical writers and editors, indexers, information architects, instructional designers, technical illustrators, globalization and localization specialists, usability and human factors professionals, visual designers, web designers and developers, teachers and researchers of technical communication, and trainers and e-learning developers. (The occupation list is from the STC's Defining Technical Communication article.) For those of you in other occupations, seek out professional organizations that address your particular role(s) so you can participate in their communities.

  • Visit the Austin STC job bank, where you can link to job listings and also post your resume. Resume posting is free for STC members, but there is a nominal charge for non-members.
  • Attend STC meetings and networking lunches, where you can listen in on the grapevine, especially regarding who's hiring or thinking of hiring.
  • Sign up for the Austin Tech Writers Yahoo group. The members are technical writers who are either looking for work or on the lookout for the next job. The geographical focus is Austin, although occasional posts are about areas outside Austin. People who hear of job openings are encouraged to share their job leads.
  • Sign up for the general Austin STC listserve at the STC Austin listserves page. After you receive your welcome message, post and ask questions, whether technical or about the job environment.
  • Volunteer for an office or committee. In doing so, you raise your visibility with members who might know of jobs now or later. In addition, you build leadership and collaborative skills.

Other Suggestions for Your Do List, Not in Any Particular Order

The following items require less elaboration than what I detailed already. You might think of others to add to your own list.
  • If your resume is not up-to-date, make it so.
  • Have writing samples to pick from in preparation to show prospective interviewers.
  • Contact previous employers, friends, and relatives to let them know you're available. This particular recommendation is standard fare.
  • If you've done contract work and/or are amenable to contract work, contact agencies you have worked for or have contacted in the past.
  • If you don't yet have a log sheet with a list of contacts, create one. This document should have all necessary contact information, dates of contact, and outcome of contact. This file will serve double duty as a softcopy contact file and also as references for the times that you contact TWC for unemployment compensation filing.
  • If your commute was 10 miles round trip or more, consider calling your auto insurance company to inquire about a reduction or rebate in your premiums.
  • Read the section about actions to take for those still employed, in case any of those items apply to you.

Even If You Are Still Working, Anticipate Changing Conditions

In light of the current climate, if you have a job, it is even more important to be prepared for possible separation. Some suggestions:

  • Keep your resume updated. (Glean your status reports for useful information about new or upgraded skills, accomplishments, tools. If you haven't done status reports, at least create a log of meaningful events.)
  • Obtain contact information from associates and co-workers. Include NON-CORPORATE email addresses and phone numbers, in case you or they separate from the current workplace.
  • Keep in contact or make contact with others for mutual informationsharing—face-to-face, email, phone, social gatherings (happy hours, lunches, dinners), professional organization memberships/meetings, social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), special-interest email lists, combinations of contacting listed here.
  • If not already, become an expert in the tools you use.
  • Become more knowledgeable about tools you've been exposed to in the recent past.
  • Become familiar with tools that might complement what you already know.
  • Glean job postings in the STC job bank and the web to view companies' required/preferred skills and experience so you can assess your own desirability quotient and strategize on increasing it.
  • If you have medical insurance through your company and were provided advance separation notice, hasten to take care of medical appointments and treatments while still have coverage.