A lot of readers often ask me to blog about my experience of working as a Technical Writer in Canada.
I’ve lived and worked almost half of my life in the mesmerizing, beautiful, and energetic land of India. India is a land full of opportunities, especially for a technical writer. I was fortunate enough to work with very talented colleagues and supportive bosses and have learned a lot from the Indian Technical Writing industry through STC sessions and TWIN mailing list.
However, one fine day I decided to leave everything to pursue my dream of getting formal education in technical communication. I was fortunate to get a paid co-op (internship) which got extended even during my last semester. Not only that, I was fortunate enough to receive two great job offers and I started working even before my course was finished.
When I was in India, I had heard (and read) so many bad stories about engineers and doctors driving cabs and waiting tables in Canada that I came only to pursue my studies. I promised myself that I will go back in case things didn’t work well. Luckily, for me, things went fine and I’m happy about my decision. However, what worked for me did not work for others. Sadly, I know many who had to go back from Canada to their home countries after not being able to find a decent job in the Canadian job market.
Canadian job market is very different from the U.S. or the Indian job market. The terms used in context of job searching, the nature of job (contracts vs full-time), the interview pattern, and the hiring cycle in the Canadian job market are very different from rest of the world.
In this post, I’d talk about few things about working as a technical writer in Canada.
Interview of a Canadian Technical Writer
Here is a good interview of a technical writer working at Research In Motion (RIM, makers of blackberry mobile devices) campus at Waterloo, Ontario that provides a good overview of a technical writer job in Canada.
The (in) famous Canadian Work Experience
The biggest challenge a newcomer technical writer face in Canada is the lack of Canadian work experience. Now what exactly is this dreaded Canadian work experience? If you will ask this question to 10 different employers in Canada, you will probably receive
10 11 different answers. In simple terms, Canadian work experience refers to having experience of working at a Canadian workplace.
Canadian job market is very conservative and technical writers often find it challenging to get a job without Canadian work experience. And without getting a job, they cannot get this experience. This catch-22 situation often leads to reduced motivation, bruised ego, and disappointment even in experienced technical writers.
I overcame this challenge by doing a certificate course in technical writing which also provided a four-month (co-op) internship. I was lucky to get a paid internship and worked as an intern technical writer for four months. When I started looking for a job at end of my course, I already had four months of the golden Canadian work experience which made it easy for me to land a great job.
Finding a Technical Writing Job in Canada
Give this guy a job (and give me one, too) (Photo credit: Just some dust)
Finding a job as a technical writer in Canada is difficult, extremely difficult, as there are very few job openings and most of them are not even advertised. You may be surprised to know that more than 80% of jobs in Canada are not advertised and most people get hired through networking. LinkedIn is very famous and widely used tool for recruitment in Canada and I got my first job after graduation through LinkedIn.
When I arrived in Canada, I started looking for part-time work and received my first part-time job as a technical writer within few weeks of landing (I consider myself lucky). After finishing my studies, I received two contract offers after searching for about three weeks. However, I know several technical writers (both beginners and experienced) who waited for several months to get their first job opportunity or their next contract.
Whether you get a job as a technical writer in Canada in few weeks, or in few months, seems to be a combination of luck, location, and skills. However, it is not easy as it seems and required considerable amount of hard work, networking, and huge amount of patience.
Location of Technical Writing Jobs in Canada
During my job search, I realized that technical writing jobs exist in these locations in Canada:
GTA (Greater Toronto Area)- GTA consists of Toronto, Mississauga, Markham, Brampton and Scarborough and seems to have several jobs. Markham has an IT hub and often had opportunities for technical writers. Down town Toronto, a hub for big financial institutions, also offer technical writing jobs in the financial domain.
London (Ontario) and Burlington (Ontario), both cities near Toronto, also seem to have occasional technical writing job advertised by recruiters.
Ottawa, the capital of Canada, is also a good place to look for work as a technical writer.
Vancouver, Waterloo, Calgary are other good places to look for work but the number of jobs in these areas seems to be less compared to the GTA region.
Contract or Permanent?
More than 80% of jobs advertised for technical writers are contracts with duration ranging from one week to one year. As a contractor, you do not get paid or sick leaves or any other health benefit (dental or vision) though you save some taxes if you get incorporated.
Sumedh Nene, an experienced technical writer based in Toronto, wrote a series of articles about technical writing in Canada which are a pretty good read to understand the technical writing job market in Canada:
Dear Reader, I’d love to hear from you. Do you work as a Technical Writer in Canada? How easy or difficult it is to get a good job as a Technical Writer in your area? Leave a comment and let me know.