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Avoiding A Flood in The Job Market

Updated on September 9, 2014
Charles Carswell
Charles Carswell
Deciding Your New Direction
Deciding Your New Direction

Staying Afloat During Unemployment

A COBOL Programmers Transition to Technical Writer

To avoid a flood you must seek higher ground

Article by Charles Carswell

A Seasoned Programmer/Analyst

One could read the writing on the walls; it was time to get out of programming. The jobs were disappearing and the assignments for computer contracting were becoming farther and fewer between. Already, many people I knew were being laid off. It had started.

Being a computer programmer with over 18 years’ experience covering such things like IDMS, Adso, VSAM, CICS and a host of other languages and mainframe utilities, it’s just so difficult to just walk away. Yet no one dared to explain the reason why the jobs for computer programmers were drying up along with our careers. But it was obvious it was about to end. I was now without a career. Simply put, I had to find another livelihood, one which didn’t appear to have an end date.

I Can Write.

About 6 months into employment purgatory, I discovered that I could truly write. All I needed was a good course on refining the basic things like styles, citations, special types of references, footnotes and proper distinctive treatment of words and compounds. I was already a photographer by hobby and a decent artist so there it was. MS Word was being used for project documentation and specifications along with Excel and Visio. All I needed to do was revamp my resume to reflect all this. Now all that remained was to learn Adobe Creative Suite with FrameMaker. With this under foot, I changed my resume to Technical Writer and highlighted the experience from doing the documentation that accompanied the systems projects.

My First Technical Writer Assignment.

This occurred during the early years of 1999. All of my documentation was re-done in Adobe FrameMaker, it was the hardest part of my learning. I applied for a job as a Technical Writer to a company that made product catalogs for a huge media company. Hence, my first Technical Writer experience. I was on my way. The pay was about 75 per cent of my mainframe salary, not too bad. A typical Tech Writing project would require MS Word or Adobe FrameMaker, use of Visio, PowerPoint, perhaps some online Help Authoring (WebWorks or RoboHelp) and computer systems knowledge. Being able to create, copy and enhance graphic or photographic images was a definite plus. With names such as Sarbanes-Oxley, Help Manuals, and assorted systems documentation, there always seemed to be a job. It seems to be just like the old times only no coding to contend with.

On to Bigger Things

It doesn’t stop there. With things like HTML, CSS, JavaScript and different flavors of Photoshop and InDesign, you only have to worry about whether or not the assignment’s longevity is worth the risk of taking. These consulting assignments last from 2 weeks to a few years. So, am I happy? Somewhat, it’s the same animal with a set of different stripes. Am I more secure? Definitely. It certainly is not for everyone but that in itself creates some sort of job security, at least until the corporations find a way to commoditize this field as well.

Decision is Made
Decision is Made


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