Pay me to work, please.
January 11, 2012 2:18 PM   Subscribe

Where can I get a technical writing internship, preferably in the area of software documentation, in or around Memphis, TN? Level of difficulty: it must be paid.

I've asked everyone I can think of, on campus and off - internship coordinators for both the Professional Writing and Computer Science Departments, as well as the coordinator for the university at large, professors, friends, social media contacts - and I'm stuck. I've found a couple of great opportunities, but either they aren't what I'm looking for skills-wise, or they aren't paid.

I wish I had a magical money tree that would allow me to work a job for free, but I'm a single mom who's living with my parents while I try to get back on my feet, and the money fairy is nowhere in sight. I've seen people on MeFi and elsewhere talk about contributing to open-source projects, which I would love to do if I had the time between the on-campus minimum wage job, school, and my 15 month old. (Is there something I could do with my approximately two hours of free time per week that would be worthwhile?)

Maybe there's something I'm missing here - should I be looking for internships using a different set of key words?

At this point, I'm considering informational interviews at some of the larger companies in town, like FedEx and St. Jude, that I know employ tech writers. I know this is a long shot, but does anyone have any other suggestions? I graduate in December, so I'm looking for something in Summer and/or Fall.
posted by woodvine to Technology (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you gone to your local STC meeting?
(And do you really mean that you are looking for an internship that is only 2 hours per week?)
posted by Houstonian at 2:48 PM on January 11, 2012

Perhaps stop using the word "internship" in favor of "summer job": as a rule, at least where I work (a chain of local newspapers, where we have a dozen or more interns each summer), no internships are paid positions.
posted by easily confused at 3:18 PM on January 11, 2012

Is there something I could do with my approximately two hours of free time per week that would be worthwhile?

That's when I'd be working on the open source stuff. Also, is it possible that instead of the on-campus minimum wage job, you could find a job that isn't entirely tech writing, but has some tech writing as part of the job description?
posted by cairdeas at 3:23 PM on January 11, 2012

Houstonian, I've emailed my local STC, but haven't gotten a reply. The website doesn't appear to have been updated in a while, so I'm not sure when the next meeting actually is, although that's a great idea. No, my plan is to quit the on-campus minimum wage job in favor of the paid internship/job. Overly optimistic?
posted by woodvine at 4:23 PM on January 11, 2012

Wow. I just took a look at their website, and it is desperately in need of an overhaul. They have a Linkedin group. Maybe join that group, and also contact the two people listed on the right side ("Owner" and "Manager") to introduce yourself as a student who would like to attend the next meeting. After you are linked to them (so you can send a longer email), let them know you are looking for an internship. I'd start with the "Manager" because it looks like the "Owner" is in NY now.

Look at companies that do not sell software, but obviously have an IT group. For example, AutoZone is headquartered in Memphis. Somewhere in that office is a team of people that handles SAP/Peoplesoft rollouts, warehouse management systems, and so on. And they have writers for those teams. Find headquarters in your city and you find these teams of software developers.

Also, I know your heart is set on software, but have you checked with (civil, mechanical, etc.) engineering firms? Lots of writers get their first job working with a proposals group. The proposals are how they win work, and proposal writing is a type of technical writing. I won't lie to you -- proposal work can be hard work, lower pay, longer hours, and grumpier SMEs. However, it's a first job and probably better pay and training than what you are getting with your on-campus job. If your university has a college of engineering, ask the professors there for referrals?

Between now and summer, is there any aspect of your on-campus job that would allow for something even close to technical writing? If you can shape it into something writing, it'll mean that you don't have to go out this summer saying "no experience." Also between now and summer (during those 2 spare hours a week) start putting together an online presence that showcases some of your school work so that you'll have a portfolio.
posted by Houstonian at 5:24 PM on January 11, 2012

AutoZone is one I hadn't thought of - thank you! And your idea about checking with engineering firms also hadn't occurred to me - that's a great idea. Experience is experience, even lower-paying and with longer hours.

Yes, at my on-campus job I do some graphic design, which is at least somewhat related, and I have a course this semester in basic programming and one that's specifically tech writing, so I should have some things for my portfolio. Online presence is obviously a must - that's a really good plan as well. Thank you so much for your help.
posted by woodvine at 2:24 PM on January 12, 2012

Also, incredibly, WritersUA is holding its annual conference in Memphis, though the $1100 fee is considerably out of my price range. I've emailed them to ask if I can volunteer, though, and I'm hoping to get a positive response.
posted by woodvine at 2:27 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

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