With each new technical writing contract over the past few years, I seem to add a new non-disclosure agreement to my NDA folder.
While not every technical writer can work on articles and documents that are in the public domain, but there are things that you can do to make sure you have work samples to show potential employers including:
1. Do volunteer work
Look to volunteer work as a potential source for work samples you can show potential employers and clients. The opportunity might be right in front of you, or you might have to target a volunteer opportunity where your skills are needed, and you can add to your body of work. For example, I once taught a job hunting with social media seminar for my old church. I uploaded the PowerPoint slide deck to SlideShare so it can serve as a work sample for me.
2. Seek compromises with an NDA
If your employer or client is halfway reasonable, have a conversation with them about using the work you perform for them as work samples. It might even come down to an agreement on using selected parts of a document or redacting out portions of an overall document to shield any proprietary content that doesn’t need to get into the hands of their competitors. Seeking work out for use as samples later can be a touchy subject in organizations so you should always approach it carefully even with managers and clients you trust.
3. Never let work samples leave your sight
Before I began writing for publications and websites in the public domain, I was taught never to let my writing samples leave my sight during interviews and still believe in that rule.
4. Treat your personal projects like a professional
Medium, LinkedIn Publishing Platform, and WordPress are great equalizers when it comes to publishing and putting yourself online. One way to get past the work samples dilemma is to treat any work you put online as your absolute best and most professional work even it is a personal site.
5. Wait for the work to age
Not every document or work project stands the test of time, but I am a big advocate of saving everything because some work especially writing projects can still serve as a sample for you at a later date.
My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and content creator living and working in the Washington, DC area. By day, I work in the solutions group of a major federal IT services firm developing thought leadership content. My articles about enterprise mobility, BYOD, and other iT topics have been published by Tom’s IT Pro, TechBeacon (An HPE initiative), Federal Computer Week, and others. Follow me on Twitter:@willkelly.