Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Cold Calling

I got my first professional job on a cold call.

The opportunity came when I was working a temp assignment after college -- the big gamble in the land of Buckeyes hadn't panned out, and I'd moved back to Atlanta in 1992 to try to get my bearings. I was driving a forklift in a Coca-Cola warehouse when I ran into a chap named Brian who'd been let go from his job and was taking what work he could get after cashing his last unemployment check.

"My degree was in English," I told him. "I took a technical writing course in college and really enjoyed it."

"Technical writing?" Brian said. "I have a few friends in the field who might be hiring a freshman tech writer."

Later Brian provided me with a list of five names and telephone numbers. I coddled together a resume -- my writing experience had consisted of writing church newsletters in college -- and set about making some calls.

Three of the people had no openings. A fourth yelled at me for wasting her time before slamming down the phone down.

For the record, she was a Yankee.

Call number five was the ticket. "Why don't you come on down to the office and we'll see about putting you to work," Deb my future boss said.

And so I started my career as a contract technical writer at the now-defunct IBM affiliate KnowledgeWare* making the unprecedented sum of $10 an hour. My big project was writing a user guide by way of reverse-engineering a component of the company's IEW system.

Deb left the company three months later, and three months after that I was let go in layoffs. The consolation was that I could now put "Experienced Technical Writer" on my resume. It seems like a modest enough event in retrospect; at the time, though, it opened the door on a new world of opportunities.

* The owner was Fran Tarkenton. He was shorter than I expected.


Paddy O'Hare said...

Whoa, Sean! That little quip of information about the Yankee who turned you down...was that really necessary, my Southern friend? Hey, we Yanks are a friendly bunch! Just 'cause you called a sour apple on a bad day doesn't mean that we Yanks as a whole are anything but splendiferous, you know. You Southern boys just have to realize that, eh? :)

Sean said...

Just reporting the facts, ma'am. :-)

Kindred Spirit said...

Great story, Sean. It confirms my belief that no experience is ever wasted.