Effective Technical Writing in the Information Age

Chapter 9 Introduction

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Chance favors the prepared mind.
—Louis Pasteur

Some say that if you really want a boyfriend or girlfriend, you’ll find one as soon as you stop actively looking (I’m not sure it actually works). More likely, as the above pithy, insightful quote by Pasteur implies, good fortune comes to those who are ready for it. I recall a student who received a phone call from a company two years after she had sent in her resume. "We’re hiring now," a company representative told her. "What have you been doing for two years?" It turns out that, unable to get a job, she had gone to graduate school and was just finishing up her master’s degree. The consulting company promptly hired her, and she had suddenly landed her dream job.

Although this may be an unusual scenario, it demonstrates the power of a written document filed away in some company folder. The more professional a paper trail you leave, the more impressive a candidate you become. Any letter you write to a company—from a query letter to a thank you and even to a letter rejecting a job offer—is a professional act and a networking opportunity. Even if composing a letter at midnight with a Coke and bag of Doritos handy, you should be sure that the letter carries with it a tone suggesting that you are sitting across the desk from an interviewer—because some day you may be, with that very letter within the interviewer’s arm’s reach.