Technical Writing

Still Waiting In Line… The Unemployment Line

Unemployment is like  a natural disaster. It’s always something you read or hear about and think “I’m safe from that.” Nowadays you hear about it more than ever. Your heart goes out to those effected by it and you offer your help but then you go about your day and say “good thing I’m not in danger of that happening.”

But then one day, like a blizzard without warning  – BAM! You get told you’re parting ways. At first you don’t hear right – your first thought is “what? it sounds like I’m getting fired.” Laid off, budget cuts, economic downturn – doesn’t matter what you call it, I still have nowhere to go tomorrow. I still have no idea what I’m going to do every day after I drop the kids off.

At first you might even believe something better is out there. Something will come along pretty soon. You try to stay positive. You even start to believe yourself when you tell people you’re fine.

But, then 3 weeks later after all the contacts in your network have been contacted, follow-ups have led nowhere, return calls are few and far between, and you’ve applied for every job possible it gets easier to justify sitting back and catching up with the Abbotts or life in Salem.

It gets easier to lose hope. Hope that there is something better out there. Hope that you might finally catch that break you’ve been hoping for.


What Is A Tech Writer?

A colleague of mine sent me this today:

I have been a tech writer in one way or another for over 15 years. Usually when people ask me what I do and I tell them I am a tech writer I immediately get the deer in the headlights look.

Sounds so mysterious. I promise, it’s a lot less glamorous than it sounds. How often do you see pictures online of Tech Writers walking the red carpet?

When someone asks Ryan Reynolds what I do he usually says “Something with computers”. Bruce says I ” don’t do anything all day but type on a computer. And that’s easy – I do it every Wednesday at Computer class”. 

Developers often think a Tech Writer’s job is easy because anyone can write. That might be true- technically a monkey can write with a crayon if you give them the right tools. But, that doesn’t mean it will be any good. Is it written for the intended audience? Is it translated into easy to understand English for the average person without an engineering degree? Does it address the topics an average user would be interested in?

I got into Tech Writing the way most do – by accident. There was no Tech Writer Barbie that I dreamed to emulate. I knew I wanted to do something that involved writing, so I majored in English and minored in Communications while in college. Most people think the only thing an English degree is good for is teaching. But, that’s not true. An English degree opens so many doors because you are not tied down to one focused area as you would be with an Accounting degree or an Engineering degree.

I  have been a journalist, graphic designers, copy editor, writer, speech writer, web designer, blogger, high school English teacher, writing tutor, Policy and Procedures writer, Public Relations associate, Corporate Communications Coordinator, event planner, sports writer, and magazine writer, among other things.

An English literature degree doesn’t prove you are qualified to do a specific job; it proves that you are qualified and capable of thinking for yourself.  In today’s world where most new employees learn by fire that is a huge asset to a potential employer. You will be able to jump right in, get your hands dirty and make informed decisions about the issues that come across your desk daily. And that is more valuable to an employer than anything.


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