Nontechnical sectors do hire technical writing grads but contrary to the occupation’s name, high-tech workplaces should be the last place you apply.
Reason is that every company produces some form of technical communication. Currently, companies are keen to undertake knowledgebase and transformation projects. The path toward gainful employment follows a series of stepping stones.
So if you contribute to the HR Policy & Procedures manual you can transition from administrative to technical. If you formalize department plans or specifications you can transition to more technical gigs. If you’ve become a SharePoint whiz you can leap from permanent to independent work in IT. And for all the project coordinators out there, if you’ve been picked to orchestrate assignments, schedules and deadlines, then go for project management certification.
Here’s a chart showing what grads from selected Vancouver area schools are doing 10 years later.
Author’s compilation of stats from LinkedIn
Like millions of viewers, I tune in nightly to watch The Daily Show. Its edited segments let ‘authorities’ state the facts–as believed. Yes, the show provides a humorous bias on current events, but it rarely needs to regret an error in fact. Thank you, research team!
Fact-checking takes nothing for granted. Some questions researchers ask are: Is the issue covered from all aspects? Is the report current? Is it sponsored? Is the authority an author? An actor? Who has editorial control?
In the age of digital media I wonder whether it’s more important to not get sued than to get it right.
Wow, everywhere you look it seems that electronic checklists are what industry uses to record data. When I took my car for servicing, the manager brought up my order on his tablet. We reviewed it and with the scrawl of my electronic signature the job was in motion. The dental hygienist can tap info on a conveniently mounted tablet but she prefers hands-free notation through audio instructions. Equipment managers roam the lot, tablet strapped to one hand while using the other to snap pictures, look up specifications or hold a Wi-Fi gauge. Utility crews carry packets of installation orders protected from the elements. Electronic checklists prove as easy for workers to adopt as they are for companies to distribute.
Break ice, pedal boat style
The topic presented at this month’s professional development meeting was how to make networking easy, or at least a bit easier for technical communicators. From the perspective of an IT practice leader, HR manger, and independent contractor the presenters guided the talk around three phases; breaking the ice, making the connection and following up.
Breaking the ice can be a creative process. I think it can work by verbalizing thoughtful observations. “I like your umbrella; nothing says dreary like the colour orange.”
Making the connection is overcoming a personal inhibition. It’s about starting a conversation and relating what you do. If your elevator pitch elicits dead air then it’s an opportunity to turn the conversation back to the listener. Who doesn’t like to talk about their day?
Following up is what gets you remembered. Don’t hesitate to send a link to an article to your new connection. Also reinforce why you want to network with that person. “I came for the free coffee. Who knew I’d meet the coffee roaster.”
If breaking the ice just got a bit easier come say Hi to me at the next Meetup.
Maybe you’ve noticed paint marks sprayed on pavement. If it’s not a style of graffiti chances are you’re looking at code for a buried utility line.
public utility lines
Depending on the colour paint, the unseen conduit could be carrying sewage or drinking water. How do you know which? Well, it turns out, excavators know which lines lay beneath. There’s an international colour code for utility markings. (ANSI Standard Z53.1) Learning industry codes, parts and processes makes for another interesting day in the field of tech writing.
American Public Works Association color code
Subway riders “Mind the gap”. Word lovers mind the cap, consistently. It’s just that capitalization rules can vary by style guide. We know the rules for proper nouns and proper names but not so much for eponyms, acronyms and initialisms. Here’s how various references cite capital letters.
- 16th century
- baby boomer
- Bible, Torah, Qur’an
- braille, often capitalized
- Caesarean section
- Cajun music
- diesel engine
- Generation X
- Grammy Award
- k. d. lang, except when first word in a sentence
- medieval period
- middle aged
- Middle Ages
- n/a – not applicable
- Na – chemical symbol
- Old Man Winter
- Petri dish
- Phillips screw driver
- Platonic solids
- single malt Scotch
- the Sixties
- the West Coast
Finally, my professional organization has published the 2012-2013 salary database. I’m as excited as Steve Martin’s character exclaiming, “The new phonebook’s here! The new phonebook’s here!”
While the STC salary database reports on data collected about US technical communicators, it’s still useful to those of us living and working in Canada. The NAICS standard makes it easier for North American countries to compare business statistics.
Breaking it down
A two-digit NAICS code categorizes an entire economic sector such as Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation (71).
A three-digit code represents an industry subgroup such as Performing Arts, Spectator Sports, and Related Industries (711).
A four-digit NAICS code represents a specific industry such as Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers (7115).
Deeper breakdowns specify services (711510 Technical Writer, independent, 541930 Translation services, language) and specialties (511130 Technical manual publishers).
Interestingly, the salary database reports that translation services have maintained employment numbers. We technical writers have yet to recover jobs lost to the 2007-2009 recession. Not to panic though. We’ve gained jobs in these industries:
- Architectural, Engineering Services
- Business, Professional, Labor, Political Organizations
- Employment Services
- Information Services
Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services
- Semiconductor and Electronic Component Manufacturing
- Testing Laboratories
- Wholesale Electronic Markets and Agents and Brokers
Advantage Canada if you’re bilingual.