What Technical Communication Strategies, Skills, and Opportunities to Seek During Your Climb to the Summit
By: Andy Romero
Florida Chapter, STC
This year, active STC members Bethany Aguad and Nick Ducharme presented an outstanding session on how young professionals can successfully excel in the first years of their technical communication careers, and on what to expect in various workplaces. Using a rising to the summit metaphor, Bethany and Nick emphasized how to reach your goals within your technical communication field and what is needed to stay ahead on your climb to success. They broke up these strategies and tips into three different topics: Training and Equipment for Your Climb, Reaching the Summit, and Ready for Your Next Climb?
To begin, Bethany and Nick spoke about how the Technical Communication degree can aid in strategizing how to work effectively within a workplace. However, there are various fields and many topics that need to be studied to increase your work experience. In doing so, there are always chances to continue your education and consider a masters in Technical Communication or an MBA. This can broaden opportunities for employment and is considered very valuable in the workforce. To continue, Nick and Bethany spoke about self-confidence and learning from your strengths and weaknesses as a student and employee. Identifying your weaknesses can always result in more improvement, and while the first years on the job can be overwhelming, “everyone starts on the same base of the mountain.”
Next, the duo touched base on getting a sense of the technical knowledge being used and on analyzing processes as a newcomer to a workplace. These topics advised to never be afraid to ask questions and to express your thoughts if ideas come up on different ways of improving the workflow. It is always advantageous for processes to be looked at with a “fresh set of eyes” so that things can be made better. Some other tips on work performance were to actively participate in meetings. This included: preparing for meetings, letting your voice be heard, appropriately communicating your opinion, and not monopolizing the conversation. This lets other employees know that you are actively participating in the discussion and that you have a genuine interest in the work you are performing.
Additionally, Nick and Bethany discussed the importance of interviewing your Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and developing time management skills. They shed light on how getting noticed by your SMEs and being prepared for the unexpected with schedules and delivery dates are paramount to successfully becoming a technical communicator.
Next, Bethany and Nick moved on to the subject of Reaching the Summit. Here they discussed company culture and how to work in a team-oriented environment. Thriving in this type of environment includes communicating effectively with your team and excelling under good leadership. They also reflected on the importance of performance reviews and competition “during the climb.” Nick and Bethany suggested starting a performance log, so you and your employer have the opportunity to go over your milestones and accomplishments throughout the year during a performance review. This can set you apart from the competition and help differentiate yourself from other technical communicators in your field. Keeping a record of these activities can also aid in recognizing strengths and weaknesses that can be improved throughout your time of employment.
Finally, the team talked about how to get ready for your next climb. Some of these talking points included tips on how to get promoted, specializing and career progressions, and expanding your professional career horizons. Nick and Bethany did not forget to mention the importance of FTC and STC involvement and the benefits of attending the STC annual Summit Conference in Orlando, as these can lead to valuable academic and professional networking opportunities and leadership positions.
Overall, the dynamic duo gave an insightful and encouraging presentation on how to effectively begin your first years in a technical communication career field. Bethany and Nick also gave students great advice on how to appropriately write emails, how to address your higher-ups, and how to specialize yourself in your career field. They provided strategies on how to tackle the hardest of challenges when coming into a new work setting and how to grow within your profession and the company as well.