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Meeting Recap: Career Day 2013
2013, Q2 (July 11, 2013)
Meeting Recap
Sheila Loring
Sheila Loring, Incoming Chapter President
By Sheila Loring, Incoming Chapter President

The chapter met for spirited and, at times, humorous presentations on resume writing, networking, leadership, mentoring, and how to better position yourself in today's technical communication job market. I'm sharing the highlights for members who missed the opportunity to attend this lively event.

Becoming a Technical Editor

Michelle Corbin, Senior Technical Editor & Information Architect, IBM

Michelle Corbin provided tips on increasing your value as a technical editor. As we know, dedicated technical editing positions are rare these days. When asked to justify her position, Michelle pointed out that, just as software is tested before release, technical documentation must be edited. Both software testing and technical editing provide quality assurance, and corporations should not compromise on either process.

Tips for boosting your longevity as a technical editor:
  • Consider enlarging your toolbox to include projects such as writing glossaries, which helps writers during development and decreases the number of questions from translators.
  • Get involved in information architecture: look at the big picture. Who are your customers, and how can your product documentation be written and organized to best serve their needs?

What is Global Leadership? Perceptions vs. Reality

Geetha Venkataraman, Senior Technical Support Manager, NetApp

Geetha has extensive experience managing teams across the globe. She urges technical writers to understand the cultural tendencies of our global colleagues. Your Indian colleagues might not question impossible deadlines. Encourage them to offer alternatives, such as prioritizing the task list or beginning the project earlier. Work to overcome the stereotype of the aggressive, unreasonable American. In meetings, do not force your opinions on global colleagues. Give them time to voice their opinions.

Professional Networking: Building a Professional Network from the Ground Up

Jenna Moore, Senior Technical Writer, SAS Institute

Jenna provided many practical examples of creating and nurturing your professional network. There's more to it than tweeting and updating your LinkedIn profile.
  • Create a network by writing down the colleagues who you frequently contacted on past jobs and in volunteer positions. Ask your contacts for help and promptly answer questions from them.
  • Find out which contact can help you reach your goals and meet periodically for lunch.
  • To stand out among others in your network, take the time to write a thank-you note or call your contacts.
  • To develop your network, increase your exposure in the field. Volunteer to give a presentation or write a newsletter article. In online forums or on Twitter, answer questions in your area of expertise.

Getting Past Human Resources

Sharon McCormick, Senior Executive Service Human Resources Specialist

Sharon McCormick provided an invaluable inside view of human resources and how to guide your resume into the hiring manager’s hands. As a technical writer with a background in human resources, Sharon understands the job search from both sides of the desk.
  • Excellent writing skills and the ability to work independently are the two of the most important skills for a technical writer. Demonstrate on your resume that you have these traits.
  • What’s different about you? Don’t just recite job responsibilities. Briefly describe how you met specific challenges.
  • Don’t worry about a multi-page resume. The content will likely be scanned by a computer, and one page often doesn’t provide enough information.
  • A pre-screener might glance at your resume before forwarding it to the hiring manager. How can you set your resume apart from others? For instance, Christina Eftekhar’s resume includes the tagline “Not just a technical writer,” which summarizes her skills and imparts personality.

Resume Writing

Christina Eftekhar, Technical Editor, Extreme Networks

Christina Eftekhar, Carolina Communique managing editor, spoke about how to renovate your resume to quickly answer the question, “Why should I hire you?” Large companies scan resumes these days. If your resume makes it past the filters, make it easy for the hiring manager to find you among dozens of other applicants.
  • The purpose of your resume is to answer the question “Why should I hire you?” Don’t make the reader work to find the answer. Your resume must be easily skimmed.
  • Include the city and state in which you reside so that the employer knows you’re local.
  • Add volunteer work if related to your field. If the work is not directly related to your field, describe how the skills transfer to the position you’re applying for.
  • Include a list of the presentations you’ve given.
  • Always ask someone else to proofread your resume.
  • Consider coordinating the style of your cover letter with the resume.
  • When emailing your resume, send the PDF version. The formatting in a Microsoft Word document is too easily corrupted.

Mentoring New Writers

Betsy Kent, Senior Technical Writer, Progress Software

In her presentation on mentoring, Betsy Kent offered practical advice on helping new writers succeed. Mentoring provides learning opportunities for both the mentor and mentee. You help develop talent in the field of technical communication, and the mentee benefits from your years of experience.

  • A good mentor provides wisdom and empathy. Remember when you first entered the profession? What advice would have benefited you then?
  • Provide guidance on setting goals and figuring out which skills to develop.
  • Catch them doing something well. Don’t just point out what they could do better.
  • Encourage mentees to speak up if you’re explaining things too quickly. Give them time to take notes.
  • Teach by asking questions. Consider asking, “I was thinking of doing it this way, what were you thinking of?” rather than condemning the mentee for making mistakes.

Developing Content for Hardware Products

Andrea Wenger, Senior Technical Writer, Schneider Electric

Andrea Wenger shared her experiences writing hardware documentation. The documentation typically shows how to repair electrical equipment, so safety is the primary concern. She described challenges that other technical writers rarely face.

  • Hazard messages must be consistently worded and formatted. Even incorrectly formatted warnings can be questioned in lawsuits.
  • Hardware writers can’t just take screenshots. Andrea and a photographer meet to disassemble parts and decide which photos she needs for the manual.
  • Many times, safety information must fit on one-page or even one-inch pieces of paper. This goal is particularly challenging when the content is translated and must fit in a small area.
  • Coming up with terminology is part of the job. For a particular product, the writer might decide on a descriptive name for each screw in addition to documenting the part number.

Sheila can be reached at loringstc at yahoo dot com. End of article.

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