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Not Your Regular Networking Article
December 27, 2016
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By Sree Pattabiraman, Chapter Member

Image displaying Hello, I am networking name tag

How being a part of the Technical Writing community has helped me look at networking differently.

Whether you are new or not to your field, you might have come across a lot of articles pointing to the importance of networking and how it can change your career for the better.

Even though being a technical writer does not require me to network extensively, I am still a big fan of popping up at as many networking events as my schedule permits me to (Trust me when I say I sometimes challenge my time management skills). Why do I do this and how has this helped me? Or, has it helped me at all? One might ask. Ofcourse, the ultimate purpose which a lot of people, including me, attend networking events is to meet new people and broaden their prospects of securing a job/business. But somewhere down the road, I started looking at things entirely differently.

1. Reality check on where I stood

For starters, attending monthly events hosted by STC and Triangle UXPA has made me take a step back and reflect on where I stood professionally in comparison to my peers. When I used to network just to find jobs, I often would overlook talking to people who were at the same level as me. But, once I got a job and started attending many more events, I had better opportunities to learn about my peers and their work.

It has immensely helped me gain knowledge on what kind of work other fellow technical writers were doing, what tools they were using, how they were approaching their work, and what they were doing differently on their job that made each and everyone unique.

2. Rekindled my right brain

Creativity is not everyone’s cup of tea. One often needs to be in a particular space to feel creative — for some it’s in their car on their way to work, for others it’s in the shower, and for some it’s in a coffee shop!

Surprisingly, I can attribute networking events to having rekindled my creativity. When you meet a set of like-minded people who share similar goals as yours, you tend to feel more energized and motivated to brainstorm ideas. Many events have left me pondering how I can convert my learnings and apply them to my job to improve my writing, presentation skills, and public speaking.
Not only that, these events have also left me inspired to think of topics that can I contribute to in the future.

3. Well-polished elevator pitch

Most of the community events are organized in such a way that they allow a good amount of time for people to interact with the speakers, as well as with the audience. When I was a newbie in the field, one thing that I always struggled to come up with was delivering the perfect elevator pitch. Even now, I am not sure if there is a thing as a ‘perfect’ elevator pitch.

But, as time passed I noticed that I was getting better at introducing myself and I gained more confidence to express myself in a larger crowd. And I was able to talk to many people in a short span of time without having to feel overwhelmed.

4. Build a professional community for myself outside of work

I think I can safely speak up for the technical writing community that we are in a world where we are caught up in our writing zone, burying our heads into computer screens most of the day! And, that’s just the nature of our jobs.

Through many networking events, I have built a professional community which allows me to interact with fellow technical writers in getting opinions about my work, getting information regarding tools, clarifying questions ranging from usage for particular terms in a document to picking the best output format to deliver the document.

When I feel encumbered by something that I haven’t done in the past, I always have a community to rely on. Because, there will always be someone who may have encountered the same situation as me.

5. Become a Subject Matter Expert

A lot of us in the writing community do not have a traditional technical writing background. I came into the industry with no past experience or specialized skill set. There have been a lot of days when I have felt daunted to take up a task or not had a clue about a software.
Many networking events I have been to have discussed content strategy, content architecture, usability design, coding in technical documents, DITA, and documentation decisions to name a few.

This has not only helped me gain more knowledge on the subject but also enabled me to research more about it. Eventually, I got trained on the job and took up specialized technical writing courses. But, networking events have contributed and still continue to contribute in helping me become stronger in the subject area.

Not all of us have the bandwidth to attend these events all the time, but, I can affirm that networking, be it small or big, will always help you in the long run, like it has helped me so far.

Sree Pattabiraman can be reached at skuppus at ncsu dot edu.End of article.

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