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You'd Better Be Running
2013, Q2 (July 11, 2013)
By Holly Fredericksen Dewitt, Volunteer Writer

Holly Fredericksen Dewitt Image
Holly Fredericksen Dewitt
You may have grown up thinking that we live in a round world, but according to Thomas Friedman, the world is actually becoming flat. This is being made possible thanks to globalization and the outsourcing of jobs that were once primarily found here in the United States.

Friedman says in his book, “When the world gets flat, everyone should want to be an untouchable.” So what exactly does it mean to be an untouchable? Untouchables, he claims, “Are people whose jobs cannot be automated or outsourced.”

He goes on to explain that being an untouchable is closely associated with being adaptable. Below is a formula created by the writers of Success magazine showing what makes someone highly adaptable:

Flexibility + Versatility = High Adaptability

The traits associated with flexibility that result in high adaptability include: confidence, tolerance, empathy, positivity, and respect for others.

The traits associated with versatility that result in high adaptability include: resilience, vision, attentiveness, competence, and self-correction (placing a high priority on problem solving, not necessarily on being right).

When I think about being adaptable, I’m reminded of the famous African proverb:

“Every day in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows that it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

Here are some practical strategies that can be used to become more adaptable, and therefore an untouchable:

1. Stay current with emerging technology. Know about and learn the recent developments within technical communication, including authoring environments such as DITA, usability for mobile devices, and social networking. You can do this by:
  • Subscribing to professional journals.
  • Attending conferences and meetings held by professional organizations (such as the STC Carolina Chapter).
  • Reading blogs written by cutting edge, innovative technical writers.
  • Broadening your skill set by taking classes or learning for free or cheap online.

2. Have a “growth” mindset rather than a “fixed” mindset. A growth mindset is open to failures and mistakes because it sees failures as learning opportunities. Someone with a growth mindset knows that, especially when are learning something new, mistakes are bound to happen. Instead of focusing on debilitating perfection, focus on improvement and making progress.

3. Be proactive. Constantly look for ways to enhance efficiency and productivity. If you anticipate a problem, try to find solutions before the problem occurs. Analyze the problem from all possible angles and know the ideal outcome and what barriers are in the way of that outcome. Then, brainstorm solutions to overcome those barriers.

Those who are untouchables in technical communication are continuously improving by learning new things and being active in the field. If you want to make it as an untouchable in our industry, when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.

Holly can be reached at hollyfredericksen at gmail dot com. End of article.

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