The Future of STC
Panelists Explain How STC Can Help Job Seekers
by Christina Eftekhar, Carolina Chapter Member
- What: The Future of STC
- When: August 20, 2009
After awkwardly completing Tekelec’s high-tech visitor check-in kiosk, over 25 people sat classroom-style ready to hear panelists Michael Harvey, Sarah O’Keefe, Meredith Kinder, and Rick Sapir. The panelists were chosen for their commitment to STC’s Carolina Chapter to explain how STC helped them learn the industry, move up in their careers, and keep up with the changing industry.
How has being a member of STC helped you in your career?Sarah O’Keefe (SO): Business depends on networking, and a lot of networking happens in STC. Long-term membership leads to recognition and credibility. Getting an award in a competition becomes a part of the resume and what you are selling. In short: networking, meeting prospective customers and credibility.
Michael Harvey (MH): The opportunity to learn and assume leadership positions that wouldn’t normally happen. Being a member of STC shows how serious you are about your career. STC gives us the opportunity to learn from other professionals and small business owners and to network with them.
Meredith Kinder (MK): Learning how to managing projects and people, which came from being active and volunteering for activities and the newsletter. If you volunteer for a leadership position, before you know it, you’ve learned how to manage a project from beginning to end, how to communicate and get your group to do things, and this really helped in my day job. Also, becoming president and learning to motivate others to volunteer has helped me at my job at SAS.
MH: Speaking of SAS, it was STC contacts, involvement in the chapter, leadership roles I volunteered for, and the articles I wrote for the newsletter that helped me get my current job.
If you’ve been a leader with STC, what made you decide to go the extra mile?MH: STC has given me the opportunity to serve. You come in with all these great ideas, but, despite your best efforts, you end up surrounded by great people with great ideas. Think about ways to become more involved at a local level.
MK: My answer is very simple. When I wasn’t active in the chapter, I saw that those in leadership roles were very successful and knew what they were talking about. I wanted to be like them, so I learned from them. They paved the way for me to be a successful communicator and I just followed in their footsteps.
Rick Sapir (RS): My answer is even simpler. I did it for me. I saw some things I wanted to do and that there was a need I could fill, so I did. So now I’m the Chapter’s “Twitter-er.” I wanted to do electronic publishing and we figured out how to do that with the newsletter. I did things I wanted to do and suddenly my name gets out there.
Making friends is a part of networking, too.
SO: The summary version of this is that reputation is everything: to getting new jobs, keeping jobs, moving around. Forgetting social media for a moment, it’s important to manage your visibility, profile, and credibility within the industry to keep getting more opportunities to do so.
How has STC evolved?RS: STC is at a crossroads and there are many opportunities to make STC how you – we – want it to be. STC is becoming a much more bottom-up organization and local chapters are where it’s happening, where the opportunities are going to be. We’re also seeing a shift toward information architecture, content management, electronic communication, video. STC is keeping up with the changing industry, which is a very good thing.
MH: There’s more unity now. The more practical side of technical writing is converging with the traditionally academic side of STC; in the current situation, there is a need for us to explain the practical, everyday things of our organization.
MK: It’s a lot more diverse than it used to be. We are learning from each other’s skill sets, which go way beyond just writing.
SO: STC is in the process of evolving and certainly needs to do so. STC is no longer geographically restricted. You can join the Facebook and LinkedIn groups, you can network and communicate without having to join those chapters.
Career-quest, Management, Trends and Technology, Editing…most of these SIGs are inactive and they need leaders. Why are they important, or why did you become a leader of a SIG?MH: I got involved in the Usability and User Experience SIG because of my psychology background. Our local SIGS are inactive, and we do need leaders.
We know where the great jobs are. Get involved and the jobs will come to you.
MK: The SIGs are a way of learning from people and, when the SIGs were active, you knew the SIG’s meeting topic would be relevant to your own work.
SO: It’s all about professional development and communicating with your peers that have the same interests. I learn a lot, even if the information coming across the email lists is not immediately relevant.
Audience QuestionsJenna Moore: If you’ve managed technical writers, how have you found that STC helped your employees?
MK: Mine were new, just getting their feet wet. Being STC members helped them figure out that technical writing is what they wanted to do. It also helped their career paths. They became more confident in what they were doing and gained new inspiration because they knew they belonged.
SO: It might have been not at all. I offer to pay for membership, but many don’t want it. You don’t want to be a commodity; there will always be someone cheaper so you want to bring skills and value. Being a part of STC is a path to staying away from commoditization.
MH: Working well with a virtual team – the way of the future – is a very important skill to have if you don’t want to be a commodity.
At the end of the meeting, a show of hands indicated that 1/3 of the audience was looking presently for a job.
Joining STC for the networking, leadership, volunteer, and exposure opportunities are certainly appealing in such a tough job market. Do you want to volunteer? Email Terry Smith for open volunteer positions in the Carolina chapter.
Christina Eftekhar volunteers to write these meeting recaps and other articles for the added benefits: networking, learning more about the industry, and sharpening writing skills, to name just a few. Christina can be reached at c dot s dot eftekhar at gmail dot com.