Session presented to STC Philadelphia chapter (September 2018) outlining why it's important to increase visibility and review options in order to be prepared for shifts in technical communication landscape.
Being a technical communicator is like being a chef in a restaurant. We prepare food (content) for people who choose to go out to eat and have somebody else provide the meal. In fact, many challenges that an experienced cook might face are similar to ours.
How do we respond to these challenges? Get out of the kitchen!
I’ve been looking around, gauging marketplace and my place in it- and learned a few things. Fewer responses than expected Experience is good but skills have not kept up (impressive career advancement has unseen costs) Fewer experienced or senior positions (more competition, lower than expected pay) More contract positions, mostly short term (slippery slope) Doing your job well or being a good technical communicator is not enough anymore. You may fall behind and find the marketplace and what employers are looking for has passed you by. Need to maintain and occasionally exceed a faster market pace. Can’t let off the gas.
There are increasing and more frequent changes in marketplace Content is a commodity (easy to find or produce, focus on lowering cost) Skills need to be reassessed and freshened (updated) more often Increased competition (lots of applications for each position) Demand for more direct ‘technical’ skills (narrower focus) Employers value/want experience (but don’t want to pay for it) Jobs are increasingly found through personal networks (most posted public positions are not as ‘open’ as you think) Bottom Line = Can’t Rest or Get Too Comfortable, Have to Regularly Feed Your Career (It’s a constant side job and growth is reliant on your connections)
Who is recognized for a great meal at the restaurant? - People remember who they see and interact with (not who prepared or produced the content) - Consumers and customers don’t know (or care) who provides content Working behind the curtain: reduces visibility, discourages interaction - Potential employers can’t see you or know what’s ‘your’ work (vs. what’s prepared by the kitchen)
Do patrons care if the food was prepared by an amateur, seasoned chef, or by a machine? Does it matter where it’s made? (Can be created anywhere by anyone) Are they willing to pay more? If so, by how much? Employers don’t pay more than necessary for content (not ‘value add’) Pressure to produce and deliver quickly (better to push out than delay) Increasingly ‘good enough’ is considered adequate Less review and editing (sacrifice to publish and deliver) Low risk for poor quality content (in most cases)
There are increasing options that don’t need a cook (or people with special training). Can anybody (given tools or some instruction) do the job? Automation (collecting, prepare, and publish) Internationalization (international ESL workers) Freelance (independent or contract) Gig Economy (piecemeal work)
There is downward pressure on the time and cost to prepare ‘good enough’ food. Companies look at documentation as ‘expense’ (non-revenue) Pressure to minimize cost for content (creation, gathering, preparing, and publishing) Increased automation to save time and process similar material from different sources.
Study and know your kitchen (position, workplace, network, industry) SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Talk to industry veterans and leaders Differentiation View how is your kitchen different? Consider tools, experience, personality (flair)
Get out of your kitchen (position, workplace, network, industry) SWOT Response (Share) Document and share your skills and experience, publish examples of your work (Shift) Get closer to customers or clients by doing jobs that get recognition or require interaction (delivery, support, or communication) (Learn) Train and learn new, relevant skills (Connect) Engage and expand your network Differentiation Tactics (how is your kitchen different?) Go Niche (specialize, become expert) Expand (learn new tools and techniques) Brand Yourself (unique you, accentuate) Serve it up (pay attention to service, get closer to customer/user) Be Soft (focus on soft skills - writing (duh), speaking/presenting) the true differentiator (communication is key)
Work on the side to gain practice, skills, and experience. volunteer, take a class, buy a book Engage communities to find out what help they need Focus on solving problems (start small) Be intentional (sign up based on interest and capacity) Understand the commitment (short vs. long term) Consider: Choices based on analysis (filling gaps, new territory, expansion) overcommitment Does it address a concern/weakness or potential move your needle? (should make a measurable difference and not be more of the same skill/experience you already have) Timing the market (what you think will be ‘hot’) Passion (is it something you’re really interested or committed to?) If you’re not sure what you want to do or what side work you’re most suited for, try the following: note what you search for on Google ask other people what they think or recommend approach people at work or in community (find out what help they need) Keep ‘service’ in mind - how you can help others.
There are specific actions you can take to prepare: Review and update your profile (and resume) Take some classes, attend conferences or webinars Ping and reach out to your network (like, comment, meet) Gather Feedback, collect suggestions, build relationships (interviews, surveys)
Get out of the Kitchen!
Get Out of the Kitchen!
STC-PMC Chapter Meeting
Tredyffrin Township Library
September 25, 2018
Presenter: Todd DeLuca (aka TechCommTodd)
! Consider Side Gigs !
How can you help others?
? Are You Ready ?
What’s your next step?
For Tech Comm:
• Where is the profession headed?
• Where is the growth/opportunity
• How secure is your position?
• Do you have in-demand skills?
• Are your skills easily transferred?
• How do you compare and compete?
About the Speaker
• Master Degree in Tech Comm
• Technical Communicator for 15+
Years (Software Development)
• Lead team of Tech Writers
• Active STC Volunteer
- Director & Presenter
- Past Chapter President