Oh, I never thought of that as a career but I guess someone has to do that

This doesn’t relate to food, film, or French but I thought I would write about it anyway. It’s just about something I’ve recently noticed. A couple of months ago I decided to change careers from journalism to technical writing.

It’s mainly a switch for practical reasons. Journalism doesn’t pay well, and technical writing apparently does. Fewer people are paying for news, while companies still have to write user guides for their products. News outlets are laying off people, cutting pay, and closing down. You don’t hear about as much of that taking place in the technical writing industry.

Anyway, often when I tell people about my decision to become a technical writer, they ask me what a technical writer is. That is pretty legitimate, because it’s not necessarily common knowledge that technical writers are the people who write and edit user guides for products.

But when I mention user guides they furrow their brow and say, “Oh wow, I never thought about how someone needs to write those, and about how writing them can be a career. But it makes total sense when you think about it. Interesting.”

I don’t really know how to react to this reaction. I mean, on one hand, I’m educating people about the workings of the world. I’m giving them some insight into an area they’ve never really explored. But at the same time it makes me question the importance of what I’m about to do.

Because they’ve never thought about the need for technical writers does that mean that technical writers don’t play a crucial role? Does that mean that what they do just serves themselves and their companies and not society as a whole? Is what they do so seemingly boring that their work isn’t even worth a passing thought?

Whatever the explanation is, I’m still confident about my decision. If I can help people understand how to use that popcorn popper, or camera, or whatever it is then I’m proud. Whether they think about who made the instructions easy to understand isn’t really my concern. You can’t bring your ego into it!

Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/superamit/2838703488.

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7 Comments on “Oh, I never thought of that as a career but I guess someone has to do that”

  1. Craig Says:

    I went from being a web programmmer into being the only technical writer for a small company. Explaining what I do is always a challenge. It helps to have a background in proofreading and copyediting, working in newspapers, and to have a masters in English. Having a way with words and an interest in technology can be a very good combination.

  2. christinelaubenstein Says:

    Hi Craig,

    Thanks for filling me in on your story, and sympathizing with me about the frequent need to explain what you do. I’m hoping my journalism background will help me find a job (I’m also doing a couple of technical writing internships). I wasn’t always interested in technology, but that has changed over the years. As I said in my post, I look forward to explaining technology to people in an easy-to-understand way. I find it interesting you switched from being a web programmer to a technical writer. Surely your computer background has helped you out.

  3. Craig Says:

    Hi christine,

    Your journalism experience will help prove you can write. Maybe you have clips you can show. Better yet, your tech writing internships should help you build a portfolio to show potential employers. Get that portfolio on the Web. Post it on your website, or maybe on LinkedIn. If you aren’t a member of LinkedIn, join. If you want, send your email address to me at cardimon720@yahoo.com and I will send you an invitation to LinkedIn. Don’t be afraid of social media. It’s a tool. Use it.

  4. christinelaubenstein Says:

    Hey Craig,

    Thanks so much for your suggestions. I actually am a member of LinkedIn, and hope to spruce up my page a bit very soon. Also, maybe I should post some clips to this site as well. Do you have a website?

    Christine

  5. christinelaubenstein Says:

    Thanks for the links! Like your writing on your blog!

    • Craig Says:

      Thank you much. I’m trying to write the horror novel that is banging around in my head, so the blog is kind of swinging in the wind right now. Currently, I’m trying to teach myself how to outline a novel. It exists only in my mind. Now I have to start writing it down.


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