High-value Transferable Skills Revisited (poll)

A photo by Nicolai BerntsenWe often discuss related fields, required skills, and desired skills for those content professionals who most often engage as the venerable “technical writer” (or some version of that title). Recently, veteran TechWhirler Steve Janoff asked the question about transferable skills in a highly popular thread on the discussion forum. He raises an important distinction that often gets lost when writers get to contemplating/complaining about their perceived worth in an organization. “If you wanted to educate a VP, or someone from the C-suite, as to what “abstract” skills a Tech Writer has that could be applied to their own challenges, what would you list?” This question is worth discussing, not in terms of proving worth as a TW, but as a contributor or even a leader, in the organization. So we thought we’d broaden the scope of the discussion by posting a poll on transferable skills.

Being promotable, willing and able to take a leadership role in a company, requires a lot of the same skills we use every day as communicators. But recent experience in contract hunting suggests that contract technical writers with 7-10 years’ make approximately half of what developers or project managers of the same vintage make. It highlights the fact transferable skills are not just a matter of laudable commitment to the organization. They’re a matter of economic survival.

Steve’s point, that we have skills that could be brought to bear on a management challenge that has little or nothing to with communications, bears repeating. And the ensuing discussion brought out some interesting takes on what makes a transferable skill. Takes that could pull us away from the typical keywords we use on a resume. For example,  Raj Karamchedu focused on objectivity, the ability to apply “just the facts ma’am” to thorny situations that require a decision. That one made me rethink my perspective a bit.

We took a stab at formulating a list of transferable skills that make you valuable to the C-suite, based on the excellent responses to Steve’s question. Take some time to review this thread, there’s a lot of gold in all the individual contributions. Then vote in the poll, and add to the discussion by posting a comment to this article or on the list.

What transferable skills should content pros have to support, or become, senior leadership in the organization?

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Connie Giordano

Connie Giordano is a partner in INKtopia Limited and editor of TechWhirl's Tech Writer Today online magazine. She has been a list member and contributor since the days when 14,400 baud was high speed communications, and Windows 95 was state-of-the-art.

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