Of all the cool things about the technical communication profession, one of the coolest is the wide range of directions available to practitioners over the course of their careers. We’ve met highly successful strategists, specialists, developers, designers, writers, analysts and managers who plan, design, create and deliver technical communication content that supports every conceivable business objective. The titles vary and the scope covers an array of related fields, and the debate continues to rage.
Which debate you ask? The one about exactly what career options are available to folks who have done technical writing at some point. We see blog posts on how to move out of technical writing as often as articles on how to break into the field. And like professionals in many fields, technical communicators discuss career advancement, glass ceilings, value add, respect and whether being on a management track should be the only path to the “top.” Take a trip down memory lane via the TechWhirl archives, and you can find a lot of threads on how job titles should reflect what we really do, what kind of career path and whether any true management track exists for technical communicators, and how they can acquire the “soft skills” necessary to take on leadership roles in their organizations. And if you’re still not convinced of the timeless nature of this debate, read a classic humor piece (from 2001) from Lisa Higgins on Tech Writer Job Titles.
As we look at skills to survive and thrive in technical communication, we thought it important to take the pulse of the directions practitioners see their career headed in. Do you have the desire and the plan to take on a central role in managing the company, or do you prefer to stick to developing skills and expertise to manage technical communication activities only? Do you consider yourself a generalist or a specialist, and how will that impact the direction you take in the next few years? We know that the technology we use to deliver technical communication content changes as quickly as the weather forecast, so is it more important to stay abreast of the technology and tools or the strategic approach and frameworks? Does that perspective change if you decide to hang out the consultant’s shingle rather than climbing the corporate ladder?
Take a few minutes to vote in this week’s TechWhirl poll (you can choose one or two options), and then please do comment on how you plan to advance your career and the challenges you’ll need to meet in order to get there. Obviously there’s no single “right” career path for technical communication, and sharing your experience and expectations can illuminate possibilities that your colleagues may not have considered. Then if you’ve a mind to, feel free to start a thread on the email discussion list.