In her best-seller Wild (which was recently made into a movie), author Cheryl Strayed recounts her experiences as a young woman hiking alone for 1,100 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. Although woefully underprepared when she began — a fact she readily admits — Strayed stayed the course and found the experience to be life altering.
As technical communicators, sometimes we’re thrust into jobs for which we feel underprepared. Maybe we land a new writing gig for which we don’t know the subject matter. Maybe we take on new roles and responsibilities to keep from being expendable. Maybe, as in the extreme example of Tina the Tech Writer, we have 45 minutes to learn how to be a database analyst.
When this happens to us, we might need to avoid the trap of the impostor syndrome. We can also learn from Cheryl Strayed’s experiences on the trail.
Strayed’s determination is evident throughout. The trail is daunting and full of unforeseen hazards. At practically every junction point Strayed thinks about quitting. But she never does quit.
Strayed shows resourcefulness when confronted with the unexpected. My favorite example comes on an isolated stretch of trail after one of her boots falls over a cliff into the forest below.
Strayed accepts help from people she encounters along the way. With only a couple of exceptions, the strangers she meets are happy to provide companionship, good advice, a hot shower, even a back-saving lesson in how to lighten her pack.
What tips do you have for succeeding in a new job or a new role when you feel underprepared?