A Technical Communication graduate student recently interviewed me for a project she’s doing. She asked great questions, and (with her permission) I thought I’d share some of my answers with you.
What does a career trajectory look like in technical communication?
Follow-on question: Is there lots of room for growth, or do people need to transition to management after a certain point?
There is lots of room for growth. Just as people follow many paths into Tech Comm, they find a lot of paths to follow once they’re here.
It’s like Dr. Seuss said: you can go almost anywhere.
Where you go in Tech Comm — or where you go from Tech Comm — depends on what you’re especially good at and what you’re most interested in.
You can hone your editing skills and become an editor. Editing opens doors to a large and diverse world of writing, not just Tech Comm.
Several of my technical-writing colleagues have gone on to be trainers. In terms of the objectives and skill set, training and Tech Comm share a lot in common.
If you find yourself gravitating toward content that informs people about products and services, rather than telling people how to use them, then you’ll find a world full of opportunities in marketing.
If you get a kick out of doing research and interviewing subject-matter experts (SMEs), you can become a researcher or a librarian.
Do you enjoy the big picture, the challenge of putting together all of the pieces of the content puzzle? You might be a budding content strategist or information architect.
Many technical communicators who enjoy being their own bosses, and who’ve racked up a few years of experience, start their own businesses as freelancers and consultants.
You can even stay on as a technical writer and work your way up to becoming a senior-level writer, taking on the most challenging assignments and mentoring your colleagues.
Finally, yes: you can become a manager. Most of the best managers I’ve had in Tech Comm have been people who came up through the ranks. They know firsthand what their people need to succeed, and they apply their leadership skills to make that success a reality.
I’ll be back with some more Q&As in my next post. But if you have questions in the meantime, don’t hesitate to ask in the Comments section.
Finally, if you’re an aspiring technical writer, I heartily recommend the Heroic Technical Writing blog, in which my friend Bart Leahy provides a steady stream of wise counsel about how to break in and what to expect once you’ve arrived.
I also recommend Amruta Ranade’s recent Masters in Tech Comm FAQ post. Amruta shares her perspective as a recent Master’s graduate with several years of experience as a Tech Comm practitioner.
Good luck — whatever places you end up going.