Re: What is a reasonable training period for newbie writers?

Subject: Re: What is a reasonable training period for newbie writers?
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 10 Nov 2000 10:22:07 -0800

Krista Van Laan wrote:
> What is a reasonable amount of time in which to expect a newcomer to the
> field to be productive? 3 months? 6 months? A year? Someone mentioned that
> after
> six months on the job, the newbie with the "atmospheric benefits" and lots
> of training
> would be able to go get a job as an experienced tech writer
> with a better salary. I would have thought that, too, but I believe my
> expectations aren't realistic for what happens in real life.

Based on my experiences of both hiring and being hired, I'd say that
most people seem to need 3 to 4 months to be completely comfortable
in a new job. However, the general trend is usually obvious in 2 to
3 weeks. If a person doesn't seem up to the job after a few weeks,
you might want to talk to them and give them another few weeks to
shape up.

Of course, there are exceptions. At one job, I knew in 2 days that I
was in the wrong place. In another, I brought a person in very near
to deadline. Given the pressure, I felt I had to suspend my
judgement about the new hire, because I realized that she faced a
difficult situation. However, when I started to evaluate her two
months later, I realized that she had misrepresented her experience
and wasn't up to the job.

As for the position of someone with six months' experience, I'd say
that your expectations are completely realistic. The hard part is
getting your first writing job. Six months should be enough to teach
most people the basics, which would immediately give them an
advantage over all the newcomers swarming into the field. Of course,
unless a person with six months' experience was very lucky, they
probably wouldn't have much planning or project management
experience, but they would be in a position to get a better job.

I would also add that I would generally expect a person with six
months' experience in a single job to be less experienced than
another person with six months' steady experience as a contractor.
>From the first, contractors have to take responsibility, since
there's no one else to take it. They also have to learn to do
everything for themselves, so they usually gain experience more

In much the same way, I'd expect a lone writer, or a writer at a
startup to gain more experience in six months than a junior member
of a large writing team. The junior writer might know what they know
very thoroughly, but, the chances are, they wouldn't have been
exposed to as many different experiences.

Bruce Byfield, Outlaw Communications
Contributing Editor, Maximum Linux
604.421.7189 bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com

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Says you went left when you should have gone right,
Try to do undo what you've once done wrong,
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