Re: Certification -- what's in it for writers

Subject: Re: Certification -- what's in it for writers
From: Kari Gulbrandsen <kkgulbrandsen -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: Jerry Franklin <jerryfranklin -at- alumni -dot- northwestern -dot- edu>
Date: Fri, 28 Oct 2011 20:22:54 -0400

Hi all,

Back when I was first on this list maybe 10 years ago, people were arguing
about certification. And now that I'm back, I find that you all still are.
What goes around comes around, or comes full circle, or some such. <grin>

I am dead set against certification. At age 53, I have gone though all the
hoops that I want to go through to get a job. And by that, I mean running
around trying to get something to prove my worth to people who don't really
know what it is that I do or can do for them. I haven't been tech writing in
years, and I recently just got back into it. I am working for a small
company -- their recruiter contacted me (he saw my resume on Monster), I
sent him writing samples, he distributed them among the team that I would be
working with, the team followed that up with a phone interview, and that was
followed by a face-to-face interview. I got the job.

My company had no tech writers in the interview process -- they told me that
it was a new position for them. Now that I have been there for a month, I
find that odd, because they do have tech writers (just not in the office I
was in). They didn't even have the tech writer (who is also PMI certified)
give questions for my team to ask me. Odd. Anyway, I though it was a normal
enough interview -- nothing too off the wall where I was like ehh?. I was
interviewed by the team leader, a tech editor, and the project manager also
popped his head in. They looked at my writing samples (which were not tech
writing, they were feature articles, but they liked them), they wanted to
know whether I would understand technical complex information (so they loved
that I have a master's in engineering), they wanted to know how I would
approach a project, they wanted to know how I would address my audience, and
deal with differences in my audience, and so on.

I thought they were good questions, but they really didn't know if I could
write or not on the basis of my answers. And I guess my point is is that
even with certification, they still wouldn't have known, because two weeks
after I started, my position in the group that I was with was eliminated.
They transferred me to another project (the CMMI nightmare that I am
currently dealing with). I have no experience in this kind of documentation,
and it is throwing me for a loop. Does that mean that I am not a tech
writer? No, it doesn't. It means that I didn't have experience with this
kind of material. I had enough other experience and enough other qualities
that they liked that they took a chance with me.

I think that our field is so varied -- what we do and what is being asked of
us, that I don't see how certification can cover it. If your future employer
can't trust your education, your references, your experience, your samples,
your background check, and everything else you need to do to get a job these
days, why are they going to trust a certificate? And why should a
certificate be the end all to getting a job?

I dunno if I'm being very clear -- it's been a long week, and I'm still not
home. Maybe if 10 years from now, and certification is the norm for our
field, I'll rethink it. I just don't want one more obstacle being placed in
my way to get a job. One more hurdle that I have to cross, or one place
where I have to prove that I know what I am doing to do what it is that I
do. By the way, I do have a certificate in tech writing -- but I gather from
the discussion, that because it's from a university, it's not a valid
measure of my ability, because it's not a "real-world" certificate. If I'm
wrong about that perception, I apologize.

As for being passionate about my craft -- I think that came through loud and
clear in my interview. If you aren't able to get that message across then
you might need to rethink your interview style. There are a lot of ways to a
job -- I guess you need to explore all the options that feel right for you.

I've also worked with a lot of engineers, and they have always been grateful
for my red pen. It really surprises me when I hear some of your horror
stories. Their attitude has always been that I am there to make them look
and sound good, and they look at me as the expert and give me pretty much
free rein to do what I want. In fact, I get nervous because I sometimes
think that they let me change *too* much, and they're not going to check my
revisions to make sure I didn't misinterpret anything.

Hope I didn't step on any toes ... I certainly didn't mean to.

Happy Friday all!


On Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 1:15 PM, Jerry Franklin <
jerryfranklin -at- alumni -dot- northwestern -dot- edu> wrote:

> Greetings, all.
> <reply snipped> I'm absolutely going to get at least one certification.
> It's not going to
> make me a better tech writer, though I do expect to pick up a few good
> tips. And it's not going to represent in any way how successful I am in my
> job now, or how successful I can be at another job. And it's not going to
> get me a raise (or, at least, I don't expect it to). But the next time I'm
> in the job market, you bet it's going on my resume, because, while it may
> not be the deciding factor, it will help the hiring manager justify her
> decision to *her* manager. Do not underestimate how much this is worth.
> Regards,
> Jerry
Kari Kristine Gulbrandsen
Reflective Editing | Enlightening Sciences

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Certification -- what's in it for writers: From: Jerry Franklin

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