Re: Career-switching (long)

Subject: Re: Career-switching (long)
From: "Larry Kunz ((919) 254-6395)" <ldkunz -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 30 Oct 1995 13:33:48 EST

On 27 Oct 1995, Dennis V. Callaghan (dcallaghan -at- SUNGARD -dot- COM) wrote:

> I joined the technical communication world a little over two months
> ago. . . .Prior to that I had been a newspaper reporter for 2 1/2 years.

Welcome, Dennis! I made the switch -- from "cub" reporter to
writer of software manuals -- and haven't ever regretted it.

> How do you get a sense of accomplishment or feeling of making
> a contribution to your company when you can work on a project
> for months on end without seeing the results, when before you
> needed only to pick up that day's paper to see what you had
> done lately.

Excellent question. . . . I struggled with that, and finally learned
to cope by breaking big tasks into smaller ones. Setting daily or
weekly checkpoints, then reaching them, feels good.

I also found, when I began doing more marketing communication, that
my deadlines are in days rather than months. If you really prefer
short deadlines, I encourage you to look at MarCom.

Finally, don't forget the flip side. Yes, as a reporter you can
pick up today's paper and see the fruit of your labor, but you also
know that tomorrow it'll be fish wrap. Technical writing has a
*bit* longer shelf life than that!

> How do you cope with a subject matter that is often duller and less
> comprehensible than what you used to report on?

It doesn't have to be. If you're working in an industry that doesn't
excite you, keep looking. Technical writers write about a veritable
plethora of subjects, and some of them are bound to be more in line
with your interests.

> And do you miss the "free spirit" types you worked with in your
> reporting days?

I didn't work at *Rolling Stone*, so maybe my newsroom was different
from yours. ;-) But not to worry: If it's creative, stimulating
people you want, you'll feel right at home in tech writing.

> Answers to these questions and any other insights you could provide as
> well as tips for avoiding news writing practices/styles that aren't
> welcome in tech writing would be most appreciated.

I'd like to turn that on its head. When I made the switch I was
delighted to find how many news writing practices *are* welcome in
tech writing.

In my cub reporter days I covered local government. I'd listen to
the city council debate the new municipal budget, then I'd write how
the potholes on Main Street would be unfilled and there'd be no
lifeguard this year at the city pool. I was:

- Practicing good interviewing techniques
- Finding the best sources and cultivating relationships with them
- Taking highly technical information (like the budget) and presenting
it to a nontechnical audience
- Doing audience analysis
- Always striving for accuracy
- Using research and off-the-record interviews to fill in my
background knowledge
- Working with editors who were a lot less in love with my writing
than I was

In short, I was doing technical writing without knowing it!

Best of luck to you.

Larry Kunz
STC Assistant to the President for Professional Development
ldkunz -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com

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