Mentoring suggestions

Subject: Mentoring suggestions
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Thu, 20 Feb 1997 09:29:02 -0600

Jennifer Krause asked for advice on getting going in her
new techwhirling career. Jennifer, there are dozens of good
books available (check the reviews section of _Technical
Communication_), so I won't go into the nitty gritty
technical details. But one thing many books leave out is
the human side of technical writing.

So my advice: Start building excellent relationships with
your colleagues, with subject matter experts, and with
management... right now. Build them honestly, not as a
brown-noser or sycophant; if you don't like some of the
people (which is likely), don't pretend you do, but _do_
establish a relationship based on mutual professional
respect. When you hit the wall some time down the road,
these relationships will save your life, or at least your
peace of mind. Second, make sure you're part of the
development team so that you're aware of what's going on
and can come up with coping strategies for producing good
documentation. Building good relationships will get your
foot in the door.

So how do you build these relationships? Make sure you chat
with your colleagues about things other than work; you're
bound to find something of mutual interest, from sports to
high tech, to discuss. Learn enough about their areas of
expertise to hold a knowledgable conversation with them, or
ask them to tell you more about what they do so you can
learn; most people are more than happy to bore you with the
details of their work. If you know a bit, you won't ask the
really idiotic questions that annoy people so much.
Socialize with them to whatever extent is appropriate;
sitting with them occasionally in the lunch room is one
way, playing volleyball every Thursday is another. (No need
to invite them to family dinners just yet, unless they
become good friends!) Pass along Dilbert cartoons,
particularly the ones that give you both a sense of deja
vu. Tell them the latest Microsoft jokes. Help them with
their resumes, proposal writing for more resources,
recording of the minutes of meetings, and business letters.
Concentrate on being an asset to them, not just someone
else making demands on their time.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.

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