RE: Education

Subject: RE: Education
From: "George F. Hayhoe" <george -at- ghayhoe -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>, <novagun -at- earthlink -dot- net>
Date: Sat, 2 Oct 1999 11:23:21 -0400

Nora Guy asked:

<<. . . if I have the option of getting a certificate first,
then a degree, should I go for it? Also, who should I
approach about getting some hands-on experience? Everyone I
work with knows I'm in school, but we have no documentation
department (it's all done by an outside firm).>>

I'd say that the answer is--predictably--it depends.

I'm assuming from your message that there's not much--if
any--overlap between the certificate program and the degree
program, so pursuing the certificate will slow down your
pursuit of the degree. Since you're attending school part
time while working full time, taking the certificate program
first will mean postponing your degree, probably for a
couple of years.

I'm also assuming that you'd like to switch your day job
from technical recruiting to technical communication as soon
as possible.

First, you need to find out whether the local job market is
such that someone with an associate's degree and a
certificate in technical communication is marketable.
There's no point in pursuing the certificate if it won't get
you the kind of job you want.

You also need to look at your personal goals and decide
whether you want to postpone the degree that much longer.
What else is going on in your life? Will pursuing the
certificate mean postponing other plans that depend on
finishing your degree? How important are those other plans
to you (and perhaps to others in your life)?

The certificate is essentially a short-term fix for you. It
could allow you to pursue a full-time position in technical
communication while you're finishing school. But there are
plenty of people out there doing technical communication
with less than a four-year degree and without a certificate.

I'd talk to your university to see whether they have a coop
or internship program, and if so, what companies they send
their students to. You may well find one of those companies
will be willing to take a risk on you. Many companies
believe that nontraditional students with good track records
on the job and good grades make excellent employees. And
many of these companies have tuition reimbursement programs
for precisely that reason.

Talk to your current company to see whether there are small
documentation jobs that you could do in place of some of
your current responsibilities that aren't big enough to
contract to the outside documentation company. Many
departments need to have their procedures formalized,
especially when a key longtime employee retires or when they
expect to do a lot of hiring.

You might even talk to the outside documentation company to
see whether they might be interested in hiring you. With
your knowledge of your current company, you might be a very
attractive prospect for them. (Having been a recruiter at
your current company, you have a wealth of audience and task
knowledge that would help them prepare more usable

Make sure you weight all your options before you decide. And
good luck! I think you've chosen a really exciting career.

--George Hayhoe (george -at- ghayhoe -dot- com)

George Hayhoe Associates
Voice: +1 (803) 642-2156
Fax: +1 (803) 642-9325

APEX '99 Grand Award for Publication Excellence

Awards of Distinguished Technical Communication
South Carolina/Carolina Foothills STC Chapters
1998-99 Technical Publications Competition

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