For the past couple of years in October, I've gone up to Brigham Young University Idaho to talk to students at their professional writing conference. I'm going up there again this year. In preparation, I asked my colleague who teaches there whether students still think of technical writing as a sellout/fallback career, or whether they're more seriously preparing for an actual career in technical writing. My colleague responded:
They've chosen professional writing as a career because doing so is prudent (or at least more prudent than choosing creative writing or college teaching). They may wonder, however, whether they can really be happy in a career as a technical writer. The professional world is a bit of a mystery to them, and they wonder whether they'll really end up content as professional writers. They sort of feel that they'll never know this until they try it, but that after they try it, it'll be too late to go back and do something else. There's a sense of entering a career path sort of half blind. Anything you could do to answer whether they could really be happy in a career as a tech writer would help them out a lot.
I'm at a loss for how to respond to this student dilemma. How do you know whether technical writing is the right career path for you? I'm really hoping you can shed some light as to how I could help students resolve this dilemma.
In previous collaborative posts, I created a Google doc to collect the responses, but in the last collaborative post, most people just added comments below the post itself. The latter method seems more practical. I appreciate any insights you may have.
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I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. Topics I write about on this blog include technical writing, authoring and publishing tools, API documentation, tech comm trends, visual communication, technical writing career advice, information architecture and findability, developer documentation, and more. If you're a professional or aspiring technical writer, be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here.