Finding Work You Love Vs. Loving the Work You Find
In this Twin Cities article, the author explains that a group of "career explorers" brought in a technical writer to talk about his work. The result?
In addition to explaining his duties and the path that had led to his somewhat accidental career choice, our speaker gave us food for thought when he declared "There's no joy in technical writing. No one goes home filled with joy over having written the perfect software instruction."
To place this comment in context, the speaker wasn't complaining about his job. Far from it, in fact. As he noted, it pays well, offers him a comfortable work setting, and provides several weeks of vacation per year. He did admit to being a bit bored and noted that he might need to change something to alleviate that.
After the speaker left, I asked the group if they thought they would like to be technical writers, despite the lack of "joy" noted by our speaker. As you might expect, the answers were personal, and depended somewhat on each person's work experiences and expectations. One fellow got a laugh when he said, "I hate my job now. Why shouldn't I get paid more to hate it?"
When I stated my belief that job seekers sometimes place too much emphasis on finding work they love, or on searching for "passion" in their jobs, a 20-something participant said, "But that's the story my generation has been sold. We've been told to look for work we're passionate about."
Amy Lindgrin, the author, makes an insightful point: Youth today are taught to follow their dreams, to find their passion. But there's a reality to the working world. A lot of jobs are strenuous, boring, and don't leave you feeling full of joy. Should you quit and keep searching for your passion?
Lindgrin says,"Rather than encourage young adults to find the work they love, it might be better to help them love the work they find."
Could anything be more true than with technical writing? Technical writing is not a romantic dream you fall in love with as a child and finally achieve as an adult. Technical writing is the inevitable arranged marriage with the partner you learn to love.
And how do you learn to love it? What motivates me (besides the constantly emerging technology, which I think is absolutely cool) is continually learning about the profession. When I fill my mind with interesting ideas, it makes me enthusiastic about what I do. Knowledge breeds awareness, innovation, and expertise. Knowledge helps me become better at what I do, moving me past the "suck threshold," as Kathy Sierra says, and into the "really good" zone where I can become passionate.
About Tom Johnson
I'm a technical writer based in the Seattle area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.