Here are the top 10 ways a technical communicator can establish his/her value:
10. Embrace your personality. If you’re an introvert, be thankful. It takes solitude and lots of thinking to produce really good documentation. At the same time, if you’re one of the rare extroverts in this field, you have a leg up in getting people to value your work.
9. Get them to bring you in early. Whether you work for a company or are an independent, research shows that the earlier in the process you get onto the project, the more successful you (and the project) will be.
8. Recognize that your career is a marketing project. Everyone we know, from business contacts to friends to churchmembers to our old, kooky Uncle Murphy should know what we do, and how that benefits our companies.
7. Set some goals. How are you going to get to the point whereat those you work with will treat you and your work with real respect? What would have to happen for that to occur? What certifications or degrees would help you establish your credibility more?
6. Market yourself through your writing. You’re a writer, after all. About the best way you can show others your value is through your writing. Whether it be with notes of appreciate, emails that never have typos, or a friendly reminder telling your supervisor what all you’ve been doing to save the company money, do put yourself out there.
5. Not everyone has to like you. The important thing is that we’re professionally appealing to a few important people. Don’t go into work saying “I hope I don’t get in trouble for anything today.” Go in saying “I’m going to create real value through my work today, and I hope I don’t have to kick anyone’s behind to make that happen.” That’s hard to do for most tech writers, but it can be the difference between success and failure.
4. Take on real responsibility. Maybe marketers and other communicators recognize this need more than technical writers do, and that’s how we end up with VPs of Marketing, but no VPs of Technical Communication, except at specialized companies. This includes taking responsibility for your own continuing education.
3. Refuse to be blown off. Who hasn’t been shrugged off by multiple SMEs who either tell us they’re “just too busy,” or simply ignore us? You have to be willing to, first, develop a real relationship with the SME. Then, you must have the guts to march into that SME’s office and confront him or her if s/he is keeping you from getting to where you need to be.
2. Don’t be too thankful for your job (or clients). By that I mean don’t adopt a dependent attitude towards any one client. As a business owner, about the only thing worse than hearing an unemployed technical communicator say “I’m not sure if I really want to be working in this field or not” is hearing “Oh, would you give me a job?” Your job isn’t a gift. You earned it by virtue of your abilities.
1. Eventually, at some point, the technical communication industry has to move away from hourly billing. Hourly billing has no relation to the actual value we provide to businesses. As a result, our earning power has been vastly reduced, and companies tend to get rid of us as soon as possible. When our industry finally gets a handle on the impact that good technical communication has on companies’ bottom lines, we’ll all be sitting pretty.