Imagine you’ve got the coolest camera in the world for your birthday. What are your first steps before using it, except for immediately subscribing to a photography course? That’s right, looking through a user manual to get at least a gist of how to use it to its fullest potential.
User manual, being a technical communication document, represents a powerful source of information about the product in its entirety. However, it’s not a simple task to create a manual that would be small but at the same time complete, easy-to-use but also detailed. But if you manage it, you are guaranteed to make an unforgettable impression on your users. So, if you ever dreamt of creating something of immense value and importance which makes the life of people much easier, then a career in the world of technical communication is right up your alley.
There are some preconditions for becoming a topnotch technical communicator, and having a perfect command of English is one of them.
Unfortunately, sometimes knowledge gained at the university does not cover the skills necessary for beginning your career in this field. Therefore, I want to share with you my experience of starting the journey in the world of technical communication.
Soft skills and personal traits are of utmost importance. So, a technical communicator should be:
- Quick-witted —to grasp the logic of a program and research the most important details.
- Communicative—to be able to get all the necessary information from the team members.
- Responsible—to provide quality documentation on time.
There are much more traits critical for a technical communicator to be successful. If you think you have them, then it’s time for the next step – learn the basics to be prepared for even the toughest interview questions.
You don’t just sit and write the docs, you need to have a relevant background. Here are some of the must-read books and different additional resources that will help you get started.
What is the most common and reliable way to learn? Right, from books. Technical communication books are useful, entertaining, and they also provide some real-life cases.
- Microsoft Manual of Style
- Apple Style Guide
- The Chicago Manual of Style
- Technical Communication
- Technical Writing 101
- The Elements of Style
Different online resources
Check these online communities to find up-to-date information, get answers to many of your questions, participate in interesting discussions with your colleagues.
- Society for Technical Communication
- Write the Docs Community
- soap technical communication
- Technical Writing World
Super cool! You can listen to the grasping speeches of the technical communicators with worldwide reputation, personally meet colleagues from around the world, and, most importantly, learn from other professionals in your industry.
- soap! conference
- tcworld conference
- Write the Docs conference
- STC Technical Communication Summit
There is a variety of tools for creating different kinds of documentation. To begin with, pay attention to specialized technical writing tools, such as Adobe RoboHelp, MadCap Flare, Adobe FrameMaker. For screenshots, it is a must to use TechSmith Snagit or Adobe Photoshop, while for diagrams, you can master Microsoft Visio.
Organizing your daily work
So, what do you think? Do you still have the desire to become a technical communicator? If yes, then in addition to everything mentioned before, you have to know how to organize your working day productively. If you, as a newcomer, wonder where to begin, you will probably find some of these recommendations useful.
So, here we are:
- Determine your tasks for the day and prioritize them.
- Estimate the time you need to spend on each task.
- Concentrate on the tasks with the highest priority.
- Pay attention to the topic-based authoring, especially while performing time-consuming tasks.
- Be always ready to perform unexpected, but urgent tasks.
- At the end of the day, summarize what you have done and outline the tasks for the next day.
If you are new to the field and start looking for a technical communicator job, one more precious piece of advice would be choosing a company that already has a team of technical communicators. That way you will have an opportunity to gain practical experience from your colleagues.
Good luck to you!