TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Re: First day advice. From:Penny Staples <pstaples -at- AIRWIRE -dot- COM> Date:Wed, 31 Dec 1997 11:40:31 -0600
Hi Jonathan. Congrats on the new job!
Here are my bits of advice:
Do lots of listening during the first few days. But
make sure you ask enough questions to get a clear
idea of what's expected from you. Avoid making
judgemental statements ("Wow this documentation is
a real mess!") until you know more about how the
Realize that you will need to prove yourself professionally
before some people will take you seriously. Don't take it
Figure out the power structure. Every workplace is different
and some places are less formal than others. But if
you don't figure out what the local workplace politics
are (and they're not always bad), you may end up stepping
on toes when you didn't mean to. You'll learn a lot of it
by watching and listening. For example:
- Who do you officially report to? Is it the same person
who's really telling/showing you what to do? Who are
the real decision-makers? They're not always obvious.
- How hands-on is your boss, and what's the best way
to work out a harmonious working relationship? I've
seen everything from bosses who give me a general
direction and then just let me do my job, to bosses
who insist on going over my work in detail and quibbling
over fine points of grammar and usage.
- Where are you getting your raw material from?
Developers? Ad agency idea people? Other Subject
Matter Experts? Which ones are going to be easy
to work with? And which ones aren't (and what can
you do about it)?
- Where do writers stand in the unofficial hierarchy?
I've found there's often a difference between what your
employer expects, and what you may think needs to be
done. Try not to make waves until you're sure what you
what changes you want to make and you've developed
a workable strategy for making them.
Quick example: your employer may expect you to write
end-user docs at the end of the product development cycle.
(I write computer documentation. Can you tell? :-)
You know you can do better work if you're involved in
development from the beginning. Getting involved might
be as simple as saying to your boss "Hey, can I be included
in Project Meetings? It'll help me to understand the product
better". Or you might have a bunch of bureaucracy to fight.
Anyway, that's enough. Hope your new job is a good
experience for you!