© Ugur Akinci
From time to time my students ask whether I can recommend them this certification course, or should they enroll in that diploma program… There is a concern, if not anxiety, about the overall scope of the learning process.
“How much learning is enough?” they seem to be asking…
These are not only questions regarding techniques of information gathering and writing, but also questions regarding various software applications. “Should I learn both MS Word 2007 and 2010? How about FrameMaker? Which version of FrameMaker should I learn?… I already know InDesign. Can I use that instead of MS Word?…” etc. And the questions multiply.
To such students, here is my honest straight-forward answer: there is a time to learn as well as a time to earn, and that time is now!
We all have to both continue to learn and to work. That’s the only game to win in this globalized market place.
Learning without working is not productive. Most of us cannot afford to keep investing time and money into an enterprise, a life plan, with no returns in sight.
Working without learning, on the other hand, is the surest way to fall behind in this fast-moving workplace.
I do not know too many careers that do not require regular, if not constant, learning. Even if you work at a McDonald’s I bet you’d be required to learn new things once in a while through an on-the-job-training program. (Why else do you think McDonald’s has a Hamburger University?)
Learning and working are like the two wings of a bird. You need them both to fly.
If you do not know the basics of technical writing, you should of course get that kind of training under your belt before you go out and search for a job. We provide one such opportunity through this web site.
However, once you acquire the basics, perhaps the wise thing to do is to get your foot in the door through an entry-level position while continuing your education through online and week-end classes, books and videos, and many free or paid resources available today on the Internet.
Working and earning an income boosts up the morale and helps you build a “virtuous cycle” of positive feedback.
But working does one more thing: it cuts through the proverbial “Gordian’s knot” of issues that never were. Remember what Mark Twain has said? “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” When you start to work as a technical writer you fast discover that most of the problems that you thought you were facing during the learning phase were not problems at all.
For example, you may be wondering if you should learn both MS Word 2007 and 2010. What if your workplace uses MS Word 2010 only? Would you then worry about Word 2007? Probably not.
Or let’s say you are wondering whether you should learn FrameMaker. But what if your office does not use FM? Would you then still worry about it? I bet not.
If you try to get the “perfect education” before you apply for that “perfect job” you’ll stay where you are since neither exists. They are both moving targets.
Rest assured, your learning and your career will always be “imperfect.” There will always be a large room for improvement both in your technical writing expertise and in your career profile. We must all work steadily both on our training and on our careers, without stopping in our tracks for the kind of “perfection” that does not exist anywhere.
Continue with your education in any way you can. There are many programs out there, some that award a certificate from an accredited university or college, and some that don’t.
There is also the time and money commitment component of the equation. Do you have a year, two years, or four years to invest in a certificate? Or do you have a thousand, $5,000, or perhaps $50,000 to invest in an “official degree”? It all depends on your resources, patience, responsibilities, and future goals.
However, while you make that assessment, also start working, starting right from where you are, at exactly your skill level. And once you feel you can do more and want to earn more, move up the ladder to a better position by using your previous work experience as your proven track record.
I don’t know where you live but if you’re living at or close to a major metropolitan area, your chances of finding a tech writing job would be higher. When you find a job and get your foot in the door and start to generate income, your confidence will also go up. You’ll be even more motivated than before to keep learning, improving, and enjoying yourself and your career.
Good luck in your journey to learn more, earn more, and share the joy, pride, and excitement of a productive life!