If you open a random article on a tech writing career path, you will likely stumble upon the possibility of jumping industries shown as a serious advantage. And, this does sound promising — seems like you will never get bored with your job as you can snap your fingers and change things just like that. In theory, yes. But let’s see how you can go about that in real life.
When Changing Things Is Easier
Some adjacent industries can offer technical writers positions that require similar skills. Which means they can adapt almost painlessly. Or, sometimes, you don’t even have to change an industry to bring a sense of renewal to your job. Moving within an industry can be just as much fun. The easiest example is IT. Huge possibilities open up in front of a technical writer in this field. You can work in gaming, software, mobile app markets and the skills required of you will be pretty standard for IT. The situation changes when you want to enter an entirely new field.
A Completely New Industry? Bring it On!
Reasons for wanting such a change are different for everyone. Someone decides to shake things up, or, perhaps, they move cities and even states and are forced to change the industry as there are no offers pertaining to their old professional field on the local techcomm market. Or, one can randomly take an interest in an industry and decide to build a career around something they like. In either case, it is a big step that requires pondering over.
The obstacles people face are oftentimes similar. Like, you’ve created technical documentation before, and you are carrying certain work experience but it is tightly bound to your old job. So, what you need to do is throw away all the things you won’t be able to apply at your new job and carefully migrate your general tech writing skills and competencies.
If you have made up your mind and are serious about switching industries, we have some useful tips to make this potentially stressful transition smoother:
- Research. It all starts with good old googling. Presumably, you already know a thing or two about the field you’re aiming at, but do research regardless. It is awesome if you know people from the industry, some techcomm guys or gals who can tell you what it is like to work there, but if you don’t, there are still ways to learn it. You can do so by checking out job descriptions, first of all. And that’s the first step you should take, really, to know what you are getting yourself into. What we really recommend doing next is signing up on a couple of forums where technical writers working in this industry communicate. You can also try looking up upcoming technical writing events and checking if any of the speakers can give you a sneak peek of what’s going on in the industry.
- Prepare for changes. This is true for taking up any new job, but jumping industries can hit a little bit harder when you don’t expect. Finding yourself in a completely new environment, having to deal with new workflows, technical writing tools, lexical units, and industry guidelines is tough. If you feel like your old skills are totally inapplicable, roll with the punches for awhile, and wait till the dust settles. Most likely, you will soon realize that it is the same familiar help authoring, just with a twist, and that you are suited for the job perfectly with the tech writing skills you acquired at your previous occupation.
- Study. If this industry you’ve chosen feels like a new territory, try your best to claim it. Read books, articles, listen to podcasts on the topic. You will feel so much more confident at a job interview when you at least know your ABCs. If you manage to go beyond the basics, it is just great. But, don’t be too judgemental towards yourself. This industry is something you’ve never faced before, cut yourself some slack and be patient.
Jumping industries is a huge decision. A big fork stuck in one’s technical writing career path. We hope our words of guidance will help a little. Remember, you might feel like a complete newbie, but you are actually an experienced specialist and time will show that. Take things slow and we are sure you are going to make it through the transition period with as little tension as possible.
Good luck with your technical writing!
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