When entering a new position, there you have a limited amount of time to get a lot of information. The knowledge base you form within the first week will determine the first months on the job. It will also affect how well you perform your job and function in the office as a whole. So which documents should technical writers ask for when they walk in the door?
- Organizational Chart
- Office Policies
- Style Guide
Before anything, ask for the most recent organizational chart. Ask your supervisor to point out your position as well as theirs. Then, ask which other parts of the organization you will work with. Roles are important to any documentation. Also, recognizing who you will work with is an excellent way to solicit work when it comes time. Get to know the organization as quickly as possible.
Your welcome packet should include office policies. However, if you were not given them directly, ask for policies on time management, leave, work hours, etc. These documents will teach you how the office functions and ensure that you follow any policies in place. Additionally, this introduces you to how policies are documented and stored for future reference.
Documented processes, especially those closely or directly related to your work, should be provided to you. Explore the processes for how to complete your work thoroughly before moving forward with any project. Related processes will teach you how those around you function and will help you provide future documentation.
The office style guide will be your bread and butter for the foreseeable future. Every office needs a guide on how to format and write documentation. Find out which guide the office bases their documentation on and become very familiar with it. This will ensure that any future documentation you write does not directly contradict the office standard.
Most offices should have templates for frequently created documentation. Before moving forward with generating new documentation, you should know about any templates in use. This will make sure that all office documentation is cohesive and that your work blends in with the work of previous writers.
Once you acquire these documents, take a pause. How old are these documents? Are they still relevant and actively used? Where were they stored? Which documents were missing? Your first weeks will consist of learning these documents, updating the outdated ones, and identifying the missing ones. Within your first few months, all these documents should exist, be relevant, and stored in a place easily found and used by the office. This will help in each future project you perform as a technical writer.
About the Author
Greta Boller is a technical writer located in the Washington, D.C. area. For more information, please visit her bio page.