When I first told people I became a technical writer, there was one question that came up time and time again. “What do you want to do? You know… after?” At first, the question baffled me. There was an after? What was my next career step? Am I going to be a technical writer forever? Is that okay? If you’re there too, take some deep breaths with me. There may not be one answer, but here are a few jumping off points to consider.
Your first choice is to explore technical writing as a profession. Spread your experience across multiple groups and situations. Learn different software and approaches. In other words, become versatile. I recommend this approach for those newer to technical writing.
The next option is to specialize. This means focusing on gaining experience in one area of technical writing in particular. You could become a medical writer, software documentation writer, content manager, policy writer, proposal writer, finance writer, and more. The more experience a writer gains in a certain area, the more of an expert they become, and the more marketable they are in the future. This option is great for those who are drawn to a specific area of technical writing.
For those who are looking for a traditional ladder to climb, there is an option. Consider setting “technical writing manager” as your career goal. Aside from gaining writing experience, take the lead on projects. Then, seek out a technical writing team that needs a manager. You’ll still be adjacent to technical writing, while getting the traditional satisfaction of “taking the next step”.
“But, Greta, what if I just don’t want to be a technical writer forever?” Too bad. You picked this profession! Just kidding. You’re not stuck in technical writing. Technical writing is a great stepping stone to a number of careers. You could get involved in project management and governance, auditing, software testing, business analysis, marketing, etc. etc. etc. Technical writing builds career basics that you can apply to a number of positions. So if you see something else you want to do, jump for it!
About the Author
Greta Boller is a technical writer located in the Washington, D.C. area. For more information, please visit her bio page.