In the five years that I have been here at Auburn there has been one constant. I have made friends, lost friends and even found some friends for life. However the one thing that has not changed is that whenever someone asks what I plan on doing with my degree when I graduate, no matter how much I explain, they always circle back to the assumption “Oh, so you’re going to teach right?” I have found this infuriating at times but I always try to remember, when I feel that the situation is hopeless, that for a long time I too had no idea what I could do with my degree. When I graduate with my English degree in Technical and Professional Communication my main goal is to be hired in an editing position. I would like to work for any type of magazine, fiction book publishing, or in a technical editing or writing position. That word technical that I keep throwing around is, what I believe, throws most of people off when I talk to them about my degree. After first hearing the word English, their minds automatically go to teaching, which is another talk for another post.
So what is a technical/professional communicator? Well it is actually as simple, and complex, as it sounds. The experience that I have obtained in the process of earning this degree has prepared me to write technical documents. Technical documents include anything from the manuals that come in your Ikea desks telling you how to assemble your new furniture, to government documents. The role of a technical communicator is one that comes with with many responsibilities. For instance technical communicators often find themselves working for companies that require them to write and edit documents about things like science and engineering. This means that we need to become familiar with the different fields but most importantly we have to know the user, and understand how they will process different pieces of information. I once had a professor that worked for a company where her job was to edit manuals that engineers would use on the job. She, like I, graduated with an English degree in Technical Communication so to successfully complete her job she had to find out how engineers process information and shape the documents in a way that would best communicate that information. The point is we have to understand that people’s minds work differently and shape documents to successfully communicate information to multiple different people at one time.
Because technical communicators are in the business of understanding and sometimes working to guide people’s thoughts in certain ways, it is very important that we understand and can recognize when something is unethical. I have taken persuasion and Anthropology classes, these are two different fields but I have found that they overlap somewhat with technical communication. In my persuasion course we talk a lot about coercion and propaganda and how to spot and steer clear of them which is very important when creating technical documents. In the Anthropology course we learned how to comprehend the differences of people across cultures, which of course is extremely important in creating technical documents. All of this being said, when I graduate I will have obtained a lot of the experience and knowledge necessary to communicate with all kinds of people from all over the world, and honestly I’m pretty excited to get started!