Today in my capstone course Aaron Alford, the Managing Editor for Southern Humanities magazine, came to speak to the class. Southern Humanities is the quarterly, literary, journal staffed by graduate students based right here in my beloved Auburn University, and until today I had no idea it existed. (That last statement isn’t entirely true, I had heard of the journal in passing but I didn’t really know much about it.)
Mr. Alford offered advice on everything from following your dreams of editing literature, to how he got started. The discussion was something that I very much needed to hear. Everyday I get just a little bit closer to graduation and the closer the day gets the more stressed out I become.
I appreciated the talk that Mr. Alford gave today. He mentioned different experiences that he has had working for Southern Humanities and I found comfort in the fact that I have had some of the same encounters working for the Circle. The biggest takeaway that I got from today’s talk was to be confident going out into the workforce.
Most people don’t really understand my major or what I can and intend to do with it. Everyone usually tries to persuade me to pursue something more “practical” a technical writing job to follow my technical writing degree.
That’s exactly what I’m doing people!
The day to day for a technical writer/editor might seem dull to you when I explain that in a job I will codify information and write and or edit it for the consumption of an audience, but that is exactly what I plan to do. I work with all forms of writing technical and otherwise. What I have learned over the years is that people don’t typically associate non-technical writing with monetary success, unless of course the writer in question is on a bestsellers list. There is the starving writer character, such as portrayed by Bradley Cooper in The Words that struggles to make ends meet that I can see pop into the mind of a person when I tell them what I do. That reaction can be discouraging, especially when it comes from those who are already secured in their careers. Mr. Alford was the opposing voice today, telling us to trust our capabilities as writers, and assuring us that they are not only sufficient but highly seemed after in the professional world.
The point is not every young writer/editor struggles to find work. I am confident that my skills in technical writing and editing will lead to success, and thanks to Mr. Alford I can stress a little less and focus on graduation and applying for positions. Maybe it’s corny but the follow your dreams talk is one that I firmly believe that everyone should hear, especially those of us who are just leaving the comforts of college.
Today was a good day.
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Tagged Writing, Writing and Editing, graduation, Jobs, Southern Humanities Review, Aaron Alford, creative writing, literary magazine, Auburn University, Life lessons, dreaming equals doing, SHR, work, graduate, stressful, advice
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!
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Tagged anthropology, auburn, Communications, degree, employee, english, ethics, persuasion, professional communication, Student, teaching, technical communication, Writing and Editing
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