GREENHORN

by Nick Jensen on May 12, 2013

Nick Jensen

Nick Jensen

 

More than a year ago, I decided that I would become a technical writer. My aspirations to teach rhetoric and composition dwindled as the economic crisis took its toll on public education. I wanted a career where I could put my rhetorical skills to use, yet bypass all the jargon that academic scholars expect from their students. Then, I discovered the joys of technical writing, where the objective is to be clear and simple (you will find the exact opposite in academic discourse). I knew from the start that becoming a technical writer would not be easy. For many young people, starting a career can be an intimidating process. Many newcomers (such as myself) cannot shake the feeling that their every move is being scrutinized by peers.  When I am around my peers, a hundred different thoughts dart through my mind: What does this person think about me? Am I saying the right things? Am I displaying enough confidence? What if they test my knowledge on something I’m unfamiliar with? What if I start sweating? Nick, don’t you dare start sweating!

For a student, not knowing what’s around the next corner can make him feel on edge. Then again, one needs to expect such things when transferring from an academic to professional working environment. When I first decided to become a technical writer, I understood that I would be entering a competitive job market. At the California State University of Long Beach, I am currently taking classes to prepare me for the rigors of an actual technical writing career. In fact, after the semester ends in May, all I need to do is obtain an internship, create a portfolio and my own manual. Even so, I feel apprehensive about my upcoming duties. What will await me in the professional world? Which software products should I learn first? Yes, I have a general idea of what will be in store for me, but I want to know more. I want to learn from people who work in the field, and that’s one of the many reasons why I joined the LASTC. The technical writing director at my university told me that the STC would be an invaluable investment in starting my career. Before I knew it, I was ready to attend my first dinner meeting.

As I prepared for my first LASTC meeting, four words nagged at me incessantly: what should I expect? Would these people size me up and ask me a million questions about my technical communication abilities? Would I be judged on the spot? I decided to play things safe and put on my best suit. I also arrived an hour early in order to demonstrate my punctuality. Would I prove my worth? As it turned out, I had nothing to prove. In fact, they welcomed me with open arms, which caught me completely off guard. I met some great people and even enjoyed a few laughs with them. They made me feel welcome, and right now, I cannot overemphasize how important that is to me. I may have just begun my journey, but now I know that I have started my journey on the right path.

 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen Bergen May 14, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Great post, Nick!

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Jeff Kreger May 16, 2013 at 3:54 pm

I really enjoyed your post, Nick! That is EXACTLY how I felt at my first STC meeting. I had no idea what to expect, if I’d be rejected, or if I’d have any idea what they’d be talking about. But my experience proved to be anything but that: what I found instead was a group of like-minded folks who eagerly embraced me into their community. For sure, joining the STC, and participating in my L.A. chapter, has proven to be the best investment I’ve made in my professional life. Welcome aboard!

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