Never fails, at least once a month, someone is surprised by something I can do that involves writing, editing, project management, page layout and design. Never fails. I don’t mind. I had an inkling that having a Professional Technical Communications (yes the s is important) degree would be difficult to describe to others when professors could not describe the degree to me in a few sentences. Instead some opted for a list of skills and talents and others sought to find a way to make the degree relatable to me directly, such as “what do you write?”
“roleplaying and board games.”
“oh. Anything else?”
“Working on a cookbook.”
“Ah. That is a technical document and you will learn how to make your cookbook the best it can be.”
I understood early on that professors were concerned with ensuring students had marketable skills, meaning technical documents. What is a technical document? Typically a document used in a business environment. What does that mean? Well if a business is using a document, anything from an email to sales brochures to instructional manuals to interoffice paperwork to…let me put it this way, if there is a written work, my skill set allows me to:
- make it read better
- make the message clearer, whatever the message from a simple request for a pencil sharpener to a series of complex instructions
- make it look better
Each of those three things has titles, often multiple titles, such as editor, layout and design, typographer, and so on. In essence my degree gave me a large range of skills that I could market anyway I choose and then some. My resume, if I chose too make a new one, would essentially be a representation of my entire skill set AND a list of all of the skills I possessed that a reader might not recognize by looking at the document. See why having a Professional Technical Communications degree is so hard to describe and why people are surprised by what I can do to any written communication. Oh wait, add verbal to that because of a good friend, Paul Zube, I have a good range of verbal skills (lots of communication courses) and research skills.
See why I am not surprised by other peoples surprise at what I can do? I find the surprise amusing. If I have a difficult time describing what I can do, how can possibly expect other people to remember or know? I can’t. Thus, I find myself recounting the skills I have over and over again, in a good way.
When someone asks me if I will look at something as simple as an email, I send them back a revised email, I can’t help it.
When someone asked me to look at their collection of erotica, I gave them my professional opinion.
When a writer friend mentioned that their editor didn’t understand them and their layout person was constantly demanding written work to layout, I explained how an editor and layout professional should work with them and then offered my services.
I like my degree, even I can’t elevator pitch to anyone.