Much of my technical writing career has been spent working in the trenches directly with technical teams. Unfortunately, this means I don’t know any junior technical writers anymore.
I’ve seen a lot in my time as a technical writer, and if I did advise new or junior technical writers, it would be the following:
- Accept that most everything your college professors told you about technical communications is wrong or plain not feasible in today’s budget-strapped work world.
- The Idiot as a User Advocate is an industry myth.
- Save your writing samples religiously.
- Diversify and don’t stick to writing just one kind of document.
- Try to work in a real department at least once in your early career. You’ll have plenty of time to work as a solo technical writer in and out of dysfunctional environments until you burn out, get out of the profession, or retire.
- You can’t make a career out of templates and style guides so take extra care when setting them up for a project.
- Write and edit for your audience NOT for yourself. If you don’t understand something it doesn’t necessarily mean your audience is in the same boat. Ask questions! Do your research!
- Technical accuracy is king! You are going to have to learn something about what you are tasked to document.
What advice do you have for new technical writers?