Combination locks come in all shapes and sizes, from padlocks to electronic security alarm keypads. But the one thing they have in common is that you must select or enter a series of numbers or letters to unlock them. It is this specific combination of alpha-numeric characters which makes each lock unique.
Technical communication can also be viewed as a unique combination; specifically, a combination of:
- business writer
- business analyst
- information architect
- technical illustrator
- product tester
- instructor and
just to name a few. As with a lock, it is this specific combination of skills and duties that distinguish technical communication from any other profession. No other job is like it.
However, we can further add to this combination by combining technical communication with yet another field, for example:
- technical communication + medicine = medical writing
- technical communication + business proposals = proposal writing
- technical communication + the auto industry = car manual writing
- technical communication + the legal profession = plain language legal writing
In fact, there’s no profession that could not be combined with technical communication and thereby benefit from the unique skills we offer. By doing so, we supply a very special combination of skills for the industry we work in.
One of my interests is to combine technical communication with a subject that has always fascinated me: personal financial management. I can think of no other area where receiving clear and accurate information is more important than one’s personal finances. The end user quite literally stands to lose or gain thousands of hard-earned dollars.
As part of my research, I recently attended a financial management workshop. The presenter, while friendly and knowledgeable, was not a technical communicator. Both the handouts and PowerPoint slides were overloaded with information. The presentation itself did not cover many essential topics (such as the importance of paying your credit card bills on time), but did cover many non-essential topics (such as the fact that Canola oil is Canadian oil).
You need to find the unique combination of industries that appeals to you, and make that your specialty. Doing so will enhance your value in the marketplace and make you stand out from all the other generic communicators.