Everyone always posts job ads for technical writers that seem like they want an engineer with a high-level specialty who also took creative writing classes, and who is willing to take approximately a 200% pay cut to be in a job where they have less independence, less responsibility, and less opportunity to use skills they have spent their career honing.
Get real! I know people who were engineering majors in college–you think any of those guys had time to take a writing class? The average engineering degree takes up 114 of the 120 credits required to graduate from college! Those guys got two electives–TOTAL–in four-plus years of school! So yeah, they’re good engineers, and they know a lot about engineering, but any communication or writing skills they have now are purely home-grown. And like many home-grown things, their skills are of questionable provenance, untested in the market, and often have a weird smell that they’ve stopped noticing because it’s been around so long.
Let’s face it, the best candidates for a technical writing job are people who can understand complex ideas in a short amount of time and communicate them in a simple way, and who are unlikely to quit working for you the second an actual engineering job opens up.
I have a freaking Master’s degree in English Literature, and you know what that means? It means I was able to MASTER the TOTALITY of the ENGLISH LITERARY CANON in just a few years. Over a thousand years of people thinking, reading, and writing, and I got it all under my belt in about three. Oh, and did I mention I was teaching classes at the same time? Learning to be a teacher is a WHOLE DIFFERENT DEGREE PROGRAM, and I was doing it during my freaking LUNCH HOUR. I even learned how to READ AND TRANSLATE CRITICISM in a DIFFERENT LANGUAGE, even though that’s a pretty obsolete skill for non-comparative-lit majors–it was a required part of the program, so I BUCKLED DOWN AND DID IT. So yeah, I’m pretty good at learning complex ideas in a short amount of time. And now you understand that, so I think I’m pretty good at communicating those ideas too. You are welcome. Contact me with your job offers via e-mail.