My goal is to be unemployed
I work for a company that provides outsourced employees for a variety of industries. I report to one company, but I represent another. I am comfortable with this. My loyalty can be bought for the price of my paycheck. I can assume the culture, goals and procedures of the company that I represent, although ultimately I am not their “employee.”
My long-term goal in becoming a technical communicator is to be an outsourced employee, but without a larger “umbrella” company sending me my W-2’s each year. I want to dictate the companies I work for and have some control over the projects I accept. I am comfortable putting on that “company’s uniform” for a temporary time and then moving on.
I felt such joy when I read R. Stanley Dicks discuss the prediction that “many more technical communicators will be officially unemployed but constantly working. They will be following the consulting/temp agency model that already characterizes the work of many communicators (Digital Literacy for Technical Communication, p. 59)”. I am hoping to open a fortune cookie with just that prediction for my future: “You will soon find yourself unemployed, but always working.”
The expansion of telecommuting opportunities is, in part, one of the catalysts that finally pushed me back into school. I currently follow several job sites that focus on home-based and freelance work. Flexjobs.com and ratracerebellion.com consistently have an extensive list of job opportunities for telecommuters in all aspects of the technical writing field, primarily ones with technological competencies.
In 2001, I was on the verge of enrolling in a “technical writing” program, when a job offer–in an unrelated field–removed me from that path. I went to work for a company I loved and put that plan on the “back burner.”
While I am disappointed that I allowed so much time to lapse before entering a graduate program, I am grateful for that derailment. The technical writing program I was set to enter was very solid and respected. But in 2001, it wasn’t very focused on digital media. Within a few short years, their “technical writing” program became their “Technical Communications” program. It was completely revamped several times over the next few years, as they slowly began to focus the program more on the emerging use of technology.
Had I enrolled back in 2001, I would have been “getting to the party a little too early.” Now, I don’t know that a 14 year lapse between degrees was quite necessary but…. At any rate, I cringe to think of how many competencies I would have been scrambling to learn within a year or two (maybe less) of earning that degree.
As I do work-from-home and spend a lot of time following web sites and blogs devoted to such work, I have come across many people who are constantly working as technical communicators, but as independent contractors. I see a flood of freelance job openings in the field. I have yet to find one person that lacks or job that doesn’t require technical skill.
I feel certain that the degree I was going to begin in 2001, is not the same degree that I will be getting now. This is what gave me the final push to go back. As I researched schools this time around, it was interesting to see how every strong program focused on digital media.
As R. Stanley Dicks pointed out in Digital Literacy for Technical Communication (p.52): “It is important to remember, when discussing current and coming trends in the discipline, that they largely have to do with the tools and technologies associated with the discipline, and not the core competency skills that the discipline continues to require; that is using words and images to inform, instruct, or persuade an audience Schriver’s (1997).” That program I was set to start 14 years ago would have given me “core competency skills,” but not what I needed to achieve my current goals. Of course, I realize with the constantly evolving landscape of technology, there will always be new things that I need to learn to “stay on top” of the field. I am reassured, though, that the evolution in technical communication as a whole, and the changes that have occurred in academia as a result, will enable me to start with the foundation I need.