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Villegas Views: Why Bother Learning More in Technical Communication?

150 150 Danielle Villegas

In about two weeks’ time from this writing, I’m going back to graduate school for a summer course. Yes, I already finished my MS in professional and technical communication at NJIT a little more than a year ago. I’m taking a proposal writing course that wasn’t offered during my tenure at NJIT, so I’m going back to take the course now. You may be wondering why I would go back to school after I’ve already put so much work into an entire Master’s degree in tech comm.

In 2012, I was laid off from my job. My job search lasted a year. Eventually, after a year of searching, it was not only my Master’s degree but learning information about what the “hot topics” were at conferences and through social media that helped me get the contract I have for my current job.

Since formally entering the world of technical communications, I’ve seen those hot topics shift, change, or grow in importance.  Technology is constantly changing. In the past three to five years, mobile has taken an increasingly important role in our lives–and our documentation. More people are reliant on using digital means–whether it be a desktop, laptop, or mobile device–to find content.  This has brought more emphasis on content strategy and localization to determine the most efficient way to deliver content.  Things are moving so fast that technical communicators can’t sit on their laurels and think that their jobs are secure and safe without keeping up with the times, even if the business they work for isn’t ready yet for those changes.

A big reason that I had entered into my Master’s program was that I knew that my skill set had fallen behind after a spell as a stay-at-home mom. By first getting my graduate certificate and then transferring those credits to my Master’s degree, I came out significantly ahead in the end. By taking this summer course, I will be learning some new skills that I can offer either to my current employer or a future employer, adding even more value to my multi-specialist status.  Coursework also validates the skills that I already have.  In this ever-changing economy of a digital world that is moving faster than fast, any attempts to learn more information so that I can stay ahead has to be an advantage. Continuing education makes me more marketable.

While I can highly recommend my own Master’s program at NJIT, there are several schools that specialize in technical communication coursework.  The STC has an Academic Database full of several academic programs and I’ve also created my own database that you can access as well.  Does everyone need to take graduate courses to stay ahead? Not at all. There are lots of seminars, webinars, and online courses that you can take. Check out the STC Education page for its many resources, as well as the resources of your favorite vendors. I also encourage you to attend STC meetings and events, as well as other tech-comm-related meetings and events. I can tell you from personal experience that these can be invaluable. It was information from one event I attended last fall that provided me with that little bit of extra information that helped me get my current position.

Never stop learning. It may be the difference between keeping or getting a job versus being unemployed.