There’s something a little depressing and a little frustrating in to of the items I see listed under Qualifications for many technical writing jobs. I’m sure you know them:
- Ability to work simultaneously on different documentation modules and products in a fast paced development environment with minimum supervision
- Ability to work in a deadline driven environment with strong emphasis on consistency, usability, and quality
Sometimes they are combined:
- Able to work in a very fast paced environment and handle multiple projects at the same time.
The first one says, “We won’t protect you from competing priorities” or, in short, “Your manager won’t manage.”
The ability to manage all projects on all products in a fast-paced environment and produce high-quality, accurate, consistent, and readable documentation is often combined with an experience level of no more than five years. In other words, the employer is not about to pay for a senior writer. So the second one says,”We expect the impossible.” It’s a basic rule of project management: You can have it Good. You can have it Fast. You can have it Cheap. Pick Two.
Experience aside, if you are flipping from product to product, it’s difficult to get a coherent body of knowledge in your head assembled and then re-packaged. This multiplies the chance of a mistake: of missing something, of inconsistency, of applying a detail from one product to a description of another product. You need a manager who will deflect or delay some work requests.