To reflect on my learning in Professional and Technical Writing this semester, I find it useful to glance back to where I was at the beginning of the course. Looking at my first assignment, the Response to the Syllabus, I was struck by how much I know now that I wasn’t even aware I needed to learn. I can see not only how my writing has improved as a result of taking this class, but also how much knowledge I gained about the field of technical communication - a field I knew almost nothing about at the beginning of this semester.
My primary concerns at the beginning of this class were adapting my writing style to a professional setting - a skill I was never explicitly taught - and preparing professional documents like resumes and cover letters. I shared through my Response to the Syllabus that I struggled A LOT with writing an effective resume when I conducted my first job search after college. I found How to Say it on Your Resume by Brad Karsh to be a helpful resource in writing my resume for the Assistant Editor job position. This easy-to-follow text helped me avoid some of the missteps I had made in the past, such as including irrelevant or outdated information in a too-long document, and taught me to tailor descriptions of my skills directly to the job I was applying for. With that text as support, I enjoyed completing the resume and cover letter assignment, and I am certain that the skills I learned will be very useful to me in the future.
One of the most challenging assignments for me was the Industry Report, which uncovered some misconceptions I had about technical writing as a field. My first Industry Report was a reflection (which sometimes bordered on a personal reflection) of how teachers and administrators in secondary education need to learn how to communicate professionally. Instead of focusing on the skills a technical writer must know to succeed in the industry of secondary education, I mused about how it was important for school employees to communicate in different situations. After some help from Dr. Bridgeford, I realized that I was not only going to have to revise, but I was going to have to write an entirely new paper. The result helped me reach a deeper understanding of how technical writers must learn about the industries in which they work and the level of collaboration required of technical writers to perform their jobs effectively. While it was the most challenging experience I had in this class, my revised Industry Report is now the product I am most proud of from this semester.
In addition to growing as a writer, I am also grateful for gaining a new appreciation of the field of technical communication. In my Response to the Syllabus, my concept of professional writing was simply “adapt[ing] my writing style for professional contexts.” As my first Industry Report revealed, instead of viewing professional communication as its own discipline, I viewed it as the way people write and communicate while at work. This class has taught me about the roles and responsibilities of technical communicators in organizations, how these professionals meet the communication needs of the organization’s stakeholders, and how they respond when those organizations face an issue or crisis. I also learned the definition of “profession” (and that it is not synonymous with “job”), and about the progress the field of technical writing has made toward achieving professional status.
The texts and movie lectures assigned in this class increased my understanding about writing and the field of technical communication, but I have also learned a lot from my classmates. Reading my classmates’ blog posts each week helped me notice important points and critiques about the texts that I would have missed without my classmates’ analysis. Their posts on my own responses also helped me to expand my understanding of concepts I had just begun to explore. This class has been a challenging and positive experience, and I am very glad that I chose to take professional and technical writing this semester.