One thing I find enjoyable about my career is being able to apply lessons from it to my outside life, and vice versa. Much of life–my life, anyway–is about organizing and prioritizing information. In new documents, you must choose what information to put first, what to keep, what to leave out, et cetera.
So how does the technical writing help me at home? Well, this past week I got in a car wreck (nobody hurt, thank goodness), which resulted in the total loss of the Bartmobile and the need to buy a new car.
The last time I bought a car–the Honda that got totaled last week–I had finished grad school and was just beginning to get a handle on information design. I’ve become a bit more disciplined in my thinking since then. I have done quite a bit of research since Friday to nail down what sort of vehicle I want, what price range I’m willing to pay, and where I might get the best deal. I also contacted my dad, who’s got an online subscription to Consumer Reports, and asked him to point me to the best value/quality vehicles in the range I wanted. From there, I put all the critical information into a spreadsheet, sorted the data, and eliminted selections that wouldn’t work for me. Finally, I set up another spreadsheet to determine what sort of monthly payments I could afford.
In this case, then, I was able to apply my experiences in spreadsheets to my quest for the best car and to my desire to estimate an affordable monthly payment. I suppose the most important lesson here is simply that the tools we use as technical communicators to organize professional documents work just as well for organzing personal information as well. This is also a good example of what others call “transferrable skills.” I’ve applied my Excel experiences to my work with Science Cheerleader as well. Darlene Cavalier relies a great deal on my ability to apply my “work habits” to things outside of work: information management, document formatting, text editing, and other “tech writing” skills are also skills for life. Learn what you can!