No one really knows when or where resumes originated. As far as recorded history is concerned, Leonardo Da Vinci is credited with being the first to use a resume. In 1482 Leonardo wrote a letter to the Duke of Milan requesting a patronage. The letter contained a list of his skills and accomplishments. After that there is a gap in the historical record for resumes. Somewhere from 1930 to 1950 resumes migrated from writings on scraps of paper to being typewritten. At this point the resume, derived from the French word for summary, became the standard for differentiating an applicant’s skills and for getting a job.
Resumes are our advertisement of who we are and what is unique to us. Do I have my dates correct? Did I learn a new skill? Am I going to Stand out? These are all questions resume writers ask themselves at one time or another. Lets take a look at some different styles that can be used for layout.
Reverse Chronological – This style of resume lists job experience in chronological order. The most recent experience is listed first and then moves chronologically back through time. This style does highlight gaps in employment.
Functional – Using this style work experience and skills are categorized by skill area or job function. These skills are followed by a timeline of those experiences including employers and specific dates. Functional resumes work well for candidates who have changed careers.
Hybrid – This combined style leads with a list of job skills then a list of employers. This style can result in repetition and is not frequently used.
While there may be instances where an infographic or video resume may be necessary or requested, electronic resumes are the norm. Increasingly more employers are requiring online resumes. When submitting your resume be sure to submit the required format, Word document, HTML, PDF, or ASCII. Electronically submitted resumes can be parsed using natural language processors and imported to the hiring company’s resume system. Some parsers are better than others at correctly identifying titles, dates, and task specific text. Resumes containing columns may not be parsed as accurately as one containing tab spacing.
It is always best to stay up-to-date with technology. Including the technology used by those who need to find you in order to hire you.
2018. Here we are at the end. The end of the year can be a frantic race to meet work deadlines, finish classes, and prepare for year end festivities. It is also an important time to focus on yourself. You need to look back on the year and be proud of the work you have completed, take time to plan for the year ahead, and then relax. For writers and communicators, finding time to relax may be difficult.
There may be days during each year that you feel that the work you do does not matter. Your reflection time will help you to realize the good in your work. No mater the type of work or schooling you participate in, the work you do impacts the lives of others. Maybe you are achieving your dream; maybe you are opening the door for someone else and their dream. You have the ability to change the direction of your company and positively impact its success. One person, in the right position, at the right time has the power to do that. Remember, you are your own brand. You are the face and voice of the brand. You owe it to yourself to be at your best.
Here are some methods of relaxation along with their benefits that you can try to incorporate into you end of year routine:
Deep breathing: reduces cortisol, the stress hormone. This calms your nervous system which results in reduced anxiety and stress.
Meditation: this can reduce stress and anxiety. In addition, some forms of mediation can result in improved self-image and a more positive outlook on life.
Soak in a hot tub: lowers blood pressure and aids in sleep
Exercise: boosts levels of serotonin and strengthens muscles and bones
Take a break: re-energizes your brain
Laugh: releases endorphins and relaxes the whole body. After a good laugh your muscles can remain relaxed for up to 45 minutes. Laughter also boosts the immune system.
Planning for the upcoming year can and should be exciting. The possibilities are truly endless. What vision do you have for your life? That is a question you should answer and write down if you have not already. With your vision in mind, set some goals. Goals should be attainable in both scope and number. I tend to favor goals in threes; three goals for the year. I follow this daily as well in my 3 things to accomplish today list. If your work or school does not conduct performance reviews or some kind of check in, be sure to set a calendar reminder to check in yourself a few times per year. That way you can be sure you are on track or adjust your track for changes that are happening around you.
Relax now and energize yourself for all that 2019 has for you. As a gymnast I had a common phrase with my team mates, “Never leave the mat on a bad one”. If you leave the mat on a bad one, you feel bad and the feeling can carry over to the next time you face the mat. My wish for you in these closing weeks of 2018 are to dig deep, finish 2018 strong, leave the mat, and come back stronger.
When evaluating job postings for technical writer you want to be sure your skill set matches what the company or recruiter is looking for. Some job postings are clearer than others in what they are looking for in a writer. As a basic description, technical writers are responsible for designing and write documentation for a company’s products. This includes writing initial documentation, revising as the company revises the products, publishing the documentation, and for maintaining an online repository of those documents. This is the technical writer’s output, what they produce. Technical writers must also work with multiple Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in various departments to accomplish their work. This puts them in a unique position to actually be integrated into multiple departments outside of the writers or education department.
Technical Writers produce documentation, true but what do they really do…what does that mean. A review of current job postings reveals a myriad of responsibilities and required skills. I have included a list below along with what each requirement really means using software as the company example.
Work with individuals in departments including from management, quality assurance, customer support, and clients.
What this means: Long before a software is changed, or a new software is provided to a writer many individuals have been involved in the changes. These persons include business analysts who work with clients to design changes, developers who make the changes, and quality assurance who test the changes. These people are your best tools to determine ‘what really changed’ and ‘why did we make this change’. Depending on the company, writers may have direct access with customers and can use customer feedback to change documentation to improve its accuracy and usability. Without access to customers, your customer support department may be where documentation request come from.
Write, edit, and format release notes.
What this means: Let’s start with what release notes are. Release Notes are a document that accompanies a software release that list both the new features, changes to existing features, and known issues (bug fixes). This is sometimes called ‘What’s New’. Release notes are important to end users because this is how they determine which pieces of the software they use have been changed and must be re
Write, edit, and format online help project to coincide with application updates.
What this means: Documentation that is available within an application or on the Internet for end users is online help or the help file. This information looks different and has a different content structure than documentation in a Word or FrameMaker user guide. The help file is more than user guides put online, it is easy to use layouts and navigation, dynamic content, and searchable. Technical Writers can take advantage of HTML and XLM features of help authoring tools such as MadCap Flare and Adobe RoboHelp. These tools allow information to be single-sourced and available to be used in many different outputs. One of the greatest usability features these help authoring tools provide is to add context-sensitivity to the online help. When a user is on a specific screen/page of an application and open help, the content related to the page they are on automatically opens.
Update documentation to keep it current with recent release changes.
What this means: With each release all materials related to the application must be updated and available to users upon release. This includes release notes, user guides, online help, quick guides, and other relevant material. It is crucial to customer satisfaction and retention for customers to have access to these materials. It is important for technical writers to complete these materials when the release is wrapped up so that they can move on to the next release.
Create and format documentation templates.
What this means: All of the documentation pieces have a certain look whether they be created in Word, FrameMaker, PowerPoint, or a help authoring tool. This is the design or style element for these pieces and the template is created as a blank starting point for each document. Technical writers create these templates to be used by themselves and other team members. These templates ensure consistency when a new piece of documentation is started. For instance, if a topic template is created in the help authoring tool, when a writer starts a new topic it will be created with that template shell.
Ensure consistency in instructional content and naming conventions.
What this means: Consistency in content can be aided with the templates the technical writer designed and with the language used itself. It is important with a team of writers, that the documentation reads as though it is written by a single person. Documentation written this way is easier for end-users to understand. Naming conventions refers to the names of documentation files. These could be user guide Word or PDF files or any files in the online help. Consistency in naming these files makes them easier to find within the company SharePoint site or OneDrive locations. For example, these could be file names of items in the help file related to a demographics program.
DE_Add_Information.htm – All topics for demographics begin with DE_
DE_IMG_Add_Info.png – All images for demographics begin with DE_IMG_
DE_SN_SSN.FLSNP – All snippets for demographics begin with DE_SN_
Note: Snippets are reusable pieces of information. In this example SSN (Social Security Number) as a field may be used in numerous places in the online help. Create one snippet then insert it where needed. If the function of the field changes you only need to update the snippet and the places where it is inserted will automatically update.
Research application features, enhancements and resolved issues to write customer-facing content.
What this means: All of the documentation written involves writing for new features and improving existing documentation for existing features. Research is how you determine the changes to documentation. Each company has its own systems for tracking work lists or items to be changed. These work lists will define system changes, their scope, and specification documents or Specs. Specs are written by analysts and used by developers to code changes to the application and by quality assurance to test the software. These specs are a technical writer’s best source to determine what has changed. When this information is combined with a walk through of the last release and the upcoming release a more complete picture of changes can be revealed. If sprint review meetings are held to demonstrate changes, these can provide any late changes that were discovered during programming, but did not get added to a spec.
Experience with development methods; waterfall, agile , or others.
What this means: A software development process is how work is divided into phases leading up to release. This can also be called development life cycle. There are a few methodologies used by companies. Technical writers will have to be familiar with which process is being used at their company and how they work within the method. Below are some descriptions of development methodologies:
Agile: Requirements and solutions are worked on in a collaborative effort of self-organized cross function teams with their end users. Releases contain less changes an are released more frequently.
Waterfall: This process is less iterative and flexible. Process flows in one direction; downward through the phases from conception to deployment and maintenance.
Prototyping: Involves creating incomplete versions of the software program. A great benefit of this process is the designer can get feedback from end users early in a project and make changes with less financial impact.
Rapid Application Development: This process puts less emphasis on planning and more emphasis on an adaptive process. With less planning, the process is more flexible to take advantage of knowledge gained during the project to improve the end program.
Nearly all technical writer job postings require a bachelor’s degree in Technical Writing or related communications or technology field. Often these indicate that an equivalent master’s degree is preferred. In the past month I have found the first job posting I have seen which requires a Master of Technical Writing degree. I believe that a master’s degree in a professional writing or technical writing will become a standard requirement for Technical Writer job postings. With this in mind I am forever grateful for the Master of Professional Writing program at Chatham University.
How likely are you to drive to a foreign location, full of strangers, and start a conversation with a dozen or more of the strangers? It is an odd set of circumstances, but this is what we put ourselves through at networking events. Networking events can be stressful for introverted and extroverted alike. There are some ways you can prepare ahead of the event to have a more successful networking function.
Be sure to see the list below of networking events related to communication and technical writing.
Know your event
“Thorough preparation makes its own luck.” Joe Poyer
When reviewing a networking event to attend, be sure the subject aligns with your work and career goals. Are you interested in technology, teaching, programming, plumbing, camping? If the event is focused on the same thing, it may be a match for you. Once you have decided on an event, the other things to be familiar with are directions to the location, event and parking fees, and length of the event.
Set a goal for the event
“People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going.” Earl Nightingale
Identify one or a few goals that you want to accomplish at the event. Perhaps there is one new person you would love to meet and establish a connection with. Maybe this could be someone you already know and want to strengthen your relationship with. A simple goal by be to collect a set number of business cards or to make a specific number of connections. Set the goal and stay focused on the goal. It is very important to remember when meeting new people, this is your only chance for the ‘first impression’.
Do not be timid
“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” Theodore Roosevelt
It can be difficult to start a conversation with a stranger. At a networking event you are all in the same boat. It is awkward for everyone. Start with the basics, say hello, introduce yourself, and as a basic question. For example, ‘How long have you been a part of this organization?’. The type of question could vary by the type of event. This author attended a networking function that was by invitation only and was set up by one person. Everyone at the event knew the organizer. The question that was asked the most was, ‘How do you know the organizer? Be sure to ask questions that will help you make a connection, after all that is what you are here for. Small talk is an art and will take time to master.
Here is a list of a few Pittsburgh based conferences and meetups on communicating and technical writing:
Automation is a term we here most being applied to manufacturing; technology and machinery that controls the production and delivery of goods. Performing tasks previously performed by humans. Automation can be incorporated into various industries including communication and technical writing as Content Automation. Communicators/writers create a large volume of content for specific people, at specific times, on specific devices. Traditional methods of creation, management, and delivery can be cumbersome, time consuming, and do not prevent duplication of content.
Content automation the process gives communicators/writers a whole new process to create and manage reusable chunks of content. The chunks can then be assembled, tracked, managed and updated. When Artificial Intelligence (AI) is applied to content these chunks can be self-assembling.
Content and User Experience (UX)
Improving user experience is a top responsibility for communicators/writers. Accuracy of information and timeliness of delivery are keys to increasing UX. There is some debate on whether content strategy is a part of UX strategy. Some say no because the content does not live within an application. It is this writer’s opinion that content must be considered a part of UX simply because the users use it. Communications and written aids do impact success levels.
Clients or end users need to have the most accurate and up-to-date standard operating procedures (SOPs) related to the job they are trying to perform. For instance, emergency procedures for evacuating nursing homes during a natural disaster. These procedures could be different today than for the last disaster even if that was in the last few weeks. User experience with content comes down to correct content, at the correct time, and the correct place.
Start with a Content Audit
When trying to adopt content automation, the first step is to know your content. Perform a content audit to determine the current state of the materials. This involves how it is created, by which teams, the roles of the communicators/writers, current tools used, method of deliver, and the frequency it needs to be updated. The results of the content audit will guide your next steps. Once the content is evaluated, you can set goals for the next iteration of the content.
Power of Content Automation
When traditional static documents (Word or PDF) are created. This is time consuming, has a higher error rate, and the information is locked in the document and cannot be reused. When content automation is applied, communicators/writers create intelligent content or reusable components of text, charts, images, and video. Once a component is created it can be added to multiple documents; it is reused over and over. When the component is changed each use of it is updated automatically. These components become the single source of truth.
Let’s say your company is hosting a trade show. You have created online, and print versions of the vendor showcase floor layout, session guide, and networking events. As session presenters are accepted you add them to a location and time for presentation. John Presenter has an emergency and cannot make it to his session nor will he be displaying in the vendor showcase. He offers to send Jane in his place. If you are single sourcing/chunking information, you can change John’s name to Jane on in the main location or chunk where this information appears, rather than to change the name on each online or print piece. Once changed, the information will automatically update in the online and print versions.
Figure 1: John Presenter
Figure 2: Jane Presenter
Impact for Communicators/Writers
The goal of content automation for communicators/writers is to allow them to focus on their strengths. Content automation allows these workers to focus less on managing information and reviewing materials. They can spend more time on creating original content.
Neil Perlin has identified 4 characteristics of content in Information 4.0 which includes content automation. These characteristics embody not only the words that are written, but the format, chunking, release, timeliness, accessibility, and responsiveness to context of that information.
Dynamic: Content chunks that can be updated in real-time. When information in the system changes, the content or the user should be able to trigger its build or generation, rather than the writer.
Ubiquitous: Content available everywhere, independent of device. It must be online searchable and find-able.
Offered: Specific content made available when users encounter an issue rather than all information related to all tasks all the time. Content is online, print medium is ruled out.
Spontaneous: Content triggered by the context. Meaning the orientation of the device being used or perhaps a specific context for an issue. An example is that information for de-icing a plane would only be available if the outside temperature is near 32 degrees.
Long ago, in high school, I had a writerly friend. We would share poems we had written and exchange notebooks in a breathless moment. He took my crazy, cursive loping stanzas that leapt across margins, and I accepted his stark blocks of prose that looked rubberstamped except for the distinctive characteristic of his hard-pressed, penciled, all-capital letters.
His advice was merciless—kill the adjectives.
I was always most incensed when he rallied against my adjectives. What harm did they do, adding life and color (or, more likely, a miserable mood befitting adolescence) to nouns in need of support?
An article by writing coach Daphne Gray-Grant found in the latest Conversion Chronicles newsletter, a website dedicated to helping people write highly-effective content for their own websites, suggests that adjectives themselves may help to kill off your audience if you let them run amok in your writing.
Gray-Grant’s Three Adjective Pitfalls
Adjectives are imprecise.
“Stunning” is an example of an overused adjective with a broad meaning. Especially common in social media, this is the go-to kudos comment for a great posted photograph. But, with some in-depth analytical thinking, stunning just sounds shocking, electrifying, and downright painful, and a great macro-shot of a gerbera daisy shouldn’t hurt.
Adjectives mean different things to different people.
This problem is similar to number one, but advances the vagary of many adjectives to account for different social and cultural perceptions. Take for example the emotional state of someone feeling “blue.” Considering emotive and psychological color representations are not the same the world over. This state of being is sure to cause confusion somewhere as digital writing travels around the globe.
Adjectives sound too hype-y and sales-y.
In many situations, overuse or misuse of adjectives leaves an audience with a bad taste in their mouth. Take redundant food descriptors for example, like “doughy,” “cheesy,” “rich,” and “creamy.” All of these tasty tidbits may be true to the product, but they are so standard, the product has no chance of standing out if standing by its written bio alone.
So, how do you add pizazz to your writing without bedazzling the pants off of it? Gray-Grant chooses to highlight a sentence’s verbs in a powerful way, while limiting the baggage that comes with the adjective + noun relationship.
Gray-Grant reminds us that verbs don’t have to be lackluster:
“Strengthen your verbs by making them as specific as possible. Eat, for example, could also be nibble, devour and gobble, depending on what you want to convey. Likewise, sit could be slouch, spread out or recline.”
Sometimes, it’s just about role reversal to add a new dynamic to the sentence. Instead of “whispering pines,” let the pines actually do the whispering, as in “the pines whisper in the breeze.”
With many people getting information about the world from their social media pages, it is essential that communicators are conscious of current skepticism surrounding facts. On national platforms, lies have been called “alternative facts” and the truth has been shut down as “fake”. Even the National Communication Association spoke out on the importance of preserving free and responsible communication. Here are some tips to stay grounded in the era of “fake news”:
Always Cite, and Actively Look For Reliable Sources
In your own writing, make sure you always correctly cite sources from which you receive information. Your readers will appreciate seeing exactly where facts and figures come from. Similarly, as you research, look for articles that cite credible, reputable sources. Just because you have not heard of a source does not mean it isn’t reliable, either.
Use a Fact Checking Service
If you are skeptical of something that you read, put the information up against a fact checking website. Find a service that is nonpartisan that will independently evaluate a news story against documented facts. Two popular services include Politifact and Fact Check.
Avoid Inflammatory Words in Your Writing
When you feel passionate about a topic, it is easy to let your emotions out in your writing. Be careful with this; dramatic adjectives or flamboyant language can make proven facts seem fake and biased.Earlier this year, representatives disagreed on whether or not to eliminate the Office of Congressional Ethics. PBS reported on this with the headline “House Republicans reverse their plans to eviscerate the Office of Congressional Ethics”. Using a word like “eviscerate” instead of “end”, “eliminate”, or “discontinue” puts much more emotion into the topic, sensationalizing the entire issue.
Research Content From the Article, Not Just the Headline
In order to generate traffic and viewership, many websites create links to their pages with enticing language. An article with a suspenseful title that teases readers into clicking can often be misleading. This “Click Bait” is typically not from credible news sources, but since it contains sensationalized stories, they become more popular than stories containing facts. The number of views and shares on a story and the order in which it appears on a Google search does not necessarily mean it is trustworthy. In 2011, The Department of Justice was attacked by many news sources for apparently providing muffins at conferences that cost $16 each. The Atlantic reported this skewed story with the headline “$16 for a Muffin?! which got plenty of shares and attention. People were outraged after reading this headline and immediately agreed that this was an example of wasteful government spending. It turns out, the muffins weren’t really $16 each. They were part of a continental breakfast, and the $16 price tag covered a spread of breakfast items, tax, and gratuity.
Subscribe to a Variety of Sources
If you only receive news from one media outlet that has a bias, you likely will only see content the aligns with that narrative or ideology. It is important to cross reference sources rather than follow one specific source. AllSides is a media source that detects polarization in news articles, and applies a ranking from its spectrum of biases so readers are aware of subtle biased angles.
Whether you are reading the morning newspaper or doing research for a class assignment, it is important to be cautious of the information that you come across. Be aware that bias exists and some sources are not as responsible as others. By taking a few extra steps to verify data, you can become part of the solution to our nation’s problem of “fake news”.
When a 30 second television ad costs millions of dollars, companies must be mindful of their audiences and be strategic in their delivery in order to get the most for their money. The recent trend has been to take a stance on a debate topic or current event to get America talking. Here, Brett, Katie, and Terra weigh in on how some companies took advantage of their time during the 2017 Super Bowl:
Terra: This ad felt much slower than most of the commercials as it showed one family’s journey to freedom in America. Without using many words, it told a powerful story. By ending their television spot with an invitation to visit the 84 Lumber website to see how the video ends, they are generating web traffic. This commercial caused quite a buzz and led to many people sharing the video in its entirety on social media.
Brett: I think the ad also is interesting as one thinks about their target audience and their end users. The ad speaks to (or for?) the latter, but ends the ad with a line from the former. Mexican immigrants make up a significant portion of the construction industry workforce, as has been reported in articles like this from the NYT. 84 Lumber is planting their flag on the issue and used a big stage to do it.
Katie: From a messaging standpoint, this one leaves me feeling a little yucky. It’s a message about inclusion, but the 84 Lumber folks are also very careful that they are advocating that these immigrants enter the country legally, in “the right way.” The online response to the ad was immediate and plentiful, and 84 Lumber countered negative responses with the defense that they aren’t advocating illegal immigration, only that they want to offer a place to those with grit and determination. It feels a little tone deaf and exploitive, but I think I’m in the minority here. It certainly did get folks talking about a lumber company; no easy task.
Terra: Like 84 Lumber, Budweiser took a stance on the hot topic of immigration. This was the most viewed Super Bowl ad on YouTube following its premiere. It shows what many consider to be an All-American brand with a mixed background. Taking a stance on a highly debated issue tends to isolate audiences, but with almost twice as many views as the second most popular ad, it paid off for Budweiser.
Brett: AB/InBev and the Budweiser brand have clung and doubled-down on the beer being the “American beer” (I mean, they renamed the beer “America” this past summer). One would think that the consumer may tend to lean to the anti-immigration side of the debate, making Budweiser’s stance in the ad quite a statement.
Katie: A lot of the anti-immigration folks take the stance that their ancestors, again, did it the “right way” and this ad does nothing to problematize that simplistic narrative. There does seem to be a tiny bit of a boycott brewing (puns!) but I think the positive reaction will be more dramatic: folks who would never consider drinking Bud might have a more friendly attitude toward the brand.
Coca-Cola aired an ad during the 2014 Super Bowl showing people of different nationalities singing “America The Beautiful” in their native language. The company got a lot of back lash with customers even calling for a boycott.
Terra: Coca Cola clearly saw another opportunity with current events to replay this ad. Unlike regular commercials, Super Bowl commercials tend to only air once, so it was interesting that Coca-Cola decided to repeat an ad three years later. The repeat created some extra conversation completely separate from the actual context of the ad, which may have been beneficial to the company.
Katie: Nothing about this strikes me as political or going against the Coca-Cola brand. Their reach is international, obviously. This year it feels political because of the immigration ban, which is interesting. It’s a reminder that messages are contextual.
The luxury car company decided to avoid the popular theme of immigration and ethnic diversity to advocate for equal pay for equal work. It shows a dad pondering how he will have tough talks with his daughter about adversity. As the young girl dominates the primarily male race she is competing in, the proud father thinks maybe he “won’t have to”.
Terra: I think it was great that Audi brought a male voice into the conversation of equality for women. Traditionally, it is women that speak out about not being paid as much as men who do the same job. This ad was a victory for advocates of equality for women.
Katie: I loved this one. It took a stance, not a quasi-stance (although it makes me wonder how many women work at Audi and how much they earn!) It highlighted a corporate value, not a product, but it was open about that. In an age of consumer-driven activism, this feels successful.
Brett: How many luxury cars (or luxury car brands) treat women as their core audience? It seems most are marketed to men. Through discussing the issue of pay equality, does this align Audi with marketing equality too, with Audi seeing both women and men equally likely to be customers? It would be interesting and refreshing to see how this would look carried out.
Readers: do you have any other thoughts on these ads, or ones we overlooked? Did we miss anything else with the ones mentioned? Let us know in the comments!
Social media continues to grow exponentially. The beginning of 2015 found that slightly over 40 percent of the world’s population is online and close to 30 percent have active social media accounts. We use this medium to keep in touch, share ideas, and persuade governments. The solutions that can be achieved appear limitless. So, with such a powerful tool at your fingertips, how are you using social media to grow your business?
My name is Mike and I have been in the marketing communications profession for 25 years, per-dating this electronic medium that has infiltrated every aspect of our lives. As a student at Chatham University in the Master of Professional Writing program, I explored this question as part of a bi-weekly, ten part blog series.
Together, let us explore a few of the more popular social sites and identify the pros and cons of each. I offer examples and best practices for presenting a strong profile for your business on that week’s platform. To wrap up the series, we look at the practice of blogging and how these four pieces combine to build a strong, cohesive marketing campaign for any size business.
It’s time to integrate your social media marketing and build your brand. Posting a profile and depending on a breeze to deliver it to your audience is hit-or-miss at best. Planning and execution hits each mark and securely plants the seed to grow a thriving business.