Though degrees and certifications in technical areas such as MIS, engineering and computer science improve your odds of IT career success, it’s also important to remember the significance of so-called “soft skills.”
Soft skills include things like written and verbal communication and time management. Of all of the soft skills, written communication is the most valuable of the bunch. Think about it. The ability to write well figures into everything from humble chats and email messages, to presentations, reports, performance reviews, budgets and migration documentation. IT professionals who develop and use their writing skills inevitably enjoy better-paying and more interesting careers than those who run at the sight of any writing challenge.
Here are some tried and true techniques you can use to develop your writing skills, as well as ideas on how to improve these skills:
- Read. You’d be surprised how many books are available about writing. You can also learn how to be a better writer by imitating -- not plagiarizing -- the work of other skilled writers. Visit the Advanced Search tool on the Amazon Books page and search on “learn to write” or “technical writing.” You’ll find a plethora of good books to learn from.
Take a writing class. You’d also be surprised by the number of writing classes that are available in your neighborhood. Check out the adult and continuing education classes at nearby universities and community colleges. You’ll find an amazing variety of classes to choose from that include creative, technical and expository (general) writing.
Writing classes offer numerous benefits. They include regular assignments, definite deadlines and best of all, qualified and helpful feedback from skilled professionals.
- Practice. There’s nothing like constant repetition to help you learn and hone writing
skills. Any free time you can spend writing will help. Here are some interesting and potentially
fun ways to practice:
- Start a blog and post regularly. Properly positioned, a blog can positively impact your career on several levels. This is especially true if your blog focuses on your professional and technical interests. You can use it to up your knowledge quotient, improve technical skills and increase your online visibility.
Join a technical organization. Whether you work with desktops, servers, storage or networks, you can find a professional group that holds regular meetings, presents educational content and maintains a website.
All of these forums need regular infusions of written content, so take on as much as you can handle. You’ll get solid feedback in a low-pressure situation, while simultaneously helping a worthwhile organization.
Volunteer for writing assignments at work. As you gain experience, your skills and confidence will increase. That’s when to start practicing your writing chops on the job. Offer to help a manager or colleague, for example, help out on an annual budget or project plan.
This will help you learn about the process, timetable and scope of work without taking on the entire load yourself. Over time, you’ll be assigned this type of work when management understands that you’re not just interested, but also skilled and reliable enough to take on such projects.
Take advantage of every writing opportunity you have.
As your writing skills improve, you’ll notice how much writing figures into your job. You will begin to see an increased range of opportunities that can benefit from your interests and skills.
You’ll also start spending more time writing independently when you realize how it benefits your career in IT. As you set long-term goals, remember that the job of a senior technical person or manager is more about communication than anything else. If you want to climb either of these ladders, a good set of writing skills will help immeasurably.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ed Tittel is a longtime computer industry writer with over 100 computer books and thousands of articles to his credit. His most recent security book is Computer Forensics JumpStart. Read his IT Career JumpStartand Windows Enterprise Desktop blogs for TechTarget, as well as his weekly posts for PearsonITCertification.com.
This was first published in September 2011