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Technical Writing Mentorship Makes a Difference

2nd December 2010 Posted in Blog, Technical Writers 0 Comments
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No matter what job you’re in, having a mentor can help to make things easier. Technical writing is no exception.

Instead of simply handing a technical writer the training manual and employee handbook, you can offer them a living, breathing go-to person to ensure they understand their job responsibilities and how to carry them out.

The Right Mentor for a Technical Writer

A technical writing mentor is a person who has already been in the position for an extended period of time. What this time period may be will vary from company to company and position to position. So long as this mentor is able to teach the basic skills as well as provide informed support on more complicated projects, they will be a good fit for a new technical writer.

The mentor does not need to be in the technical writing department at the present time, though they will want to be current on guidelines and tasks being performed and utilized.

The right mentor will not only have the skills, but also:

  • Time to answer questions.
  • History of strong job performance.
  • Current necessary certifications.
  • A positive attitude.
  • A willingness to teach.

Why Mentoring Helps Create a Strong Technical Writing Team

Ideally, you want to have technical writers who are able to think on their own, without having to ask for help on basic decisions. With a mentor available, the technical writer will have that safety net available, but will be more likely to think things through on their own before asking for help. This expedites training, improves critical thinking and creates a stronger overall employee.

In addition, with the support of a technical writing mentor, the new technical writer doesn’t have to feel all alone in the learning process. He or she will be able to learn from someone who has already performed the task, knows how to do it well, and who is committed to training.

Setting Up a Mentorship

In most cases, new employees find a mentor on their own. Or, more accurately, a mentor relationship develops naturally after the new employee discovers who ends up being a great help without being judgmental.

However, the process of naturally pairing up with a mentor can take time and sometimes lead to a new employee having a less-than-ideal mentor. HR and technical writing managers can speed up the process by identifying a suitable mentor for the new technical writer and approaching the mentor in advance of the new writer’s start date.

Pairing up a new technical writer with a mentor for at least one month will help in nearly any company setting – not only for the training process, but also for the long-term success of the new hire. If the mentoring relationship is successful, it will only build on itself in time to become a long-term, informal relationship.

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