How to Get the Credit You Deserve

Last week we touched on the difference a job title can make career. Many of you wrote in to say that the title Tech Writer was often overlooked or seen in a negative light. Technical Editor was mentioned as an alternative as was Content Developer.

Jane Carsons updated her business card to ‘Documentation Consultant’. She told me that it seems to carry more of a punch. It also allows her to discuss services—and recommend products, which can be very lucrative —that may not always be covered by a tech writer.

Lots of emails from the girls, by the way, so c’mon guys! Hit that Reply button.

Who Gets the Most Credit?

Let’s start with a nice cliché, which, of course, has some truth in it.

Managers like to manage, Sales like to sell, and Writers like to write.

Nothing wrong with that! Except that the first two also like to talk and tell EVERYONE all the great things they’ve done. Their success is due in part to this drive and self-promotion. They understand hype. They know how to sell. And the product they like to sell most is – themselves!

Writers on the other hand like to be left alone. To concentrate. Have some peace. A quiet space. Maybe this is not always true, but you get the idea.

What’s wrong with this?

Well, while Slick and Will are getting their monthly commissions, the tech writers (and others such as tech support) are often over-looked.

If you don’t speak up, you get taken for granted. That’s life.

So, even though you worked late (and paid the Babysitter extra), treble-checked the printed copies, and finished the company newsletter during lunch, none of this seems to get recognised…

How Do I Get Credit For All My Hard Work?

Let’s cut to the chase: it’s not what you do that matters, but how you’re perceived that matters.
In general, writers like details. That’s why they’re great at capturing the finer points of editing, proof-reading, and writing technical documentation. But this strength is also they’re (i.e. your) weakness. It stops them from seeing the bigger picture.

Success in the IT workplace depends on communicating, being pro-active, and promoting oneself. Here are some tips on how to do this:

1. Get involved – make sure your department is included in project kick-off meetings. Contribute and highlight when and where you can provide ‘value-add’ during the next projects.

Tip: In an understated way, remind those present of positive feedback you’ve received from clients for the high quality of the company’s (i.e. your) documentation. If you don’t tell them, they won’t know! Surveys are another good way to demonstrate client satisfaction. It’s the kind of thing the creeps into newsletter and ezines if you follow my drift?

2. Add value – look for opportunities to work with other departments that could use your writing skills. Sales, Finance, and Procurement always need help with letters, brochures, and proposals.

Suggest a 1 day workshop. Then follow-up after a few weeks and see if bids, sales, and presentations have improved.

1. Is customer satisfaction higher with the new brochures?
2. Are there less customer complaints?
3. How can we improve our material further?

They key is to look for an opportunity, get involved, and then follow-up. Bit by bit you’ll get more recognition.

3. Keep managers informed on what you (and your colleagues) have achieved. For example, send progress reports on the latest projects, meetings with the inter-department groups, positive quotes from clients, and community activities.

Don’t use these updates to bang your own drum. That’s too obvious. Use them to get input, advice, and contributions from others. Otherwise, your intentions will be too obvious.

FYI: An enterprising Project Manager arranged workshops with local high schools to teach kids the fundamental of project management. Contrary to what you’d expect, the teenagers enjoyed the sessions, were full of enthusiasm, and sang my friend’s praises. This reflects very well on her company with local newspaper coverage bringing the workshops to a wider audience.

Can you think of a similar angle for yourself? Not hard, is it?
4. Once you’ve defined a strategy for getting recognition, stick to it. Continue to get visibility (i.e. which will ultimately translate into recognition) by getting involved in high-value activities.

The trick is to be seen, not to get immediate credit. After this, the rest will follow.

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