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Publications > Dateline Houston > February 2004 > Director-Sponsor Report

Volume 43, Issue 5

February 2004

Letter from Linda

"At First"

by Linda Oestreich, Region 5 Director-Sponsor and STC Fellow

At first, the year stretches ahead with possibilities. At first, we see it as a blank slate, a white canvas waiting for our words or drawings of wealth and success and humor and health. Yet, January is just another month. The newness, the opportunity, and the excitement are all in our heads. We can make any day a new day, any month a new month, any moment a moment of possibility.

If I have learned anything over these last months of unemployment and personal loss, it is that I am blessed. I found strength and friends and funds that I didn't know were there. And I found hope and confidence in myself. I had new things to learn, new places to go, new ideas to embrace. But, above all, I learned to trust.

At first, before we really can do anything well, we must believe in ourselves and know who we are. I have a friend who is a marriage and family counselor. She says we each have "our story." When someone asks about you, what do you say? Do you identify yourself by what you do? By how many children you have? By how much money you make? Or do you identify yourself by the influence you have on your world? How do you share that story?

We in technical communication have a blessing in our job titles. Because most people don't know what a technical writer or information developer does, we are forced to explain it. My mom never did understand my job, yet she was proud of me. As I look back, I realize her pride came mostly from the success I achieved through STC. She could see those successes. She could read about them. She understood about me mentoring others, giving speeches to folks who were attending their first conference, and helping people write better resumes. She never did understand what I did to make a document more readable or better designed.

I recently took advantage of an outplacement agency. One exercise was to develop a 15-second introduction. In 15 seconds, we had to explain to a stranger what value we brought to others through our work. Can you do that? Practice it. "Hi, I'm Joe Bagadonuts, I help people use and understand technology by providing them with clear, concise, and complete printed and online guides that are built with simple words and easy-to-understand pictures." As you can see, even after months of practice, I still can't get it quite right! And is that really the value I bring to the workplace?

So, what is your story? At first, you might have to think about it. What are you known for? What do you want to be known for? I don't want to be known as an editor or writer. I want to be known for helping others attain their goals. I want recognition for helping others understand what their value is and for manifesting it in their work, in their play, and in their hearts. But telling others that's what I do isn't the answer. I have to show it. I have to do it. Then, from at first to at last, no matter what "job" I have, the recognition will come, but it really won't matter because I will be doing what I love. My actions are my story. They are my first and my last. And it won't matter if it's January or July.


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