The Society for Technical Communication (STC) just isn’t that helpful to me anymore.
I didn’t always feel that way. In fact, when I started my career 13 years ago, I loved the organization. The Vancouver chapter had monthly meetings, there were annual salary surveys published for Canadians, professional development sessions abounded, and I religiously read the organization’s publications. I even volunteered as the vice-president of the local chapter.
So what happened? How did I lose that “loving feeling”? A few reasons:
The STC’s Canadian salary survey disappeared. A numbers of years ago, the STC stopped publishing a salary survey for Canadians. It was a real disappointment. Now I’m left with hearing anecdotal information about market rates that seem to vary wildly. Some writers appear willing to work for nothing while other companies freely want to pay more than the standard rates. The salary survey was a useful tool.
The local job bank is mediocre. In my experience, one of the valuable reasons to become an STC member was that it provided access to the local job bank, which used to be a vibrant source of employment opportunities. These days, there are still a smattering of jobs listed in the local job bank but I’ve found that free web sites such as http://www.indeed.ca to be more helpful.
The STC is no longer the definitive voice of technical communications. Years ago, the STC was the main purveyor of technical communication knowledge. I used to avidly read the organization’s Intercom and Technical Communication magazines. Perhaps the STC’s position of authority began to wane when Web 2.0 emerged. Technical writers started writing blogs and many of these blogs, like Tom Johnson’s http://idratherbewriting.com/, offer valuable information to technical writers much faster than the STC ever could. And they’re free.
To summarize, the STC is probably still useful to newer technical writers. But if you have a passing knowledge of some of the leading technical writing blogs (here’s a list of influential technical writing bloggers), and you understand where and how to look for work and how much to charge, the STC may not be that useful to you either.
NOTE: This blog entry might sound like a criticism of the STC’s volunteers and members. That’s not my intention—I think there are many talented individuals who continue to be involved with the STC. As I noted, I volunteered with the chapter for many years.