I hope you learned as much as I did from Ed Hackett. He provided a lot of great information from a personal yet professional perspective. For my second interview, I got lucky enough to get in contact with a Professor at Northern Arizona University (NAU) in Flagstaff, Arizona.
NAU is one of the three Arizona universities located in a small, beautiful town. NAU offers graduate studies in Professional Writing. You can either get a Masters Degree, which would be a total of 36 units or a certification, which is 18 units. The program is completely online and is offered year round.
I decided to interview a Professor so I could get more of an academic perspective of entering the Technical/Professional writing field. Mr. Hackett provided me with personal experience and I thought learning the academic background of Professional/Technical writing would really bring everything together.
This morning, I had a phone interview with Gregory Larkin who is a Professor of Professional Writing at NAU. With 46 years of experience and a PhD, Dr. Larkin is a very inspiring and well-informed person to speak with. After speaking with Dr. Larkin, I am really looking into completing a Masters or certification through NAU. The skills and knowledge one gains through this program would really help any individual in any field.
I began my interview by asking Dr. Larkin about himself and his background:
Question: Were you always interested in Technical/Professional writing, for example, while you were in your undergraduate studies?
Answer: Dr.Larkin spoke to me about how he graduated with an undergraduate degree in English, then completing his masters and ended up receiving a PhD in Shakespeare. As much as he loves Shakespeare he knew that Shakespeare was not going to be financially supportive. He always thought that Professional Writing was a solid and stable future. He began doing workshops and teaching Professional Writing while getting his doctorate and that is where it all started. Dr. Larkin saw a future in Professional Writing and made that his goal even though he was studying something different. Dr. Larkin also spoke of his experience with working all over the world in places like Malta, Italy and Germany as well as all over the United States.
I then asked Dr. Larkin for some general advice he would give a recent college graduate or any individual looking to pursuing a career in Professional Writing:
Question: What general advice do you have for a recent college graduate or any individual that wants to pursue Technical/Professional writing as a career?
Answer: Dr. Larkin discussed the program that NAU offers and how they help benefit their students. They are able to place their students in private sector or government jobs. These two fields are effective and people need help writing documents. Whether it is lab materials or making what their doing into a proposal. Dr. Larkin also informed me of The Society of Technical Communication (STC). He advised that any individual looking to get into this field should join STC. There is a local Phoenix chapter and they maintain job placements in the area.
More information is available on their website: http://www.stc.org/
I continued my interview by asking Dr. Larkin more about what individuals should do to pursue this career:
Question: Being involved with the Masters Program and Certification for Professional Writing at NAU, what experience do you think benefits individuals the most?
Answer: Dr.Larkin discussed how people benefit the most from internships. He made a point that people need to spend more time outside the university setting because all Professional Writing is done outside the classroom. That is one benefit of the program at NAU since it all online. I moved on to ask him if he truly believes individuals need a Masters or certification to better themselves in this field. Larkin advises people to get a higher education. The more education you have, the more likely you are to get hired and your level of education will affect job placement in this field.
I also wanted to get a little more information about the program:
Question: Do you need a certain undergraduate study to get accepted in the masters or certification program?
Answer: Dr.Larkin stated that even though most students are English undergraduate majors you do not have to be. You have to have an undergraduate degree to be able to get accepted but no certain major is required. Dr.Larkin also discussed how most of the graduate students are already employed; they are just getting their certification or MA to higher their education and better their job placement.
My next question asked Dr. Larkin what a common issue that individuals have to overcome in this field:
Question: What is a common obstacle/issue faced with entering this field?
Answer: Dr.Larkin disucssed how one common thing people sometimes say is “I’m a creative writer and writing is writing and it’s all the same and good”. He went on to say this isn’t true; Technical/Professional writing is a very specialized form of writing. Dr. Larkin stated, “Creative writing, such as a novel or a poem, is a great thing and is certainly just as “real” as any other sort of writing; however, if you are trying to impress a potential employer with your ability to handle a technical writing position, you’d be better off to stress writing you have done that is more technical in nature, such as proposals, grants, procedures, or even research papers.” In summary, one common obstacle or issue people need to overcome is having the right mind set and style. Technical/Professional writing is not about expressing yourself or writing essays but transmitting information.
I ended our interview by asking Dr.Larkin for some general advice, specifically if it is a hard field to establish yourself:
Question: What advise do you have for this field? Is it a hard field to establish yourself?
Answer: Dr. Larkin stated, “Don’t let them tell you that you have to teach Freshmen English, the more you can do to square up where you want the more likely you’ll get a better job placement.” Dr. Larkin ended our interview by explaining that the field of Professional/Technical writing is needed, “it’s so hot right now and it’s not hard to establish yourself.” Individuals just need to get themselves in this mindset; you can’t go into this field saying I know what certain people want. You have to learn new things and know your audience. People are concerned about results, time, money and getting the job done, not expressing yourself.
I just want to thank Dr. Larkin for scheduling a phone interview with me. I really learned a lot of useful information that I think will be helpful as I am getting closer and closer to graduation. Dr. Larkin provided realistic and truthful answers, which is what college graduates nationwide need to hear.
I will be posting one more blog summarizing my experience with this project!