Several months ago I thought I would look for a mentor. I was already starting to follow experienced technical communicators on Twitter: clicking the links they posted there, posting the occasional question to them.
In particular, I messaged with Charlene Kingston a lot. She asked for my resume, and we even chatted on the phone once about my goals and interests. I admire that she has grown a successful and stable freelance business, and I am learning by watching how she goes about this. In particular, her high energy and level of productivity impress me, and I like to hear how she does it.
I read a couple of articles by Jack Molisani of Prospring and his positive, creative approach to drumming up work resonated with me. I added him on LinkedIn with the intention of building another experienced tech comm contact, but at the time I was also building an Arbonne business on the side. I asked if I could send him a sample of the men’s line. He graciously accepted, but as you can imagine, our correspondence ended up getting off the tech comm track.
These days I concentrate on building skills that will help me build my own tech comm business. Arbonne is a perfectly worthy company, but I can’t serve two passions.
Okay, so that was embarrassing, but where was I going with this? The point I’m trying to make is that via Twitter, LinkedIn, and blog comments, I’ve been getting mentorship in 140-characters sips.
The STC Annual conference was an extension of that, for me. At the progression sessions, I hopped from table to table, listening to mini-presentations about the issues that were on my list of Things to Ask People About at STC 09. These were presentations on solutions that were already working for them in their businesses. Things, that if given the chance, I will take back and make work in my work environment; either for my employer or for myself.
Granted, I introduced myself to anyone who got within four feet of me and asked them how they were addressing the issues I was concerned about. I worked to get the most out of the registration fee. I took notes at a party in Bernard Aschwanden’s suite, for Pete’s sake. I also put real live faces to a heck of a lot of Twitter user names, which was a powerful icebreaker. It would be reasonable for a company to expect someone to do these things, I think, before shelling out well over a grand to send an employee.
I really think this is one more thing to put on the lists of reasons why of course employees should be allowed to use social media, and of course companies should send them to conferences and not make them take vacation days (ahem): access to the consultant-quality ideas and solutions that leaders tend to provide to developing members of their profession. There are some people that I will continue to correspond with beyond the conference about the things we discussed. Now tell me again, what’s my motivation to concentrate that correspondence on company challenges?
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