I considered everyone else in my field the competition early in my career. I had to fight them for jobs; they were the enemy. I didn’t really get the value of professional memberships or conferences. I didn’t join STC, the Society for Technical Communication, until I was laid off from my first job, after 12 years in the field that I fell into.
I went to my first STC NY Metro chapter meeting, and right away someone said ‘you look just like Bernard [Aschwanden]’. I had no idea who Bernard was. Now, he’s a good friend and twin. Several years and several meetings later, I connected with someone who got me my current position, which I’ve now held for over six years.
During my podcast recording with Bernard, a former STC President, he mentioned that STC is really a social network, and that resonated with me. Everyone needs a tribe, or community. I saw that in person earlier this week at the STC Summit conference. As someone on a really small team at a really large company, it’s great to meet and catch up with techcomm colleagues from all across the US, Canada, and afar. It’s also great to meet people you’ve only ‘met’ virtually via LinkedIn or social media.
11 years later, I contribute to my community. I’ve presented at STC meetings and conferences. I’ve started a podcast to give back to the community (and have a hell of a lot of fun doing it). I believe I’ve inspired and encouraged others. And soon, I hope to continue to give back by running for a leadership position.
Does that make STC worth the price of admission? For me, it does. It creates a sense of professional community that I don’t have in my day-to-day. Maybe it doesn’t for you, and that’s fine. Are there other ways to create community? Of course. It’s why I created a free Slack channel for everyone who attended Summit to connect. It’s why there are tons of other organizations. But, STC has the built-in domain knowledge and history; this was the 64th annual Summit.
The important thing is to find your community.