By Anita Matechuk
I made the scary decision to volunteer for the IDL SIG last fall. Because I was only half-way through my schooling in technical communication, I didn’t feel qualified to volunteer. I was unsure what most of the roles did and did not have the skills to help with the rest. The email offering to volunteer was sent with one goal: learn one new skill before they realized I was not a qualified volunteer.
My first IDL SIG meeting was not as terrifying as expected. I did not understand the majority of the topics, but the friendly nature of the meeting was encouraging. The impact of meeting professional technical communicators was surprising. Working in this field requires constant learning and even though I had the most to learn, it was less daunting to know I was learning with others.
I joined my second management meeting expecting to be told my invitation was a mistake. Once I got over my shyness, they not only tolerated my student input; they valued it. After the meeting was over, I read the entire website and signed up on social media.
A notice for a free webinar showed up on Facebook, so I signed up even though I knew nothing about the topic. Since then, I have attended every free webinar that fit into my schedule. I learned a lot during some webinars while others were above my comprehension level. Each webinar expanded my technical communication vocabulary.
I looked forward to my third management meeting, but felt a little guilty because I hadn’t contributed any value. That was solved when I happily agreed to join the student outreach planning meeting when it was offered.
The student outreach planning meeting uncovered another benefit of volunteering: The more I volunteered, the more people offered mentoring. Mentors don’t force you to take on a task you aren’t comfortable doing. They encourage you to try new tasks while supporting you in your learning.
I still find some aspects of volunteering scary. Okay, I admit writing my first article is terrifying and I have no idea how to create a webinar. These are both opportunities I volunteered for, and I am excited to learn.
I plan to try everything I can as a student. This includes continuing to volunteer and signing up for webinars. I registered to become an STC mentee. My one last goal for myself is to enter the IDL SIG student article writing competition. I am not planning on writing articles for a career, but this is a great learning opportunity.