When I left journalism in 2012 I always knew I’d eventually come back to writing, I just didn’t think it would take six years.
I left for a number of reasons. Opportunities for advancement were minimal, the pay was terrible and my employer was a cult
. Small details, I guess. In many ways, nothing about what we did was journalism in the way I was expecting when I applied for the job
When I was looking around for other things to do there were only a few jobs that required the same skills: PR, copywriting, marketing content writer.
To go and work in either of those was considered “selling out” by my grizzled 24-year olds colleagues. So I went to work in tech for an education company. I did a bit of writing on the side
but my day job was now in business. Turns out I loved learning about that side of things. I also got lucky, the startup I joined went from Series A to acquisition during the time I was there. In many ways, the last six years has been an MBA’s worth of education without the price-tag.
Today, things are different. In the last few years, UX Writing has offered a better path for journalists looking for something different. But pathways into the role are still difficult to find. As Tiffany Lee
(a former journalist, now UX Writer at Google) says, “a lot of potential writers still don’t know about this field, and it doesn’t help that companies use different titles for essentially the same role”.
In lieu of a formal training route into the industry (although this will change soon!), companies are increasingly looking for people who have had formal training in journalism, technical writing, creative writing, communications, public relations. Really, anything that directly relates to writing
As Kristina Bjoran
points out, this is an interesting diversion from other more “traditional” UX roles, in that it expects an intuitive understanding of how to effectively design communications
rather than, specifically, interfaces.
And as Alex Schmidt
notes, the skills required to be a good UX Writer are very similar to those prized in journalism. Both roles require you to be question askers. It’s never sufficient to take the status quo for granted but to “always dig deeper to find the truth”.
They’re both highly collaborative fields that are interested in uncovering the “why” behind how people behave. Both disciplines require condensing a large amount of information into a small amount of space, and making it digestible.
As a journalist you are never a subject matter expert but you have to know how to get all the necessary information out of people who are. Same with UX Writing. You aren’t your products main user, but you have to learn how to think and act like them.
And a huge part of the job is not knowing the full picture, whether that’s trade negotiations or how your users are going to interact with your product.
Food for thought.
On with the show.