Nov 132017
 
This entry is part 11 of 11 in the series Prez Says
Photo of Paul Duarte

STC New England President Paul Duarte

Hello, STC New England News readers!

Two weeks ago, the Chapter held its InterChange conference at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center in Lowell, Massachusetts. In the past, the Chapter held InterChange in late March or early April, but we thought it would be a nice change to hold the conference in the fall. That way, after attending STC’s Summit and other conferences, presenters could take what they learned from those events and come up with engaging programs and workshops at our chapter, so we could carry their ideas into our careers through the next year. Over 40 people attended this year and we had several hard-working volunteers behind the scenes. Thank you to everyone who attended and helped make InterChange a success!

It was a real pleasure to have members of STC Rochester attend. Ben Woelk, STC Rochester’s Co-Vice President and Conference Chair, noted in his keynote address how he, as an introvert, rose to leadership as a technical communicator and STC member. Now, through his consultant agency Introverted Leadership, Ben helps introverted technical writers find their voice so they can become better communicators and inspire other introverts to enter leadership or management tracks. He also gave a great workshop on Day Two of the conference, “Revive and Thrive: Temperament-based Strategies for Today’s Workplace,” in which attendees explored their personality types so they could understand why they behave the way they do and what they could do to perform better in the workplace.

InterChange ended with the presentation of the Landers-Carbrey community service award to former President Emily Alfson. This award combines two previous awards for the chapter, the Carol A. Landers Spirit of Volunteerism Award and the Edward J. Carbrey Jr. Scholarship, which became a single award in 2004.

Emily previously received this award in 2014, but the Council felt she was deserving of it for a second time because of all the work she continued to do for the New England Chapter after she relocated to her home state of Michigan that same year. Emily continued to serve on the Chapter Council through October of this year, and she was instrumental in organizing and presenting the last three InterChange conferences. The New England Chapter will miss her hard work and dedication; we wish her all the best of luck in her career.

Now that InterChange is in the books, I want to report on a few items of interest to our Chapter. First, while we have not had any formal programs or social hours this year, we are working on delivering higher-quality programs this year. The Chapter is arranging a program for December, and the Chapter will work with other professional associations in the Boston area for programs in early 2018. The Council does not have enough resources to plan and execute programs on its own. We need chapter members to join our Programs Committee; specifically we need volunteers who will help organize programs that present new ideas and skills to audiences—by finding engaging topics, speakers, and appropriate venues. Please let us know if you’re interested in helping plan programs at president@stcnewengland.org.

Secondly, the Chapter is exploring the idea of turning hosting of its main website and news website over to the international STC. In a recent conversation with Tim Esposito of STC Philadelphia Metro, he explained how chapters have successfully transitioned control of their websites over to the international society, which hosts sites based on WordPress. For example, the Philadelphia Metro Chapter’s website, http://www.stcpmc.org, is a paragon of minimalist, clean web design that adapts to both desktop and mobile devices. The switch would save a lot of money. In addition, the WordPress backend is easier to maintain. We really want to improve our Chapter’s website and give a positive experience to members and nonmembers alike. If you are interested in helping us build a new website based on WordPress, please let us know.

I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and hope to see everyone in December.

Jul 232017
 

Icon showing a checklist under a magnifying glass (credit: Kevin Augustine LO from The Noun Project) Information Security is one of the hottest jobs in technology today. This is for good reason—stories of stolen identities, medical records, and political secrets dominate our headlines and undermine trust in schools, stores, corporations, and even the governments of world powers. Technical communicators can play an important role in assuring that doesn’t happen. Continue reading »

Jun 122017
 
This entry is part 12 of 13 in the series 2016-17 Program Chronicles

Icon of people partying

It’s been a very productive year for us, and we’d like to celebrate it by inviting you to our End-of-Year dinner! We’ll review the year behind us, look ahead to the next season, and recognize those who helped contribute to the chapter’s success this past year.

Continue reading »

May 312017
 
This entry is part 11 of 13 in the series 2016-17 Program Chronicles

When we’re looking for our next job, we send out applications, talk to employers over the phone, Internet or on-site, and put our best foot forward. However, lots of other people do that, making for fierce competition for that one job. How can you stand out? By giving a powerful follow-up message to the people you interviewed with. Continue reading »

May 282017
 

Icon of a hand holding a flame, representing a hot lead

[Ed. note: Steve Greffenius is the manager of the Chapter’s job bank.]

From time to time writers discover job leads that look good. Nevertheless they can’t follow up on their own behalf, and they can’t think of any friends who need work. If this is the case with you, you can refer the hiring manager or recruiter to Steven Greffenius at the Chapter’s job bank, a members-only service to help fellow writers find good jobs and projects.

Attractive posts at the job bank have these qualities:

  • Local position or project
  • Local hiring manager or recruiter
  • Chapter members interested because they are qualified
  • Contact information to inquire with an individual

You can tell recruiters or hiring managers to contact me directly. Then they know exactly what the Chapter has published on their behalf. My email address is sgreffenius@gmail.com.

With each referral, you help our members — and the people who need a good writer.

About the Author

Steven Greffenius

Steven Greffenius, Chapter Secretary and past President of the Boston Chapter, is manager of the STC New England job bank. He is Principal at Puzzle Mountain Digital.

May 132017
 

Icon of handshake, with circular arrows symbolizing an even exchange[Ed. note: This is another in a series of occasional articles by Jack Molisani. Here Jack expands on ideas he presented at our April 2017 program.]

For many people the term “negotiating” brings to mind images of unpleasant haggling with a used car salesperson in a loud plaid suit. But negotiating isn’t something you do just when buying a large-ticket item like a washing machine or a used car. Deciding what features will be documented given the time on hand, getting your kids to clean their rooms before playing video games, even deciding what movie to watch on Date Night, are all negotiations in one form or another.

What is Negotiation?

Webster’s Dictionary defines negotiating as “conferring, discussing, or bargaining to reach agreement.” Dictionary.com defines negotiating as “to attempt to come to an agreement on something through discussion and compromise.”

I find these definitions lacking—they just don’t capture the true spirit and goal of negotiation. So after reviewing my 25+ years experience as a negotiator (first as a Systems Acquisition Officer in the Space Division of USAF, then as a staff and contract technical writer, and finally as the owner of my own business), I created a better definition:

Negotiation is the art of giving up as little of what you have in order to get what you want.

What would you as a staff or contract technical communicator be negotiating?

  • Your compensation
  • Project scope
  • Project deadlines
  • Resources
  • Headcount
  • Comp time
  • Training
  • Tools, etc.

What do you regularly give up to get what you want in the workplace?

Negotiation Basics

One negotiates to reach a common agreement. I believe all negotiations have to be either Win-Win or Lose-Lose to be considered “successful.” For example:

A sale: Buyers gets a product (or service) they wanted at a price they can afford, and the seller make a reasonable profit

A war: Both factions split the territory in dispute. Neither side is happy, but it’s certainly better than fighting

Win-Lose is not “negotiating.” When one side forces their terms on the other, there is no common agreement, no meeting in the middle. The other party may accept the offer because they have to, but they sure aren’t going to like it, and they certainly are not going to give 100% if they feel cheated.

What do you think a vendor will do who sold their service for less than what they consider a fair price?

What do you think customers will do if forced to pay more for something than they feel they should have?

What do you think employees will do if they accept a salary that is much lower than what they think is fair?

Let’s look at some lessons learned and best practices for conducting negotiations.

Before You Begin

The first thing to do before starting any negotiation is your homework. Decide before you begin what you would like to achieve. Decide what is a nice-to-have, what is a must-have, and at what point will you walk away from the negotiations if you are just not getting what you want.

Don’t try to decide these things during the negotiation. There is usually far too much stress or emotion in a negotiation, and you don’t want to make a snap decision that you will later regret.  

Also, Chellie Campbell, author of Zero to Zillionaire, talks about doing business with “Your People.” You recognize Your People when you meet them. They value your services and are happy to pay your rates for a quality product or service. They want to strike a deal that is good for both parties.

So the next step after doing your homework is to find Your People and negotiate with them.

At the Start

When opening a negotiation, don’t just jump into price negotiations. Take time to get to know something about the person with whom you are negotiating, and for them to get to know you. They will be more open to negotiating if they feel you are “birds of a feather,” so look for shared values and common ground.

Also find out what is important to them, and let them know what is important to you. (More on this later in the article.)

Opening Offers: Theirs

When possible, let the other side make the opening offer. That is the first insight you get into what they have in mind as a fair price, and you can decide if the deal is even worth pursuing.

When a company comes to me looking for a contract technical writer, I usually ask: “Compensations can vary widely based on the amount of education and experience they have. Do you have a particular range in mind so I don’t send anyone too expensive…?”

If a client tells me they want someone for a ridiculously low amount, I assume they’re telling me the truth—they really are looking for a writer for $x/hour. In that case I don’t even try to negotiate. I just say, “Sorry, there is no way I can find someone at that rate and still include a margin to cover my overhead.”

But if the number is not too far from your target, you can ask to split the difference, or even just agree to their number if it is not too far from your own.

Opening Offers: Yours

There will be times when you will have to make the opening offer, such as stating your bill rate or salary expectations in an interview. I have a rule of thumb: The better the interview went, the higher the number I quote when they ask my bill rate.

However, I always add a qualifier in case I needed to backpedal. I say, “My normal bill rate is $x/hr…” and then watch their reaction.

If they accept my rate without hesitation, I make a mental note to raise my rates!

But if they react negatively, I can quickly add, “…but I’m flexible given that this is a long-term contract [given the state of the economy, etc.].”

But—if they react negatively and I have to backpedal, I also add, “What bill rate did you have in mind…?”

Justifying Your Numbers

For bidding projects (no matter if you are an internal employee or an external contractor), you must be able to show how you came up with your estimate.

The best way is to support your numbers with historical data. “The last time we did a project just like this it took….” If you can show exactly how you came up with your numbers, the negotiation will swing away from your hourly rate and onto the scope of the project.

For more information on how to justify numbers in a workplace negotiation, see “How to Build a business Case,” Molisani/Graham, Intercom, July/Aug 2008.

For more information on how to track historical data, download the session slides and a sample database from Bonni Graham’s presentation, “How to Create a Historical Database and Bid Future Jobs” from LavaCon 2006.

Negotiating: Give and Take

Remember, most people consider making and receiving concessions as part of the negotiation process. So knowing the other person expects me to give up something as part of the negotiation, I always add things to my “wish list” that I am willing to negotiate away.

At the start of the negotiation I ask the other party what is important to them. That way I can say if you give me what is important to me, I’ll do what I can to give you what is important to you.

When I do that, I find negotiating a deal is much closer to a dance than a tug-of-war.

Summary

To recap:

  • Negotiation is the art of giving up as little of what you have in order to get what you want
  • Find and negotiate with Your People
  • Take time to build rapport with the other party
  • Decide before you start what you want, what you are willing to give up, and when to walk away
  • When possible, let the other party make the opening offer
  • Be able to back up your numbers and estimates
  • Go for a Win-Win agreement

About the Author

Headshot of Jack MolisaniTwitter

Jack Molisani

Jack Molisani is the president of ProSpring Technical Staffing, an employment agency specializing in technical writers and other content professionals, and is the author of Be The Captain of Your Career: A New Approach to Career Planning and Advancement, which hit #5 on Amazon’s Career and Resume Best Seller list.

Jack also produces the LavaCon Conference on Technical Communication Management: https://lavacon.org.

Jack is always happy to hear from readers, so if you have any questions or success stories to share, contact him at Jack@ProspringStaffing.com.

Follow Jack on Twitter.