CategoryIntrospection

Personal posts

Ninjas need not apply.

Looking for a Job? America’s Listings Are Inscrutable – The Atlantic

The result is the obnoxious state of the modern job listing, which is often short on details and long on silly demands.

I’ve seen listings for more years of experience in a technology than years the technology has existed.

More than ever, it seems, hiring managers are looking for extremists: You can’t just be willing to do the job. You must evince an all-consuming horniness for menial corporate tasks. In an American labor market where wages are stagnant and many workers feel their jobs seeping into their personal time, such demands only create even more anxiety and dread for Americans looking for a new gig.

Extremists don’t make for good team players. Which raises the final point.

In other words, few people seem to want to do the duties of a rock star if they’re not going to get paid like one.

If you’re looking for amazing, dedicated people, you need to reward them. Giving them less than market wages isn’t going to attract or retain them.

I’ve been in the market for a new job. I’ve been in the same place for three years under 5 separate companies and the contract I work on has expired and we’re working on an extension until a new contract is awarded. This is always a natural time to look around and see what else is out there in the market. I’m happy where I am, but I can always be happier. When I came across this article today I had to stop and read it. It is everything I see in ads today.

Even when they’re not filled with flowery language, which many of the DC-area government contracting jobs are not, they’re written so vaguely it’s often hard to determine exactly what sort of job it is. Is it a help desk? Would I be answering phones all day? Is it face-to-face support? Is it infrastructure support where I’d see more server rooms than people? It’s hard to determine if I’d even be qualified enough to attempt an interview since it’s hard to know what I would be doing and what would be expected of me.

There’s another trend of mentioning the need for an upper level security clearance at the very end of the job listing. After reading 3 pages of requirements, qualifications, a vague notion of exactly where you’ll be working, as I am ready to press Apply I notice I’d need a Top Secret security clearance. Not be clear-able, but to already have clearance.

Why bury that at the end of the ad? Put it at the top where you’ve placed the need for the applicant to be a US Citizen.

Modern job hunting is a minefield of guesswork and mistrust. I’ve asked many recruiters what government agency the position is for. And many of them are cagey about providing that information. In addition with a lack of trust, location has a huge amount to do with the length of the commute.

Is it in DC, Maryland or Virginia? Is it metro-accessible? If not, is there any parking available? From where I live, will it be 45 minutes? 90 minutes? More than that? These are all real concerns and even more real driving figures. Even metro can be an easy 60+ minute commute and that’s not counting any transfers in between.

Companies want dedicated rock stars to work for them forever. And they’re willing to pay wages fresh out of high school.

Father’s Day

Father, at work

This is one of my favorite photos I’ve taken of my father. It was taken through the window of his office as he worked up a spreadsheet. Which is as close to his natural state as I can get without a hammock and a Sherlock Holmes novel.

We spent the day together at the farm sitting on the front porch talking and sipping lemonade with a light breeze coming in off the rock outcroppings. It was as near as perfect a day as I can recall.

We took a 2 mile walk in the park and saw a beautiful blue bird. We had Vicki’s casserole for dinner with a salad and strawberry shortcake for dessert.

It was a happy father’s day.

What I want to be when I grow up

I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. When I was young, I wanted to work as a designer and one day own a design shop. I laid out newspapers in college in print. Then when the web became a medium of its own, I started learning HTML and CSS and tried to expand my work there.

I graduated college with a degree in Creative Advertising. It taught me I didn’t want to work in advertising. I wanted to work in design. But the economy was terrible and I had to find a job.

I fell into tech support. First supporting a rollout of Windows XP computers. Then moving into the world of quick printing then back to tech support. I’ve worked in some version of technical support since 2007.

In the past decade I’ve worked in some interesting places and some I’d rather forget. I find the challenge in solving problems fascinating. But fixing the same problem every day is a fast path to burnout.

I got out of straight technical support and fell into event management and webinars. An opportunity presented itself and I took it. And now a couple of years later, I find myself at another crossroads. I’ve hit a place where I need to make a major decision.

Where do I go with my career?

What I do

I could keep doing what I’m doing and work in Rich Media and Unified Communications. Explaining WebEx and teleconferencing to people. Organizing upgrades and planning future applications and tools to help communications.

I enjoy the technical challenges of building out a system for our customers. I want to help make their life easier and worry less about technology and more about what they do. I don’t want a chemist to worry about her WebEx account. I want her worrying about chemistry.

What I could do

Technical Writing / Documentation

I also have an interest in technical writing and documentation. I like to document how things work. I enjoy testing them to see how systems and applications work in practice. I need to know how something works and write it down so I remember it later.

I enjoy explaining how things work. I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned and writing out detailed steps to repeat a process. I’ve always prided myself on my documentation work and always made a point to document as much as I could. Either for my team (or myself) or the customer.

I live by the idea of helping out Future Carl. I’m going to need this again and I won’t remember when I do so I better write it down. If I don’t help Future Carl out, who will?

Event Planing

There were aspects of my last job around event planning I enjoyed. I enjoyed the logistical planning for successful events. Granted, I was working in a single building (most of the time) and with a set group of people (government employees).

But I worry about the long-term appeal of the work. Will it get old after a short time? Will it be fulfilling? Or stressful?

Technical Track

I could go more technical. Find a path to take I enjoy. Whether it be in the realm of Unified Communications & Rich Media where I am now. Or if I take another branch from the tree of technology.

The problem with that is I don’t know what I want to do with myself. There are lots of things that seem interesting. But are they hobbies, fleeting interests or solid career paths?

The common thread in all my work is helping people and making things work better. I want to take the challenge out of technology and make it work for the people who need it. Not the other way around. I want to help people do their work better. I need to figure out how best to do that in a fulfilling and profitable way.

Bun Alert

I enjoy the creatures in my yard. Ever since we bought the house and I have windows on every side I love looking out of them and seeing what’s in my yard today.

We came from a rental townhouse. Despite it being an end unit, it had no windows on the end. So I had windows to the front overlooking the parking lot and back overlooking the deck. But there was a big grassy area leading to a playground on the side. But no windows.

I make good use of my windows now. Even though we are in a city instead of the edge of one there are still animals that come to visit. Less deer. More chipmunks and rabbits. The occasional fox and raccoon.

And of course birds. Finches of all sorts. Doves waddling around plump and goofy. Bright red Cardinals flapping from fence to tree. Blue Jays hopping across the yard.

Titles comes courtesy of XKCD.
Bun Alert, XKCD Comic

Book Thief

I am a mighty builder. I make mountains out of mole hills. That’s how I treat problems in my life. The unknown. The inconvenient. The wastes of time. The points where failure has occurred somewhere and I need to correct it.

Recently, I returned two books to my local library. I dropped them off in a stack on the return counter as I have countless times before. The library staff collected and checked in one book. The other book escaped.

Once I realized what had happened, via an email from the library. I went in to take care of it in person. Unfortunately, I went on July 4th holiday (Independence Day) and found a closed library. Which made sense, I was off work for the holiday as well, why did I think the library would be open?

So I couldn’t take care of it. Then I forgot about it for a few days. Until I went to look up another book to see if it was available. The website reminded me I had a book overdue.

Filled with anxiety, I was ready to explain and re-explain what happened. Ready with dates and times and the titles of both books. And it was all for nothing.

I spoke to a woman and explained what happened. She cleared the book from my account and went about her day. She sounded hurried and busy. She was short but polite on the phone, and resolved my issue (and my anxiety) quickly and professionally.

I had worried about this exchange. I thought I wouldn’t be able to prove I did not have the book it would haunt me. I imagines building up a huge overdue fee as the days turned into weeks. And the weeks into months. Eventually having to give up all use of the public library after being branded a book thief.

After the fact, my wife told me this probably happens everyday and they’re used to it. Books get misplaced. Scanners malfunction. Computer systems have bugs. And I’m sure some percentage of books do walk away.

But I will not bear the brand of a book thief. A Bad Patron. I did my part. Something else didn’t happen as it should have. It’s not a big deal. It’s a small issue to fix. But those small issues loom large in my brain.

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