TagWork

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.

Employee Spotlight

It’s an honor to be nominated.

Last month I received an email from work I didn’t expect.

Hello,

An employee spotlight article in an upcoming edition of the FACT will spotlight you, and your career at the FDA. Please answer the following questions and include a picture of yourself to accompany the article. Since many of us work at home, or in separate locations it is always nice to get to know a little about our fellow coworkers. 

It asked a few questions about my for an upcoming employee spotlight for our newsletter. I responded with far more than they needed but I never know how much to write or what they’ll pick out to use.

Please describe what you do in your current role to support the FDA.

My current role at the FDA is a Rich Media Engineer. In short, that means I help support the WebEx, Video Teleconference, Streaming TV, and Cable TV at the FDA for the agency of 25,000 and anyone externally they interact with nationally and internationally.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?

The biggest challenge I face in my role is information sharing and institutional knowledge. At FDA, information lives mostly in email and in various SharePoint silos where it quickly gets out of date and forgotten. When I worked at NIH when we had an enterprise wiki where all our knowledge lived. When something was out of date, it could be updated instantly, by anyone so we had a living set of accurate documents.

What do you enjoy most about your position?

I most enjoy the challenge of supporting a diverse set of collaboration and information tools. I like to educate customers about the technological options available to them and work with them to assure successful events.

What is your career history? Where have you worked before joining the FDA account; what did you do there?

I came from the quick printing industry where my father owned and operated a chain of stores called Copy General (based in Sterling, VA). I spent about a decade working in Desktop Support at NIH, The Atlantic Magazine, Honeywell, and the City of Richmond, VA. For the past 5 years I’ve worked in collaboration support, first at the Department of Labor, and currently at FDA.

Personal interests – What are your hobbies? Have you been on a recent vacation?

I enjoy walking around the local parks, my favorite being Lake Needwood. In my off-time, I like to tinker with technology toys, read (current favorites are John Scalzi and Jonathan Maberry) and play video games (current addition: Destiny 2).

What do you see from your office? Do you have a favorite place to visit in your area? Please include a picture with a description of what you are seeing “out your window” to accompany the article.

My office doesn’t have a window so a brick wall wouldn’t be interesting, so here’s a picture from my window when I work remote.

Education/Certifications?

I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in Creative Advertising.

Where do you reside?

Rockville, MD

Family?

My wife is an Art Therapist running her practice in the DC area. My brother founded and runs Read The Docs, an open-source platform for documentation.

This is what they ended up using in the newsletter that went out to everyone.

Employee Spotlight: Carl Holscher

View from the building where I work at the FDA.
View from the hall window where I work at FDA (since I sit in a windowless room.)

Carl’s current role at the FDA is Rich Media Engineer. He helps support WebEx, Video Teleconferencing, Streaming TV, and Cable TV at the FDA; this includes providing support to anyone the FDA interacts with nationally and internationally. The biggest challenge he faces in his role is the process of information sharing and institutional knowledge. Carl states, “At the FDA, information lives mostly in email and in various SharePoint silos where it quickly gets out of date and forgotten”. The most enjoyable aspect of his role is the challenge of supporting a diverse set of collaborative and informative tools. Carl likes educating customers about the technological options available to them and works with them to assure successful events.

Carl came from the quick printing industry where his father owned and operated a chain of stores called Copy General (based in Sterling, VA). He spent about a decade working in Desktop Support at NIH, The Atlantic Magazine, Honeywell, and the City of Richmond, VA. For the past 5 years, he has worked in collaboration support, first at the Department of Labor, and currently at the FDA. Carl graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in Creative Advertising.

When he is not in the office, Carl enjoys walking around local parks, his favorite being Lake Needwood. He also likes to tinker with technology toys, reading (his current favorite authors are John Scalzi and Jonathan Maberry) and playing video games (currently: Destiny 2). Carl resides in Rockville, MD.

The picture above is from his window when he works remotely. (This is where I forgot to update the text before I sent it. The picture is from FDA’s White Oak Campus, which I cannot see from my house.)

It was really nice to be selected (either at random or using some criteria I’ll never know. It’s nice to be recognized, even to have a little interview about yourself for your co-workers to get to know you better.

Permission

Ask forgiveness and not permission.
Otherwise you’ll never get permission, and never get denied that permission. You’ll exist in a state of limbo for as long as you wait to take action. Then when you finally do take action, you’ll be chastised for taking action without permission (that was never coming).

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.

Stability Shutdown

I remember when government work was stable. My parents told me about working for the government in glowing terms. The stability. The good pay and benefits.

But I am a contractor for the government. The pay is good. The benefits are all over the place and there’s a threat of shutdown almost every year.

The last time was 2014. I got a nice unpaid vacation for 21 days. In 2015 it almost happened again. And tonight I got to enjoy the same stress. Only this time they settled it on Thursday instead of midnight Friday.

Each time they do the bare minimum. The government is funded… Until Jan 21st. The Democrats didn’t want to be seen as the cause of the shutdown which the Republicans would have tried to pin squarely on them. So the Senate voted to help the GOP out and keep working.

Not that any of them are going to work. They get to go on vacation. While I get to finish mine with a job to come back to. And hope we don’t go through this all over again next month.

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