Friday, February 12, 2016


Beginning a job search is onerous. Beginning a job search when you don't even know what job you want to do is even worse. How can you target your resume for a particular job when you don't even know what job you're looking for?

One article I read while attempting to nail down a direction was "Starting Your Job Search When You Don't Know What You Want, You Just Want More" by Carlota Zimmerman, a self proclaimed "Creativity Yenta." The basic gist of the article, as I interpreted it, was, "don't wait to figure out what you want or you'll end up in a death spiral of self-pity." Zimmerman has a snarky, sarcastic style that is as motivating as a marine drill sergeant. Her advice centers around doing something with what you know, rather than unproductively wallowing in the unknown. I call it "effectivity."

Thusly chastised, I began by updating my previous resume, the one I'd used prior to my pursuit of a degree. It wasn't much, but it did provide a small sense of accomplishment. One of the things that I found, while performing this task, was the plethora of conflicting advice about various aspects of resume construction. For every website advocating one particular technique, there was another advocating the exact opposite. In the end it would seem that it is a matter of personal preference. Do it the way you think best, within the constraints of standard practice.

Finally, I spent some time researching jobs that would allow me to leverage my English degree. seemed to think that technical writing would be right up my alley. Maybe, maybe not, I thought as I looked through the employment listings. I do have a technical background, so perhaps it will be a good fit.

It occurred to me while perusing the listings, that the requirements listed in the job postings might be extremely helpful when it comes time to target my resume towards such jobs. My resume would have exactly the right buzz words and qualifications that some HR professional is looking for. So I began compiling a list.

One criterion in particular caught my attention: "The successful candidate thrives in a demanding, fast-paced environment, and can deliver consistently accurate, high-quality work while supporting multiple projects simultaneously." Thrives? Really? Sounds like a recipe for ulcers to me. Of course, what should I expect, "The successful candidate thrives in a lackadaisical environment, and can rise above the tedium to produce some high-quality work when the muse strikes"?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

For the Love of Vocabulary
One of the recommendations of my Clifton StrengthsFinder results was to build my vocabulary. Reading National Review articles turns out to be one way to do that. Today's word was apotheosized a verb which means idolize, or elevate as if to the rank of god. I certainly appreciate that National Review doesn't kowtow to the least common denominator of its readership, but, as one who has, on occasion, been accused of using words that no one understands, I have wondered who is best served when, in the course of communication, words are used that are not understood by one or more parties.

The English teacher in me says that if we never use words that stretch our vocabulary, our vocabulary will not grow and the richness and power of language will ultimately suffer as words fall into disuse. But the pragmatist in me says that if all parties in a particular communication fail to comprehend the message for lack of understanding, the communication itself suffers.

I love the power and beauty of words. I love finding just the perfect word for the situation. It's kind of like finding the perfect accessory when decorating a room. I am concerned that if we fail to build our vocabulary and words fall into disuse, we will lose all of these words that add color and beauty to our language. Our communication will become dull and imprecise. It is important to me, so far as it depends on me, to preserve the subtle nuances of language through vocabulary.

Here is my solution. When writing technical manuals, or anything that could involve safety, use clear, concise language. In all other areas, that adage "know your audience" comes to mind. Since I like to assume the best in people (!), I will assume that the audience of this blog is at least equal to me in terms of vocabulary, or, if not, at least equal to the challenge of looking up a word or two.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Journey of a Thousand Miles

There are two reasons I am beginning this blog. The first is to heed the advice obtained from my 
Clifton StrengthsFinder results indicating that I should write more. The second is that I have this day officially begun my "five-year plan," an inside joke that essentially means I have decided to actively pursue concrete goals to obtain both gainful employment and potential relocation.

Regrettably, this is the same position I found myself in only six years ago, when I was laid off from the information technology position I had held for fourteen years. I well remember the trepidation I felt at my uncertain future. Fortunately, it was offset by the excitement of pursuing a new career in a different field—teaching.

Because the field of education was turned upside down by Bush's landmark No Child Left Behind legacy, the requirements to become a licensed teacher were intensified and required a college degree and completing a state approved program. For years I'd longed to complete a college degree so I looked forward to my college adventure. I graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of arts and a license to teach high school English.

Only then did I discover that, while teaching English was fun, the drudgery of the public school system was not. It was like working in a minimum security prison. Most students were indifferent toward learning at best, and adamantly opposed to it at worst. (I once had a student complete a test by circling random dots on a scantron form.)

Believing that the public school system was the cause of all of the problems with the education system, I turned my attention to the private sector. I accepted a position as a tutor for a home school cooperative. This organization had a reputation for rigor and excellence which appealed to me. At last I would be able to ply my trade among students who were eager to learn and discuss the nuances of classic literature.

Imagine my disillusionment when I discovered that these students, despite their parent's supposed commitment to quality education, were no more interested in learning than their public school peers. I found myself dealing with the same cross-section of attitudes toward education, from both students and parents, that were exhibited in the public school.

As a result, I came to two discouraging conclusions. The first was that the flaws that obstruct education in the public school system were not inherent in the system as I had believed, but were because of the attitudes toward education by society. The second was that even those who chose to educate their children privately exhibited the same attitudes, so I couldn't reasonably expect a better experience teaching in private schools.

So, six years down the road, I have a college degree to add to my resume, but find that this does not diminish the trepidation of an uncertain future, now that I have abandoned my pursuit of a teaching career. I once again find myself in the unenviable position of not having a clear direction. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, it is true, but before you can take that step, you must determine which direction to go.

Finding a job requires writing a resume. A resume must be tailored to the specific type of job one is seeking. I don't have a clue what type of job I should pursue, so I got out my Internet surfboard and searched for "how to find a job you love." Many of the results focused on the obvious, "do what you love," but didn't offer much help in determining what that was. Christine Zimmerman's "A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding a Career You Love" suggested introspection and a Forbes article pointed me to the aforementioned Clifton StrengthsFinder.

Among the interesting tidbits gleaned from the Clifton StrengthsFinder materials was this excerpt from Strengthfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath:  “[I]t’s clear from Gallup’s research that each person has greater potential for success in specific areas, and the key to human development is building on who you already are.” Rather than focusing on improving weaknesses, StrengthsFinder's approach is to leverage and improve strengths. This coincides with what I remember from reading Richard N. Bolles'es What Color is Your Parachute, that, generally, we enjoy doing what we're good at.

So, at the end of the day, I'm really not much closer to my career goal, but at least I have a blog to show for it. I know from previous experience that everything I learn will come in handy somehow. My plan is to document my job search insights along the way. If nothing else, it gives me a forum (excuse?) to practice writing. If it helps someone else along the way, that's good, too.