You get what you pay for, yet you want quality. Try again.

Audrey Hepburn questions someone's motives.

Even Audrey Hepburn questions this.

One of the things that I try to do as I build up my business is get an idea of what kinds of positions are available out there for someone with my skill set. I scour through Glassdoor, Indeed, and Startwire adverts to see what people need, and then see if I qualify. One thing that I find most valuable is when the employers or recruiters post what the yearly or hourly salary is.

Let me start out by saying one of the patterns I’m seeing is something I have mentioned before. Employers are looking for “unicorns”–people with an impossible or impractical collection of skills. But I’m finding that the same job listings are posted over and over and over, with a duration of months of these jobs being unfilled. Now, there are some occasions that the companies who have posted these jobs have forgotten to pull them down once they’ve been filled, but I’ve had occasions where I’m called up by recruiters or see the same positions posted month after month, and nothing new is posted. That tells me a few things. First, their search for a “unicorn” is going badly because they can’t find this unique individual. Second, I have found that even if I have applied to these position because I fulfill most of those requirements–but not all–they still dig their heels in and want the “unicorn” instead of seeing individuals with good foundations as potential investments with a little training. Third, many employers are unwilling to yield to telecommuting workers. Many technical communication jobs lend themselves easily to remote work, and if these employers are not willing to yield to that, they are going to continue to have employee shortages.

But today, I realized another big thing that employers are not realizing. It’s often said that with almost any kind of content work, clients are looking for quality, speed, and low costs to do it. You can’t do all three, and something has to give. The problem is, most employers–understandably–are looking at low costs and concentrating on that. As a result, they are pricing themselves out of finding quality workers, and quality work. For example, today I saw a job advert for a Web Content Coordinator. They were offering $14-16/hour for this full-time job. I could make more money as an unskilled clerical worker than doing this skilled job. That’s an insult to anyone who is applying for this job! Other jobs I’ve looked at, whether they are showing hourly or yearly salaries, are WAY underpriced for the skills they are asking for. Are they trying to get the younger generation to apply? It’s hard for a 23 year old to have 10 years of experience doing a certain skill, after all.

Technical communicators are skilled workers. Many of us have gained our specialized knowledge through many years of experience, certification, or schooling. We’ve worked hard to not become just any technical writer or content specialist. We shouldn’t be undervalued for what we do. When I’ve talked to recruiters and they offer a certain hourly wage, I’ll often tell them that it’s too low for the skills that are being asked for. I will tell you that just about every time I’ve said this, they will often agree, but they have to work within the confines of what their client is willing to offer, and what amount of the cut they are willing to sacrifice. Even for permanent positions, companies are offering tens of thousands of dollars significantly under what would be appropriate. They are offering entry-level wages for jobs requiring ten or more years of experience. Seriously?

I know that it’s hard finding work in a lot of areas because of these employer inflexibilities. Most companies don’t want to pay a premium. But here’s the thing–they are getting what they pay for. If they pay lousy wages, they are probably getting lousy work because that worker doesn’t understand the value of content. If you understand the value of content, then you need to know that like any other product or service, a premium product earns the right to cost more. As a profession, we should not sell ourselves short. We are told that the need for technical writers is increasing, and there’s probably a shortage. Simple economics prove that supply and demand are at play here–if the demand is high, but the supply is low, employers have to give those who are qualified some sort of incentive to work for them. We don’t need the free lunches or the fooz ball table for breaks. We just want the ability to earn a fair wage, and if employed full-time by a company, to get all the normal perks everyone else gets.

It all starts with paying a normal wage for what you should be earning. As a skilled technical communicator, you should not be making clerical hourly wages, even if you are an independent consultant or a contract worker. That’s insulting. Companies need to get on the ball, and pay fair wages for our skills, and not start cheating us now. Content is more important than ever, and with our knowledge of how content and UX works together, that helps to provide companies with the ammunition to gain and retain their customers. We are valuable, and they should remember that.

If you are looking for a quality, customer-centric technical communicator, contact me through my consulting website, Dair Communications.

Do you agree with my assessment? Include your comments below.

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Ashton Applewhite: Let’s end ageism | TED Talk | TED.com

Here’s my big disclaimer: I admit it–I’m ageist myself. But as this video that Bob Watson forwarded to me pointed out, we all are. I suppose that since I think that I am up against both sexism and ageism myself lately, I’m more keen to it. But I’m just as bad about going with some of the ageist “norms” and dishing it out as well, and I need to learn to adjust my own behavior as well.

Nonetheless, there’s some great points in this TED talk, and it’s worth taking the time to watch this. Let’s do our best to end ageism. This is something that affects all of us in some way or another, and as it gets worse in the tech field, we need to stamp it out before it gets worse.

(Thanks again, Bob, for your great insights that we can share! You are one smart guy, and I’m learning so much from you right now!)

What do you think about Ashton Applewhite’s statements? Include your comments below.

–TechCommGeekMom

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Myth busted: Older workers are just as tech-savvy as younger ones, says new survey – TechRepublic

Tech employees over age 55 are actually less stressed using technology in the workplace, and better at using multiple devices than their younger peers.

Source: Myth busted: Older workers are just as tech-savvy as younger ones, says new survey – TechRepublic

I have to thank Bob Watson for sharing this with me on Twitter.  I LOVE THIS ARTICLE!  Granted, I’m not quite in the age 50+ range just yet (I turn 49 next week), but everything in this article–the video and text is all true.

I’ve been having conversations with several people, especially some female friends, who are about the same age as I am. All fairly accomplished, educated people who have either technical skills or are even tech savvy (or both), and even in our mid-to-late 40s, we’re finding this problem.  Companies are not willing to give us a chance, even though we all felt we are extraordinarily good learners and we learn fast– just like the gentleman in the video talks about. We usually have skills that we can easily base our learning on that younger people don’t have, and bring a different perspective to ensure that the tool used is used appropriately and efficiently. We are used to both being with tech and without tech, so we know how to adapt. But we’re not given a chance.

There used to be a time when I was younger that companies were willing to be more flexible in taking on employees. They were at least willing to interview them and get to know them to see if they had the potential to learn the things they couldn’t bring to the job.  Many of us older people–and it’s not like we’re anywhere near retirement at this point–have many of those same capabilities and more.  Gen X people are truly in a weird position right now. We’re flexible to learn, just like this article talks about, yet we’re not given the chance because we’re “old”, or companies aren’t willing to put out the money, time, and energy to train us to be solid workers for them.

I know Bob was posting this article on Twitter for me to see as his response to my previous posts to the notion that people over 40 CAN be innovative and can learn. I agree!

What do you think? Include your comments below!

–TechCommGeekMom

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They Want You Back: A Push Against Remote Employees

Many companies have embraced flexibility in the workplace, either through scheduling, laid back dress code or allowing remote work. However, a recent surge of big companies taking a step back on allowing employees to work from home is bucking that trend.

Source: They Want You Back: A Push Against Remote Employees

The IEEE seems to have a lot of good articles out this week about the topic.  I think the paragraph in this that struck me the most was this:

Managers note that remote work allows employees to set their own hours and work style, which can hinder progress if everyone’s not on the clock at the same time.  Set meeting times and offices with open floor plans are intimidating to those employees that are used to working in solitude at home, research shows. Striking a balance is key, but an obstacle for sure.

How is that so different that working in an office, but working with other branches or global offices around the world? I’ve worked with European companies whereby people got up very early in the morning in the US to accommodate a meeting, or someone in Europe stayed a little late at work. I used to have early morning meetings with India with someone who would conduct our meetings from home. Or heck, just within the US, we have four time zones to content with. How is that so different whether you are in the office or at home? And don’t even get me started on the open floor plans. I’ll just say that I see them as a writer’s nightmare.

The problem is that most managers don’t know how to find that balance. This is something that needs to be addressed in the corporate world.  We’ve become a world that lives to work, and not work to live.  That’s not right. If you enjoy your job, that’s fine, but there’s more to life and more to who you are than your job.

What do you think? Include your comments below.

–TechCommGeekMom

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Are You Flexible? Flextime Schedules are Growing in Popularity

If telecommuting is off the benefit table, what can job seekers ask for instead?

Source: Are You Flexible? Flextime Schedules are Growing in Popularity

While most people know that I’m a huge advocate for remote work, I also advocate flexible schedules. I’ve been fortunate enough that in most cases in my career, I’ve been able to benefit from this, even before I was married and had my son.  I’ve always been an 8-4 person rather than a 9-5 person. I always want to beat the traffic by a little bit, and have most of the evening to myself. I think these hours reflect most of my school hours as a kid, which just always stuck with me. Sure, there’s been some variations, but I don’t remember too many instances where I actually worked from 9-5 in my entire life.

Just like remote work, there are many positions that can benefit from this kind of flexible work schedule. It helps so many people find that work-life balance as they care for their families and themselves! In some instances, it’s also better in certain departments, as that way there’s longer continuity during the day. I remember when I started my career MANY years ago as a consumer relations representative. We had people come in for the 7-3 shift, an 8-4 shift, a 9-5 shift, and a 10-6 shift. This way, during the main hours, we were fully manned, yet we could be manned during most business hours for most American time zones.  Most customer services places have it stretched out even more, depending on the business.  Even the last job I had in an office was one where I was allowed to work from 8-4, and that way I could get home at a reasonable hour before the worst of the traffic hit, and be home for my family.

Read this article, and include your comments below as to what you think about this kind of work arrangement. Is this a compromise for those who want to work remotely, but can’t for whatever reason? I think in some instances (not all), it could be.

–TechCommGeekMom

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Ageism is forcing many to look outside Silicon Valley, but tech hubs offer little respite

Ageism is forcing some to look outside Silicon Valley, but tech hubs offer little respite

Source: Ageism is forcing many to look outside Silicon Valley, but tech hubs offer little respite

Tom Aldous of The Content Era posted this article on his Facebook page, and it seems to flesh out an important topic of what’s ailing the tech industry, including technical communications. If you had read the comment thread to this on Tom’s posting, it seemed to be that the sentiment of some that most older workers are not willing to learn new things, and are often “riding out the latest tech craze” until retirement.  But there were others in the thread–including myself–that disagreed with that.  Tom’s commentary, which was correct, was that no matter what age you are at, you have to constantly challenge yourself to stay current and relevant; otherwise, you are bound to have problems.  Several of us who make up Baby Boomers and GenX alike feel that we do our best to learn things, and we’re always eager to learn more, and yet, the opportunities are still not always there.

Despite what this article says that ageism is an issue–and it is–there’s another problem going on as well. That’s the fact that from my experience, especially recently, employers want “unicorns”–something that’s rare, and in some cases, unreal. They want someone who can do it all. For example, there’s a great position that’s nearby me for a large publishing house that requires a technical writer and content strategist who understands DITA. Since DITA is not a big thing down here, and I’ve been working on my DITA skills, it sounded great–until I looked at the rest of the requirements. Perhaps I’m in my own la-la land, but they also wanted someone who understood VBA and Xquery/Regular Expressions, among other things. Well, that’s web developer stuff, so unless you’ve done web development before, you’re not going to have that skill. I asked my husband how hard VBA and Xquery was–could I learn it? He said sure, but it’d take a while. But he also looked at the job description and questioned it. Do they want a technical communicator, or a web developer? Maybe in California, they finding people with both skillsets might be a dime a dozen, but in Central New Jersey where it’s mostly pharmaceuticals and finance, you’re not going to find a person with both of those skillsets, and if you do, they are a…unicorn. They are a rarity. I know this position has been open for several months. But they aren’t the only employer in the area that is like this, and it makes for a frustrating time looking for new opportunities.  I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

There are lots of very experienced people out there who can do the work, do it well, and can learn. Nobody wants to teach anymore. I understand wanting as little ramp-up time as possible bringing someone in, but it’s not realistic from what I can tell from my own experiences. Nobody wants to mold employees anymore. They just want cloned worker bees, and we aren’t that. We are people–individuals who bring a plethora of experiences and insights, and learning capabilities.

So, how do we get tech employers to a) stop with the ageism, and b) stop looking for unicorns? I don’t have any answers for that. Do you? Include your comments below.

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Why Work from Home Doesn’t Work? Culture and Cognitive Bias. | Kunal Kerai | Pulse | LinkedIn

As companies gear up to hire new talent, and re-examine their benefits, work-from-home (“telecommuting”, “WFH”) falls stage front and center once

Source: Why Work from Home Doesn’t Work? Culture and Cognitive Bias. | Kunal Kerai | Pulse | LinkedIn

I think almost everybody knows I’m a big WFH advocate, because I’ve done it, and done it successfully. I actually work better as WFH employee contractor.  One thing that I think this article misses out on, because once again, the millennials and Gen Z are spoken about most, is Gen X.  We’re at a point where if anyone wants the work-life balance, it’s us! We’re the ones who still have kids in school, but have put in our time as office employees. We still have many years to still work, and yet we’re expected to have the energy and commitments (which are significantly less) than someone half our age.  I definitely feel there’s a cultural and cognitive bias against WFH, and I don’t get it. I really don’t. Some jobs, yes, you need to be there. Scientists, teachers, any kind of laborers, yes. But technical communicators? Not as much.

This is an interesting article that looks at the phenomenon of why, in this age of global digital communication, that we still don’t have more WFH positions or companies that advocate for it.

What do you think? Include your comments below.

 

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