The Myth of the Skills Gap – MIT Technology Review

The idea that American workers are being left in the dust because they lack technological savvy does not stand up to scrutiny. Our focus should be on coordination and communication between workers and employers.

Source: The Myth of the Skills Gap – MIT Technology Review

Liz Ryan, a popular HR expert on LinkedIn, posted this article from Fall 2017. The main thing that I gathered from this is that the “lack of job skills” line is hooey.  What’s truly lacking, according to this article’s author, is soft skills like being able to read and write well.  While this is seemingly a universal gap, it’s something that technical communicators should be able to fill the void. High level reading and writing is a huge part of what we do, so this could be a reason why technical communication is growing.

So, when you are job searching and feel like you can’t find anything suitable, don’t despair (or don’t despair completely). If you are a technical writer or communicator, then you have the soft skills that a lot of STEM jobs are lacking, but you have some of that, too. You can fill a need somewhere–it’s just a question of what’s the best fit.

What do you think of this article? Include your comments below.



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How Your CCMS is Just Like an Instant Pot – Content Rules, Inc.

Learn why moving from unstructured authoring to structured authoring and using a CCMS is very similar to learning how to cook a meal using an Instant Pot.

Source: How Your CCMS is Just Like an Instant Pot – Content Rules, Inc.

Val Swisher has done it again. You have to understand that over the years, I’ve learned to consider Val’s words as gospel. I’ve used her analogies over many years in discussions and even job interviews to show that I understand how content strategy works, how localization needs to be approached, and so much more.  (Don’t worry–I give her credit for the ideas, since they aren’t mine.)

And now, she’s given us a new analogy that I know I can definitely appreciate, as I am also a relatively new Instant Pot owner, too.  Her analogy is simple, it’s clear, and it’s relatable (which are three touchstones I feel make good content).

It’s not a long article, but it gets to the heart of how we can explain what the use of a CCMS and structured authoring is all about to non-tech comm’ers. I urge you to read this, and you will smile from ear to ear as much as I did, along with the requisite, “A-ha!”

What do you think of this analogy that Val has proposed? Does it hold, or does it blow steam? (See what I did there?) Include your comments below.


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Older Workers in Tech Can Fight Against Ageism’s Impact

Older workers complain that ageism is rampant in tech, and survey data suggests they’re onto something: A recent study by ProPublica and the Urban

Source: Older Workers in Tech Can Fight Against Ageism’s Impact

This is a good article that put out this week.  And it validates what many of us, even in the technical communications field have said for a while–there IS ageism in the tech field, and we feel it too!  There are some good recommendations on how to avoid hiring problems if you are let go and you are looking, and of a more–ahem–advanced maturity. (Hey, I fall into this group now, too!) Most of these are common sense if you are used to actively looking like I usually am, but if you’ve been in the same job for a long time, it’s worth taking a look at the measures they recommend.

Technical communicators have a lot to offer at any age, but in the end, it’s the skills that you can bring to the job that will get you in the door.

What do you think of this article? Include your comments below.

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So, how did 2018 go for you?

As the year 2018 draws to a close, I find I’m trying to assess the year and where I am in my life and career. 2018 was a milestone year, as I turned 50, and so that’s a pretty big indicator that I’m definitely in the second half of my life at this point.

I’m having a difficult time determining if 2018 was a good year or a not so good year. My gut feels like it wasn’t so great, yet when I try to look at it a little more analytically, it wasn’t so bad. So, I’m going to look at both sides, although I think overall, it’ll probably lean more towards good.

I had decided a year ago that my mantra for the year was going to be “persistence”. No matter what I did, I would just stay the course, and forge my way through what I wanted from myself and the world. Well, in that respect, I think I did okay. I got through some rougher times of the year through my persistence, determination, and ambition in some cases. But I wonder if I was trying too hard to be too many things, or try to be something that I thought was better, but I was already there.

A big part of my identity is my career. I know, you aren’t your job–I’m the first to say that, but when you aren’t working, and you want to feel like you are contributing to your field or just being productive, you feel lost not having something. I had another gap in employment (again) that made me doubt myself. In the last eight years, I’ve been learning and validating everything I could take in about tech comm. I went to grad school, taught in the same grad school program, have done all sorts of different jobs, yet had a difficult time finding something. I started the year with something that was new and felt promising, but fell apart in the end. I spent a good part of my summer trying to figure out how to get my next gig, and was fortunate that I only had the summer off. Even since starting my current job, I feel like I’ve been tested about what I know and don’t know, and there are times I feel confident, and other times I feel like the dumbest person in the room. It tears at you from either end. I don’t feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be in my career. I’m in a pretty good spot–don’t get me wrong. Perhaps this is my constant desire to learn and do more to challenge myself to be more. I’m constantly trying to figure out what I should be studying or learning next to amplify my skills. I can’t quite figure out what my next step should be, and that bothers me.

I’ve also found that I’ve lost myself in the process. Between finding my last job and this job, and juggling a number of other things, I’ve let myself go in some respects, especially with my health. I had worked so hard to lose a lot of weight and get healthy, and I stopped watching what I ate and stopped exercising, resulting in me gaining a good chunk of the weight back. Some of that was due to injury, but in the last year, it was mostly out of being overwhelmed by other things that I felt like sleep was more important that getting that workout in. I’ve also not written in this blog very much, and that got away from me, too. It’s hard to squeeze in when you are juggling a million other things.

Now…for the better parts of the year. I learned that I had some good analytical skills and was looked upon as the “expert” at work at two different jobs. I still got to work at home all year. I helped bring my STC chapter the “Community of the Year” award that it received at the 2018 STC Summit (which I missed!). I was a keynote speaker for the first time at the STC Interchange conference. I worked for three of the largest companies in the world, and I’m still working at two of them. I’m making the best hourly rate that I’ve ever made. I was invited back to be a “resident blogger” for an Adobe event. I became an STC Chapter President–I’ve never been given that kind of responsibility before! I also took a bold move, and helped my chapter move its conference to a new location for 2019–at a Philadelphia landmark, no less. I taught my second graduate level tech comm class (and survived). I took a trip to Canada and Maine with my family–new adventures. These are just some of the ways I tried to push boundaries, and perhaps fulfilled that goal of being persistent over the course of the year.

So now what? I’m at a point where I still feel a little lost, but perhaps it’s a good thing. I feel like I’m constantly setting goals, and I’m starting to feel that maybe I should stop making definitive ones. For example, I know what I need to do to get control of my health again–I just need to do it. No setting weight loss goals. Just do it. Same with professional development and career. Keep trying to reach higher, and perhaps what I should be learning or reaching for will become more evident. I have different interests, and it’s hard finding the time to pursue any of it (I’m only one person, after all). Maybe if I just do what Elsa sings in the movie, “Frozen” (Let It Go), then maybe things will fall into place without me feeling like I’m constantly spinning my wheels. 2018 felt like a year when I was overextending myself to prove to the world that I was worthy. Perhaps I need to stop trying so hard. It’s not like I’m going to stop trying, but rather ease up, and see where things take me. That’s a tall order for an Aspie who thrives on creating and following structure.

I can already tell you that 2019 is going to be a busy year, and some of it will hopefully entail letting some things go. I don’t think I want to teach at the university level anymore. It’s a little too stressful for me. This past fall, I was working three jobs (one almost full-time, two part-time, and then there’s my STC responsibilities, which I’ll get into in a minute), and it was overwhelming at times. While I enjoy being the president of my STC chapter, also being the conference chair AND the sponsorship chair is just a LOT to handle. I’ve delegated some things for the conference, but there’s still a lot I’ve had to do on my own. Something will have to give in the latter part of the year. Either I stay on as president of the chapter and someone else takes up the conference mantle (my preference) or I give up the presidential seat and only do the conference (not my preference). We’ll see if I can pull that off. If I can concentrate on one main job, and my occasional part-time job, and the STC-PMC presidency, that’s plenty to deal with.

This year, my son will also be graduating high school. It’s a big deal, and it’s already been a long journey to get this far. Last school year, we had moved him back to our home district after several years at a special ed school that was far from us, and bringing him back has brought him some peace. This year has generally gone far better. The big question was what he’ll be going next, and our district already proposed a plan that seemed like a good opportunity for him to take advantage of. He’ll be doing a transition program that allows him to take job skills classes and some electives for half the day at his local high school, and then the other half of the day will be at a technical school or the local community college–at the expense of the school district. We haven’t ironed out the details yet, but it seems like a good way for him to go, so that’s going to be a big deal in the next year or so.

I feel like I have a good idea of how the next six months will be going (more or less), and some hints about nine months from now (when my son starts his new program), but where will I be this time next year? It’s truly hard to say, but I’m thinking that’s okay. I will still be fierce and persistent in what I do, but perhaps taking a step back here and there. I keep saying that 2019 is going to be a rebuilding year for me, and so perhaps that’s my mantra for the year–rebuild. Rebuild who I am with my health especially (lose that weight! Get some health issues fixed!), but also determine where I want to start heading for the second half of my life. I need to figure out the delicate balance in taking risks and learning new things while finding some safety and comfort in what I do. The last few years have been fraught with instability for me, and I just want some stability to come my way. Perhaps 2019 is the year.

What do you think is ahead for you in 2019? Include your thoughts below.

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Forget Coding: Writing Is Design’s “Unicorn Skill”

In a new report, John Maeda explains why writing is a must-have skill for designers.

Source: Forget Coding: Writing Is Design’s “Unicorn Skill”

Thanks to McKinnon-Mulherin Inc. for posting this in Facebook. It was written in 2017, but so much of this article applies. The coding doesn’t matter too much if the content–especially the writing–well, sucks. This article outlines several reasons why.

Even so, as I grade papers for the technical editing class that I taught this past semester, I am reminded of people who can’t write well. And I wonder where things fall apart in their education? I mean, I was a decent grammar student as a kid, but I was no writer. And yet, with a good foundation, I’ve been doing some sort of writing through my entire professional life, through several careers. I went to back to school to validate and beef up my skills.  How do people who work in coding, business, marketing, sales, journalism, communications, or other careers that involve writing not have a good foundation anymore? I’m not saying this is true of everyone, but you know it’s out there. You know you’ve seen it in others. Is it something not stressed enough at a young age, or glossed over as we progress through our education? I’m thinking that many teachers outside of English classes aren’t enforcing correct writing, which isn’t helping anything. If anything, it’s making it worse. And as this article points out, it’s now a “unicorn” skill that really shouldn’t be. We need more people to have these skills more than ever!

What do you think of this? Include your comments below.

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Employers have been ghosting job interview candidates for years — Quartz at Work

After all, employers have been ghosting job candidates for years.

Source: Employers have been ghosting job interview candidates for years — Quartz at Work

This was a hot topic today on LinkedIn. For those who don’t know what “ghosting” is (I had to look it up myself to make sure I understood the definition), “Ghosting is breaking off a relationship by ceasing all communication and contact with the former partner without any apparent warning or justification, as well as ignoring the former partner’s attempts to reach out or communicate. Wikipedia

In the case of employers, it’s starting the process and never following up. There’s another article out by the Washington Post that talks about how employees are starting to do this more and more, and not applying the standard “two weeks’ notice” to their employers if they move on.

As I read these articles, it occurred to me that this is why I get so frustrated and angry and depressed about job searching, especially as someone who has been a consultant/contractor longer than I ever intended.  Companies have resorted to being rude. It’s as simple as that. It’s one thing to send an automated email to say that the company has received your application/resume/CV.  But until you get that automated email saying that you are out of the running, you have your hopes up that maybe you might have a chance, especially if you are desperate for employment. When employers drag out the interview process with numerous hurdles without being forthcoming that it will take a while, that drags the applicant’s soul down. When you’ve jumped through several “rings of fire” through the entire interview process, only to never hear from a recruiter or employer again–not even the automated rejection letter? It’s brutal. It sucks your soul of any joy.  One of the article describes how a person’s daughter applied to dozens of entry-level retail jobs just to never hear from people again. That happens at higher levels of employment as well, as I’ve experienced too many times.  How can an employee or potential employee not get bitter and angry and frustrated with this process?

That said, “ghosting” a job is not cool. It’s one thing to quit on the spot, and not give notice. That’s fine. But to not say anything? That’s just unprofessional, and in the end, downright rude. Just because an employer ghosts people doesn’t mean that employees should either. Two wrongs don’t make it right.

It comes down to ethics, and people are starting to lose them. While this is unsolicited advice, as a tech comm geek mom, I’m going to give it to you anyway: DON’T BE LIKE THAT. Always take the high ground. In the long term, it will help your reputation. I mean, imagine leaving a job you hated, but you gave notice that you found something else, and politely told your soon-to-be boss that you were leaving at the end of the day, or in two weeks. Then, the occasion comes that you need a referral. While you might not need that boss for a referral, wouldn’t it be better to know that you left on civil terms instead of ghosting? If you ghosted the employer, they could tell your next potential employer, “Yeah, they just left without telling me.” What does that say about your character? To me, I interpret that as unreliable, untrustworthy, and unprofessional. And as I said before, just because employers and recruiters do it doesn’t make it right. They are a big reason this new trend is going on, and it’s not cool.

What do you think? Include your comments below.

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First Gutenberg Post: Why Can’t I Just Write! – Michael McCallister: Notes from the Metaverse

WordPress 5.0 is scheduled for release Thursday, December 6. Some people are terrified of this happening.  I don’t think I’m one of them. I have turned on Gutenberg for this post. Let m…

Source: First Gutenberg Post: Why Can’t I Just Write! – Michael McCallister: Notes from the Metaverse

Mike has written a really good article here as a preview of things that are forthcoming with the WordPress “Gutenberg” edition coming out.  As this blog is written in a version of WordPress, and I know that WordPress is a prolific tool for many technical communicators, I thought I’d share this, as Mike’s analysis is really good here, and it’s helpful as I plunge into the next version, or for anyone who’s anticipating this upgrade.


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