About edited posts: I’m putting selected posts through another iteration. Some need tweaks to the tone, some need more sentences in active voice, some could use a more substantial rewrite to better support their main ideas, and some just need better proofreading. Okay, they all need better proofreading.
About this post: I needed to better demonstrate how the job lessons pertain to tech comm. Additionally, I made some edits to make the post more appropriate as something that’s available from my LinkedIn profile. The original post with markup is available here.
How the Jobs I Left Off My Resume Prepared Me for Tech Comm
When I was job-hunting in 2004, the articles I read were almost unanimous in advising against the multi-page resume. That may have been partly because I was focused on materials for less experienced workers, but if I’m not mistaken, it has become less taboo to break into the second page. Still, until now I have been as an entry-level or near entry-level job seeker, and I’ve felt that I ought to keep my resume to one page. That, plus the desire to leave out some shorter or irrelevant job stints in my younger years, led me to leave some things off my resume.
Currently, my resume starts with my current position, then talks about my STC involvement, and then about my previous position as a bartender, partly to bridge back to job coaching (think task analysis) experience, where my tech-comm-related experience stops. I think that’s appropriate for my resume. But I also think some of the positions before that were formative, too.
I have had two extended stints doing phone surveys; “market research.” I’ve also done a couple of very short, tortuous forays into phone sales. This is probably my most important undeclared skill—talking to customers on the phone. I’m not always the smoothest, but I have a decent voice and I know the important stuff. No negative phrasing, no yes-or-no questions, smile, and keep the conversation moving.
There are also basic courtesies for dealing with anyone on the phone, client or no; what I tend to think of as “phone usability.” Ask if they have time to talk, leave short messages, leave your number every time, make a list of every thing you have to ask before you call.
As our team gets more access to clients in order to get their feedback, this has been an important skill. Rather than dreading it, I want to be the one to call and schedule them for the focus groups. I want them to attach a voice and a name to the documentation.
Internally, the most important part might be knowing when to call. At my office job in a large company, I think phone calls are for more complex issues, or things too urgent to wait for an email response, or for when an email string shows signs of getting sour. Some teams prefer the phone even without these considerations, but I think it can be an unnecessary interruption. Let people add less urgent requests to their list as they come in via email.
Day Care Teacher
I was a teacher for a group of three and four-year-olds for a couple of months before I became a job coach. Later I helped a woman find a job as a day care teacher. Between those two experiences, I attended quite a few trainings on how to entertain, redirect, and encourage kids. This stuff applies to dealing with absolutely everyone, and I still practice it today. And I do mean practice.
It seems somewhat common to assume that since we are adults in a professional environment, that it’s childish and unreasonable to get distracted or need downtime, to expect explanations, or to be inquisitive. I see people becoming inpatient with each other rather than tailoring their communication to human limitations. Adults deserve careful, considerate communication, too.
I also learned that day care teachers are wildly underpaid. It’s actually kind of appalling how underpaid they are.
During my first college attempt, after a phone survey job, I was a nanny for a family friend for about six months. I had use of a car to pick them up from school, and I did some light house-keeping. The two main things I took away from it was an intimate glimpse into an affluent family much different from mine and a taste of having total trust invested in me.
This glimpse was just one experience that showed me how money and education are only two parts of a person’s journey to security and happiness. I still want more money and more education, but there are other parts of myself to develop, too. There is more to my vocation than those things. And people who have made it materially still need their friends and family to help make their lives fulfilling. By the way, I’m sure me learning this says more about what where I was before taking that job than it says about the family.
I also learned to police myself, rather than relying on supervision to keep me productive and honest.
My first job at age 15 was working in the dining room of an assisted living facility. Larger facilities have multiple aides during meals, but I had to serve meals and close the dining room down alone at night. Food service is such a great field for learning hard work and workplace politics—I think I’d recommend it to a kid over retail.
Selling Newspapers, Building Classic Cars
I was at each of these jobs two weeks or less and didn’t bother to give real notice for either one (I was eighteen): a crew of door-to-door newspaper salespeople and building fiberglass bodies for imitation classic cars. Both were terrible jobs for me. What I learned is not to stay at a job that doesn’t work for me, and to start with the assumption that I’m worth more. The job market might force me to take something less, but then I’ll look to see how I can advance. I’ve been fortunate, but I also guard against having a “stuck” feeling. So far, it has served me.