Tag Archives: work

The Great Resignation

18 Jun

I got a letter from LinkedIn saying, “Experts are predicting a ‘Great Resignation’ due to people wanting to move on and try something new.” Considering I’m ahead of the curve, I found this rather interesting, and it shows how resistant people are to taking away their “rights.”

I could go on about the collapse of commercial real estate, or newly remote workers fleeing expensive areas like San Francisco and New York City, but I’m more interested in the resistance to “returning to normal.” I’ll use my new job. One of the reasons I specifically took this job was because after three years working remotely, I desperately wanted a desk. (You can read more about my decision, it’s more complicated.) When the COVID hit over a year ago, my co-workers told me how sad they were that they had to work from home–this was such a radical change from their normal existence. Now that they’re shifting back to the office, there’s a massive push back from my co-workers about returning to their desks.

At the same time, my boss’ boss is doubling down on “You have to be at your desk!” She is resistant to having her employees continuing to work all the time from home. Even with the resistance that is obvious from her phrasing, she’s still insisting 2 days minimum for most, 3 days for admins. Why? Who knows?! Considering our company has a healthy history of people shifting departments, not to mention losing and hiring folks, why would you risk losing a ton of employees by being stricter about remote work?

My main thought is that she’s lonely. She’s tired of being in a mostly empty cube farm, her assistant not being there, and having to do all her meetings online. What’s the point of going into her office if she’s the only one there? So why not force everyone to come back. But the problem is that once something is granted to a person, they consider a right, and they get very angry if it’s taken away.

When the rules change at work, people start updating their resumes. People get comfortable in their ways. When I was first told back in… oh, 2007, “Marcus, you’re going to work from home starting next week.” I was shocked. But I found the joy of flexible work. At that time, the boss realized that most of his trainers were frequently in classes, or shifting around, and thought… “Gee, I can convince my bosses that we can save money if don’t have dedicated cubes.” And he was right. So for five years, I enjoyed the choice of either working from home, riding down to work, or riding out to wherever and working from there. I got to really love the bike trail and my cellular internet adapter (sorry, I can’t think of the actual name), finding myself working outside near the mounds of Fort Ancient, Ohio.

Then one day, my department got subsumed by Information Services, and the word came from on high. No more flexible work, you need to be in your cubicle, none of this adjustable schedule. I decided to shift jobs within my company, and when that wasn’t an option, I became a traveling consultant, and I’ve gained a measure of flexibility ever since. Even with my 5-day-a-week cube life back in place, I still have a great boss which allows me to be flexible when the needs of my life require me to be elsewhere.

I think that’s why I agree that the Great Resignation is about to happen. Some people may want to keep working from home, they may not, but everyone agrees they want the flexibility to choose. When your boss realizes, “Why are we paying for this office space if no one’s using it?” and insists you use it… those that want to keep working from home will seek out the TONS of jobs that are now remote. And that’s what my boss’ boss doesn’t realize; give people flexibility and you will have happy workers. Play the “because I’m the boss card,” you will lose them.

But I could be wrong–what do you think? Let me know in the comments below! Then check out one of my books and give me the flexibility to make more. However, if $1.99 is too steep for your wallet, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. You’ll be glad you did.

The Sound of Silence

11 May

So I started a new job and I’m really excited about what I’m doing. However, thanks to the joys of COVID, I wanted to actually leave home, go to the office, and have a desk. Which means I’m the only person on this side of the floor… the tumbleweeds are rolling by.

As software designers would say, “This is not a bug, this is a feature.” When the new boss was letting me know about this situation ahead of time, I thought, “Great!” I actually work better in isolation. That is what appealed to me about the work-from-home situation. The wife and kids would go out for the day and the house would be all mine. All… mine! (insert evil laugh here)

Even having a desk in the bedroom from where to work, and being able to shut the door, and playing my music and/or radio, I couldn’t get over the fact that someone else was in the house with me. Kids would step in to give me a hug every so often. The wife would engage me with some news item when I came down for a snack. It disrupted my day in a way that being in an office never did. There, the presence of others was expected; at home, it was unwanted.

Plus you had the problem that you never went home after work; you were already there. I could bore you with the facts that you already know, since my working-from-home was no longer the exception, but the rule. There was no transition from being off-work to on. So despite having a great job working from home, it was driving me crazy. Having a sick day was pointless; a vacation was similar… unless you were leaving the house. Instead of resenting my co-workers – who I rarely saw – I resented my wife, just for being there.

So I figured the solution was to get a desk again–away from the house. I couldn’t afford to buy an office space, the shed wasn’t going to work as a “fortress of solitude” (because I live in Arizona, and an unheated / uncooled shed was simply not an option for five months out of the year), so a new job was the best solution… and it’s a great position.

Now what’s weird to me is that this is the first time in nine years that I’ve had a desk to go to in the same metro area. I had a desk when I was a traveling consultant at the location they asked me to fly to, but it was always a temp spot. It wasn’t MINE. Now I get the added weirdness of being the only one here. However, I think that’s gonna be a good transition for me. I had the “fortress of solitude,” I lost it, and now I’m back there again. By the time people actually have to come back to their desk, I’ll be comfortable.

Of course, I could be deluding myself–who knows? What do you think? Is this is a viable solution to my home woes, or am I simply running away and avoiding the relationship work with my family? Let me know in the comments below! Then you can see what I do with my books. However, if you’re not that interested in my writing, why not download my stories for free? You’ll be glad you did.

You Know What I Was When You Brought Me In

8 May

I love a well-crafted commercial–and insurance companies hire some of the best firms in America. However, the recent GEICO ads bug me, because they hired these personalities to do a job opposite of what they do.

For those who aren’t familiar with this ad series, you can watch it, but here’s the gist. GEICO brings in this celebrity, they start doing their schtick, and the executives say, “You know, that’s really not what we’re going for.” The celebrity does more of that schtick, and the execs correct them again. That’s their “Take the Drama Out” rollout.

Why this annoys me is the concept is first, these are “claims auditions.” If these were anonymous actors pitching their best ad campaign, this would make sense, but these are known people. You know exactly who they are. Dick Vitale is a sports announcer; he says wacky things, he’s big, he’s boisterous, he exaggerates. Then these execs tell him (politely), “Yeah, that’s not what we do…” Then why the #($& did you ask him to come in?!

Billy Blanks is a high-energy exercise magnate; he’s gonna do a workout. Lisa Loeb is a successful singer-songwriter who does catchy mildly-depressing songs. So… it reminds me of when the boss asks you to do something that’s WAY out of your job description, but you do it anyway, and then they say, “Well, that’s really not what I wanted.” Really? Gee, maybe you should have asked the person who’s supposed to do the job to do it!

I’ll admit, part of my complaint is that I really love Lisa Loeb… and Dick Vitale, and I don’t want to see them humiliated on TV. But it’s that tone-deafness that really annoys me. I guess I’ve been in that situation too many times myself, grinding my teeth, because… well, my job is often whatever my boss says it is. A job description is a description, not a list of absolutely do’s and don’ts. Yeah, I could pitch a fit, say I won’t do it, but… that really removes a lot of my boss’s appeal to keep me around.

A pet peeve? Possibly, but considering how good GEICO ads usually are, I find it a slap in the face. Of course, I could be thinking about these too hard–what do you think? Let me know in the comments below! Speaking of advertisements, check out one of my books. However, if you found this post less than my normal quality, go ahead and download one of my stories for free.

Island Hermit, Still Has Wi-Fi

1 May

I came across this article about a hermit getting kicked off the island he has been a caretaker on for 32 years. What caught my eye was the fact that he said goodbye on a Facebook post–which means the hermit had a smartphone.

I’ve dreamed about moving to remote and difficult to reach locations since I was young. This guy happened to be sailing and his ship crashed there; there just happened to be a job opportunity and he took it. Fair enough–life takes you places you weren’t expecting to go. However, I strangely feel less sympathetic to a guy who obviously gets off the island once and a while. I doubt Amazon delivers to a place with just a hut. That’s not the definition of “hermit.” That’s just like being a lighthouse keeper–it’s just a remote job.

I’ve thought about moving to Pitcairn Island several times, which is about the most isolated place you can get to that still has the semblance of civilization. The only town, Adamstown, has about 55 people. First obstacle is the serious difficulty of getting there; fly to the French Marquesas, wait for a boat, and then take a two night boat ride to get to the island. After that, the New Zealand Government wants some assurances (like any immigrant) that you won’t be a drain on their economy. So you’ve got to have around $30K NZD per adult ($22K USD) in your bank account.

However, they also have satellite internet. It’s occurred to me that if I worked in Adamstown for my soon-to-be late employer as a consultant, I could easily make that amount in a yearly salary and prove that I would be a contributing member of their society. Of course, I’m married and have kids, so abandoning them… or asking them to move to the end of the world is kind of a non-starter.

So I like the idea that “you can work from anywhere” can be extended to incredibly remote areas. I think I’ve written about the consultants I worked with who spent half the year in Ghana or Brazil; if you get paid well enough for a job, you can live simply and simply not work. I’ve met travelling consultants who own a farm in North Dakota and this was how they paid the bills. For that matter, there are veterans who retire from the US military and live off half pay in Mexico. (As strange as it sounds, there are multiple American Legion posts in Mexico.)

Of course, that also redefines the concept of “hermit.” Can you still be a religious isolationist and still post a blog about your concepts of the infinite? I guess even priests have private lives. 🙂 But what do you think? Let me know in the comments below! Then check out one of my books. However, if $1.99 cuts into your moving budget, go ahead and download one of my stories for free!

Moments of Transition and Moments of Revelation

19 Apr

I’m a fan of quotations. Not being very quick-witted myself, I rely on other people’s quotes to fake it, and… they’ve helped me form my life. So when I think about my current life change, I’m fond of taking inspiration from a sci-fi TV show from 20 years ago.

At the end of Season 3, Babylon 5 had a particularly great season finale. When you write for a living, the show’s creator (known best as JMS) tends to crank out a lot of wisdom with the whimsy. So he had his character G’Kar, who started out as the angry, hungry politician, and then became the wiser, clever exile, to be his source for giving the high-level wise view of the situations. So G’Kar says, “We are caught between moments of transition and moments of revelation. This had the feeling of both.”

I consider this quote gospel. We’re either transitioning from one thing to another, from one project to another, from one crisis to another… or we have that moment where everything changes, that revelation.

As humans, we are rarely content with any situation we’re in; I think that links back on a genetic level. We constantly strive for something better, and as a result, get a civilization. This has disastrous effects as well, but that’s part of who we are–we want to do more. Even the most fulfilling relationship, most considerate job, the most wonderful kids will still leave us wondering… what if? To quote different characters on Babylon 5:

Franklin: “It’s all so brief, isn’t it? Typical human lifespan is almost a hundred years, but it’s barely a second compared to what’s out there. It wouldn’t be so bad if life didn’t take so long to figure out. Seems you just start to get it right and then… it’s over.”

Ivanova: “Doesn’t matter. If we lived two hundred years, we’d still be human. We’d still make the same mistakes.”

Franklin: “You’re a pessimist.”

Ivanova: “I am Russian, Doctor. We understand these things.”

Babylon 5, Soul Hunter

So when I’m worried about what changes this is going to cause in my life, I have to remind myself that 1) change is inevitable and 2) it’s good to experience new things. Maybe it will help me realize that the problems I have in my own life are not the result of my current job situation. Maybe it will fix them. Maybe it will make them worse, who knows? All I do is take comfort from my Uncle Chuck’s advice: “There are things about any job that you hate. The trick is if the positives outweigh the negatives. If they don’t, find another job.”

Even the best job I’ve had–the one I’ve worked at the longest (5 years), that major hospital–had things about it that bugged me. First of all, it was located in a city that sucked hard… but they couldn’t help that. But second, my perfect setup and flexibility between working at home and the office was going away. My department was being absorbed into Information Services and they had a very bad rap of demoralizing their employees. It was a highly negative environment and I got out before working from your cube became mandatory.

Which makes it rather ironic that I so desperately want to get back to that option. However, I took comfort from something my new boss told me as a warning. (How strange is that?) He said, “This is a driving position. You’ll have to occasionally drive to other locations to meet with contacts. You won’t be at your desk all the time.” And when he said that, the heavens opened, and I felt like, “Yes! That’s what I want!” To have the option to work from home, work from a desk, work from someone else’s desk, and still have the comfort of doing my regular job… that is amazing.

So I’m very hopeful that this new job will be a good fit for me. At the same time, I know the honeymoon period will wear off after six months, and it’ll just be a job again. But I feel I should embrace this moment of revelation while it lasts. But what do you think? Is it a fallacy to think one change in your life will affect everything else? Or since we define so much of our lives in our work, will it have a greater effect than I expect? Let me know in the comments below! Then if you like my ramblings, check out one of my books. However, if $1.99 is too rich for your blood, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. I’d appreciate it.

Running Away From Home (Part III)

18 Apr

The last couple of posts I’ve made have talked about my career and my experience with working-from-home over the last decade. Now I’m going to finish up explaining why I’m so desperate to get back to a desk.

So the COVID experience ruined working from home for me, but if I’m to be honest, I was already starting to feel that way before this started. It was just amplified by EVERYONE staying at home. So in the last couple of months, I’ve been passively looking for a new job, preferably one that has a desk I can sit at, away from the house.

What I learned is that I like the flexibility of my job. I would get miserable if I had to be at my desk every day, but working from home once or twice a week would allow variety. Moving from café to café is cool… if I didn’t have to do it all the time. Having that change is important to me; that’s what I liked most about consulting, the travel. I liked the fact that my job changed every couple of months, new locations, new people… but it was same gig. I liked seeing new places; I just stopped enjoying my job after a while. As a fellow consultant of mine told me, “After six months, it starts feeling like work.”

As my current boss says, “It’s good to search for a new job every six months, just so you can see what’s out there.” That’s been my pattern; something negative happens at my job, I start job searching, and usually decide that my current situation is preferable to what I see out there. If there’s something interesting, I apply, but when you don’t have to scramble to get a paycheck, the job search is a lot more comfortable.

Plus job searching tends to be like firing a shotgun; most of the time you’re going to miss. When you’re intensely job searching, I can fill out 30 applications a day, 10 of them running through an ATS filter (which takes longer), and I might get a pique of interest from… let’s say 4 to be optimistic.

Now that sounds ludicrous, but look at it from HR’s perspective. You put out a job request and there are 200 applicants for even the most technical of positions. You have to sort out 20 people for the managers to take a look at. So 10% of all applicants get more than an automated reply. So getting 10% back on your job search investment is pretty standard. Now if I’m only filling out 5 applications a day, with one running through an ATS filter, I’ll be lucky if I hear back more than once a week.

So I’ve had a couple interviews, but only one has gotten past the initial phone screening, and that’s pretty normal. In fact, I got a verbal offer for an actual honest-to-God desk position! However, this job was posted in late December, I applied in January, got a “more information” request in February, got a phone screening and an interview in March, and a final confirmation / interview this week. Yet it’s still a verbal offer, contingent on a manager confirmation, background check, drug screen, and I’m sure, taking a pound of flesh. But it took five months to get this far… and I still can’t give my current boss two weeks notice!

So I’m looking at a new job, new life, new co-workers, new boss… and it’s scary. But that’s a topic for another time; for now, I think I’ve exhausted the “wanting to work back at a desk” topic. But what do you think? Am I being stupid leaving the freedom I have now? Let me know in the comments below! If you want to help me live a more independent lifestyle, buy one of my books. However, if $1.99 is too steep for your wallet, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. I’d appreciate it either way.

Running Away from Home (Part II)

17 Apr

So yesterday, I started telling the story of my work career, and how I’ve had the option to work from home for a decade now. However, that all changes when the option becomes mandatory.

When I got my work-from-home job three years ago, this was ideal for a while… until two things happened. One, I ran out of reasons to want to get out of the house. There were only so many cafes and virtual offices and hotel lobbies that I wanted to frequent. I had a whole mapped out area of my town that has all the places I liked to go. But the hassle of not having my extra screen or having to set up new again when I moved location bugged the crap out of me.

The second thing was COVID–so instead of being alone at home, I had the whole family there–and there was nowhere I could hide. Unlike a lot of people, I’ve never had any great fear of catching it, and I was grateful that after a while, I found a place I could go that also had like-minded people. (I’m not going to say where, because of all the COVID cowboys out there, who want to shame people who are non-compliant.) After a while, that became my ONLY escape from my regular work schedule. 

So I learned several things about myself during this stay-at-home experience that ruined the joy of it.

1. You’re Never AT Work

With the family around the house, my only option to get enough done is to move my desk to my hot bedroom. But I have to leave that “office” every once in a while to get a drink, get a snack, stretch my legs… whatever. That means your family immediately pounces on you for the simple joy of interaction. My kids are thrilled to see their dad (I’ll enjoy it while it lasts), my wife is suffering for lack of adult interaction, and I… I just want to get my drink and go back to my desk. A two-minute trip to the kitchen becomes ten minutes, because my wife wants to bitch about some damn news story that she just saw.

2. You’re Never NOT at Work

Thankfully, my boss is very helpful in enforcing work-life balance. Nothing after work hours has to be answered right then. But there are always emergencies, and normally I like to keep all electronics off on Saturday, but since all new classes that I work on release their videos on Saturday morning, some eager beaver is ready to tell me if something didn’t work… which means, I need to be aware if it needs fixing, which means leaving my phone on… albeit I check it a lot less.

So I’m never NOT at work–and my commute from my bed to the desk means that I never feel there’s a clear delineation from my work to my homelife… everything’s jumbled.

3. You’re Not Really Working

No one is working diligently all the time. When you’re at a cubicle, you have to disguise the fact that you’re goofing off. But when you’re at home and your desk is pointed away the door, at any point my wife can bust in the door and notice me playing solitaire, she can see that I’m goofing off. That means that she values my work less because “well, you’re not really working, are you?”

So that means that she feels far more comfortable interrupting me or talking with me about some important thing… and what would have been handled by a text becomes a conversation that lasts longer. Unlike a co-worker that you can politely excuse yourself, your lover is not going to be so easily swayed by a brush-off. I learned that isolation is important to me–and can not be understood by my wife.

Again, this post is getting way too long, so I’m going to have to continue it tomorrow. If you can relate to my story, let me know in the comments below! Then if you like my writing style, go ahead and check out one of my books. However, if $1.99 is too steep for your wallet, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. Then you can comment again! 🙂

Running Away from Home (Part I)

16 Apr

Off and on for the past ten years, I’ve been lucky to have the option to work from home; the last three years exclusively. The problem is that when you work from home, it’s not just you… how you look at work completely changes.

Now with the COVID thing, a lot more people got to experience that lovely option, so what I’m saying is not that revolutionary… or even unusual. But since I’ve been doing it longer, I’m going to focus on the option part. When you have the option to work from home, it’s a lot more appealing than when it’s mandatory.

When I first had the option, I worked for a major hospital, and after six months sitting in a very nice cubicle (a whole half mile from the facility), my boss just announced, “Hey, Marcus, you’re going to be working from home next week.” I was shocked. Sure, I got bored at my desk sometimes, which then allowed me to get back to writing; the result of that was Seven Heavens, Seven Hells.

What ended up happening turned out to be great. I had to go into the office once or twice a week because of in-person training or meetings, but any other trip was up to me. When we only had one kid, my wife still worked, and my son was in daycare, so I could work out of my study without interruption. When I wanted to get out, I could go for a bike ride and work out of a café along the bike trail.

After my second kid was born, my wife stopped working, and then she was always there. So I believe I found more excuses to head down to work and my shared desk there. After a couple years of this, I went on the road as a consultant, so I had all the time I wanted there. I would occasionally have to work on Fridays from home, or I had projects that wanted to save money by having me work from home every other week, and that allowed me to enjoy the experience as an option.

Six years later, getting on a flight on Sunday and coming back later Thursday got really old. I loved the travel, but my job sucked, so I was lucky to get a work-from-home job where I could stay close to home and still get paid.

I’m realizing this post is getting WAY too long, so I’ll continue it tomorrow. But if this sounds familiar to you, share it with me and let me know in the comments below! And then check our my books. But if $1.99 is too steep for you to pay, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. You’ll be glad you did.

Death and Taxes

10 Mar

So last weekend, I finally filed my income taxes for the year. Actually, I had software do it with prompting, because the American Tax Code runs to 20k pages; even the IRS doesn’t hold itself accountable to its own advice! There’s got to be an easier way.

Of course, no one voted for this system. Like many government systems, this developed over time, often with the best of intentions (and sometimes the worst), and has been exploited. Now there’s a whole industry built up around this incomprehensible system. Our elected representatives have expanded the power of the Internal Revenue Service, because no other branch of the government is as good at distributing money or collecting it. Money for the budget has to come from somewhere (nihil ex nihilo), so the IRS has gotten really good at finding it.

Just like commandments in the Bible, most of the 20k pages of the tax code don’t apply to you. After all, you don’t run a sugar plant in Florida, or run a hazardous waste dump in New Mexico, or work for a church. You might live on a reservation, get combat pay, or have your property damaged in a forest fire… but you are not me. There are exceptions for lots of different kinds of jobs. For example, if you’re a priest, you may get a salary from your congregation, but that salary is dependent on raising X amount of dollars per month. That’s not a consistent income and a non-profit organization. So… the rules are VERY different than me.

Ever since we had to change the constitution to allow it in 1913, people have been trying to find a way around paying it. In America, the oldest profession has been smuggling–getting around paying import taxes. We wrote “no income tax” into the constitution because of that. But that couldn’t last forever. Even then, government’s siren song of “we need to spend more money” requires you to get it from someone else. Even for the first fifty years, people were tweaking their taxes to get around the law; payroll withholding started in WWII to get the money before you could lie about it. The first major use of computers by the federal government was in 1960 to figure out who was trying to screw the system.

Now that’s an exaggeration. There was an automated system to count the census starting in 1890, and the first computers were used to hack enemy codes during WWII, but it IS the oldest software system still in use today.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You could institute the flat tax, as they do in Estonia, which makes it much easier to calculate your income tax, pay LESS, actually get MORE money to the government than a graduated income tax, and stimulates your economy. Or you could just do a national sales tax and repeal the income tax. Things would cost more, but you’d have more money to spend, and you wouldn’t be taxes on things you don’t buy. So rich people would naturally pay more in taxes, but fairly, because they buy more than poor people.

But if you’re saying, “what about my refund?!” (sigh) It’s a “refund,” you get money back from the government you already paid. I paid over $8000 in taxes this year and only got $300 back… and half of that went to paying someone to file my taxes. But because I don’t actually write a check for that eight grand, it’s doesn’t exist in most people’s mind. “Whoo! Free money!” (groan) However, if you really like your refund, there’s a fair tax proposal which still allows for it, simplifies the tax code to a hundred pages, and still gives a check to those under a certain income.

However, because voters hate drastic change (Americans will vote for a dead incumbent for public office), and there’s a whole industry and the IRS which depends on the current system, it ain’t changing any time soon. Can we get enough “give-a-damn” to change it? Is there another way to fix our tax system? Have you got a better way to cheat your taxes? Let me know in the comments below!

Then, after you’ve written that, why not pick up one of my books! Or if you had to write a giant check to the government and can’t afford $1.99, download one of my free stories. You’ll be glad you did. 😉

“Specialization is for Insects”

9 Mar

While I was reading a book this morning, the author reminded me of an important quote by Heinlein, which highlighted that “specialization is for insects.” Is this a defense for the jack-of-all trades? Does this help in the expert-driven job market?

The exact quote is:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

Bob is the perfect example of “love the art, not the artist;” Heinlein was not a nice guy. Left his first wife and family in Missouri, known for yelling at (and in one case, punching) fans at conventions, he’s not a guy to emulate. On the other hand, he went to the Naval Academy, survived a debilitating disease, ran for Congress, helped make science fiction be taken seriously as a genre, and married a hot redhead, so… maybe he had reason to be full of himself.

But let’s look at the quote — I certainly can’t butcher a hog or conn a ship, but I feel I could if someone taught me how. What Heinlein was rattling off was stuff that was applicable to his childhood and his life. He grew up on a farm, so naturally, he learned how to butcher. He was a naval officer, so he learned how to conn a ship, but you might learn those skills growing up near the Mississippi River. In the book, the quote comes from Lazarus Long, the author’s Mary Sue, had lived for a couple thousand years by that point, so he had a few things to say about living. When this book came out in 1973, Heinlein was more in his preaching phase, so it’s not the best book to start with to appreciate his writing. Start with Starship Troopers, then the Moon is a Harsh Mistress, THEN Stranger in a Stranger Land. The rest of his books will come easier then.

However, I’m getting away from the point. In normal life, a man (in the general sense, screw your pronouns) is expected to be more than just a mathematician, or a doctor, or whatever. You can’t be married and not expect to mow the lawn, do the dishes, listen to your spouse’s complaints, change the diapers, and the thousand tasks tasks that happen on a daily basis. Now no one is expected to be great at everything. I find that someone who is super keen in one specialty often suffers in the rest of his life. For example, my mother-in-law was great at making costumes… just not always on time, and to the exclusion of everything else, including taking care of her four kids which was a full time job in and of itself. A person who’s a great accountant at work often can’t balance their own checkbook… because they can’t handle such piddly numbers.

But how do you get a job if you don’t specialize in something? Well, for one–no job is ever one thing. Even a factory line worker may be good at putting on one widget, but your foreman will shift you around to different jobs during the shift. However, if you’re not good enough in one thing, often you find someone willing to hire you for a position that doesn’t require specialization. I was a history teacher, but I had taught computers (and worked on them) in the past, so my previous boss hired me on to teach healthcare software. I wasn’t in healthcare, but I could teach, and knew computers; two aspects a lot of nurses have difficulty with. Or you could go into business for yourself, but that often requires… more than a passing fancy at marketing and accounting. So unless you can find someone to do it for you, that’s often off the table.

Which gets back to my job search. To convince someone to hire a jack-of-all-trades, you have to do what I call “creative non-fiction.” Even me, whose been an instructional designer for over 10 years, has trouble transitioning from one industry to the next. The job is exactly the same, but employers have difficulty with “Well, you’ve been working in healthcare, what would you possibly know about the law?” Seriously? Are you asking me to teach at a law school? No, you’re asking me to build online modules, and I’m not the one providing the content in a hospital either. I don’t need to know the law. So I massage my resume to fit the job I’m applying for. Even worse, most big employers use applicant tracking software (ATS), that looks for keywords, and ranks resumes based on percentage of matching their job description. So even the most ideal specialist might not even get to the hiring manager’s desk. However, there’s a way to beat those systems.

So… maybe we’re all generalists pretending to be specialists. But what do you think? Are we more specialists than I think? Is Heinlein actually a better guy than I think? Have you got a better way to get hired? Let me know in the comments below!

And while you’re at it, read Time Enough for Love. It’s a good read–and after you read that, pick up one of my books! Or if the $1.99 price is a bridge too far for you, download some of my free stories and read those. You’ll be glad you did. 😉

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