Contract Writing, Only Slightly Tongue-in-Cheek

Subject: Contract Writing, Only Slightly Tongue-in-Cheek
From: "Cathy MacDonald" <camacdonald -at- core -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 2 Aug 2005 18:32:08 -0500

I'm a tech writer who has been doing contract work for 16 years. Just today
I rejoined the ranks of permanent employees (Hallelujah!). Coincidentally, I
also received an unusual e-mail inquiry from a recruiter today, viz:

"My client is looking for one candidate that has technical writing
experience. Candidate must have previous IT writing experience and be
familiar with IT policy and procedures. Must have a comprehensive knowledge
of information technology. Knowledge of Novell is a plus. Must be able to
effectively use MS Office and be a local resident of Chicago or its
surrounding areas. Project should last a month and there is always the
possibility of going permanent. Please call..."

Apparently anyone can hang up a shingle and try to sell a job to an
unsuspecting writer these days. First, I was taken aback by the requirement
that the candiate be familiar with IT policy and procedures; of the 23 firms
in which I've worked, every policy and procedure was different -- and often
different from one department to another within the same company! I was
shocked, SHOCKED, I TELL YOU, that this poor candidate was also required to
have a comprehensive knowledge of information technology. I would like a
list of the people who have this comprehensive knowledge.

What was most disturbing about this opportunity, however, was that the
contract job was to last just one month. Presumably, all the writer would
need to do is fix a few typos in a Word document or do some simple
reformatting, because in my experience, next to nothing can be done in a
contract position within a month's time. Though I was loath to point out
the recruiter's misconception, I felt compelled to tell him what his new
employee might possibly accomplish in a month, that is:

- Hook up that computer that IT promised him 18 days ago
- Locate the person who previously occupied his cubicle and took the
file-drawer keys home with him
- Learn where the office supplies are
- Learn that the title of the department is (depending on the phase of the
moon) Tech Pubs, Engineering Support, Technical Documentation, Standards and
Policies, Writing Solutions, or Technical Services
- Learn how to get a security badge (the badge itself will arrive in 3 weeks
and his name will be spelled wrong)
- Find out whom to call about getting a phone and phone number, as well as
getting rid of all those voicemails for someone named Rich
- Find out where to park and where to get a parking sticker
- Learn how to make an outgoing phone call
- Learn how to check e-mail and send outgoing mail
- Learn (the hard way) how not to send e-mail using "Reply All"
- Find out where to get coffee and what the coffee policies are
- Learn how to fill out two or more different timesheets and get a
supervisor's approval for each on alternate Fridays
- Locate the person who can add you to all the e-mail lists
- Call the Help Desk three times a day for weeks to get access to the
applications you've needed since Day One
- Uncover the misnamed directory where the completed documentation and
templates are stored
- Find out how to fill out status reports and what to include
- Find out who the SMEs are, but not where they hide
- Learn how to set up a meeting with others...once you figure out which
conference room is A726 and whether it's on this floor or across the street
- Become familiar with the departmental org chart, but not know those
people's titles, responsibilities, or faces
- Have a vague understanding of the company's often arcane, convoluted,
counter-intuitive process flow
- Discover that "Why don't you ask Barb? I think she knows about that" is a
polite way of saying, "Go away, you pest"
- Know that it's good to show initiative, but discover that the company
hates initiative

And then, after the month is over, the new contract employee will be ready
to get to work.

Not a word of it a lie.


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