Job hopping

Subject: Job hopping
From: Jim Grey <jimgrey -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Sun, 6 Oct 1996 12:52:00 EST

I'm finding this thread greatly helpful, because I'm considering changing
jobs again -- for the third time since 1994. I'm interested in feedback
about my career history, which follows, from writers and writing managers in
the Midwest. I'm in Indianapolis. Throughout my career, I've worked very
well with other writers and editors, and have always quickly built good
relationships with and earned respect from other departments (especially
Engineering). I produce good work on time. I'm concerned, however, that
short stays at companies may work against me here in Indianapolis. Industry
here, even high-tech industry, seems to have more traditional ideas about
employment than, say, the Bay area in California, where so much software
technical writing seems to be concentrated.

My career's first five years were spent as a technical writer at one
company. My experience there was great until my last year there, when the
company's fortunes took a drastic downturn. The company became a very
difficult place to work, so I exited in September, 1994. (The company went
out of business about a year later.)

I then worked for a computer-book publishing company as an editor. I
enjoyed the work at first, but the workload grew steadily until I could no
longer do work of quality acceptable to me, even within fifty- and
sixty-hour weeks. On several occasions, I discussed with management ways
for me to achieve acceptable quality within a reasonable workweek. They
could only promise extra staff "very soon," but their promises never
materialized. Once, on the edge of burnout, I was reluctant to accept a new
project my manager offered. In my next review, I was admonished for not
being a team player and not being open to new assignments. When I asked
why, my manager cited my reluctance to take that one project. This review
adversely affected my next raise and bonus. The job's stress continued to
increase; my wife and son were starting to dread seeing me come home because
I was always in a foul mood. So I left in February of this year.

I now develop Windows Help, design computer-based training, and perform
usability testing for a small software company. During interviews, the
woman who is now my manager told me that I'd have lots of autonomy: I could
produce Help and CBT pretty much as I saw fit. Unfortunately, this has not
turned out to be true. We disagree sharply about how to communicate to our
audience. For a time, she revised almost all of my work, leaving me to find
out about it when the final Help files appeared in the product. I put a
stop to that. Now she constantly asks me to show her what I'm doing, and
then tells me to change most of it. I tried to put a stop to that, but she
stands firm: "We can agree to disagree, but you're going to do it this
way." She and I are the entire writing staff, and it's unlikely that the
company will hire anyone else or that she will leave her position. The
company has also undergone a major shakeup recently. My boss now reports to
the company's new president, whom we've never met; her office is in
California. I don't feel I have anywhere to go to work this out.

I don't want to work under these conditions, but I'm reluctant to leave a
third job in as many years because I'm afraid that, in Indiana at least,
that my recent history will not look good. (I will probably have to wait
until next February, anyway, when our new baby arrives -- unless some
employer is willing to insure my family immediately to cover the rest of the
pregancy's expenses.)

So, I ask you Midwestern writers and managers: If I interviewed with you,
would my recent work history cause you concern? How can I appropriately
explain these job changes?

I also want to know the secrets for spotting a bad situation before I agree
to work in it, but I suppose that's another post. Besides, I'm learning as
I go! :)


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