One company’s passion is another person’s class at community college
So, I’ve been cruising the job listings for the past few months. Specifically, I’ve been looking at technical writing jobs as that has been my primary career for a little over 30 years now.
It is abundantly clear to me that most companies have no idea how to write a job listing. Let’s start with some obvious problems right off the top:
- Stop listing the job requirements of clearly three or four different jobs under one listing for a technical writer. Technical writing is not a catch-all term for 127 different skills requiring multiple degrees.
- Stop asking silly questions such as “Describe a situation when you completely failed at something.” No. Why would I want to discuss that with you? You are not my psychiatrist.
- Stop looking for a technical writer who will also be your marketing writer and your social media manager. Sure, it’s possible one person can do all that, but those are three distinct jobs requiring, as Liam Neeson would say, “a particular set of skills.”
But those issues aren’t the point of this article. I want to talk about one word that keeps popping up: Passion.
Passion for a brand of technology; passion for a type of software; passion for a particular methodology. I can almost hear Jan Brady whining, “Passion, passion, passion!”
I am reminded of an episode of The Middle from a few years ago where the father of the family, Mike Heck (Neil Flynn) is looking for a new job and is eventually asked the question during an interview: “Are you passionate about septic tanks?” His look of confusion — combined with a touch of horror — spoke volumes, and I think I frequently have the same look on my face when I read through job listings. When did this become such a common requirement? Does McDonald’s look for people passionate about hamburgers?
I can’t help but wonder how an employer would even measure this? Is there a test you can take online? Does an employer make a judgment by how you sound during the initial phone call or how wide your eyes get during a Zoom interview? Does passion outweigh good old-fashioned experience? I once worked with a guy who was thought of as “passionate.” He was always volunteering to help with projects. Unfortunately, most of the work he did was wrong, and I was one of the people correcting his mistakes. But he was passionate, and that’s all that mattered to the project managers. I was not passionate about correcting the errors.
Not long ago, I saw a technical writer job listing looking for someone passionate about using Microsoft Excel. Seriously. I’m pretty sure that requires a person to be an accountant, but what does it involve? I’m good with Excel — used it for years. I’ve created and managed some incredibly complex spreadsheets. But passionate? I don’t even know how that would work. I’ve never had the urge to turn the lights down low and create some tables with complex calculations. Oh, yeah — you know what I’m talkin’ about. There were some other “passionate” requirements, but I can’t get past the inclusion of Excel to remember them.
What am I passionate about? I’m not really sure. I guess cooking is a passion of mine. I really should have been a chef. That would certainly explain the weight issues I’ve battled with my entire life. But I’m also passionate about doing a good job. Taking pride in finishing a complex task. To have the project stakeholders give a nod, a smile, and say, “Yes, that’s exactly what we were looking for!”
And that fuels the passion for the next project, and the next. Tangible, observable passion that can spread, motivate, and create passion in others. And that’s what more companies should be focusing on.