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Argh.

This is the point I've been dreading for a long time -- when I have to ask myself quite seriously if I'll ever get another job, or if I'll be stuck in a limbo of contract work and unemployment until I "retire." It's 18 months since I "left" V., since which I've had one eight month contract and two 10 week contracts - all paying nicely, but leading nowhere. But now it's 10 weeks since the last contract....
Part of me suspects that Technical Writing is a dying career, or turning into something else entirely. You see contracts now that expect you to be proficient at various programming languages -- well, if I was I'd be a developer and earning proper money, wouldn't I? Or they want you to write white papers and marketing stuff. Again, I'd be wearing a tasteful suit and going to expensive conferences if I'd gone in that direction. I've thought about the later route and tried faking it, but they always want samples. The job requirements change but your past experience is mostly fixed.
(Also, and this is something to go into deeper another time, technology has changed and most modern software doesn't need a shelf of manuals and operating guides. For instance, it used to be that 40 page installation and setup guides were common. Now it's just "Right click to download.")
And I'm course I'm old and that's pretty much illegal in the IT world these days. "Get an intern in and she'll do it for minimum wage. Or we can just set up a forum where users can help each other if they get stuck."
I've thought about chucking it in and doing something else, but how are you supposed to do that in your mid-50s? Whatever happened to all those middling jobs that middling people used to have?

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
tx_cronopio
Jan. 19th, 2014 09:44 pm (UTC)
I'm in exactly the same boat. And except for the no money thing, I quite like not working. But there is the whole no money thing, isn't there?
davesmusictank
Jan. 19th, 2014 10:22 pm (UTC)
I also find that at our middle to late age, in my case 57, jobs become very difficult to find in areas that you would like to do, and that everything becomes short term-ism. So i dabble about with occasional market research job, mystery shopping and sell vinyl on line to keep the wolf from the door.
athenais
Jan. 20th, 2014 03:06 am (UTC)
Well, I came to work one day and they'd shut down the whole regional office, so it was off to start my own business. Five and a half years later I'm keeping afloat, but I realize starting your own business isn't for everyone. And my friend tamiam is in your exact boat with her Sharepoint awesomeness and web development skills failing to snag her even a lousy 9 month Microsoft job.
ortho_bob
Jan. 20th, 2014 02:37 pm (UTC)
A lousy 9 month contract with Microsoft wouldn't go amiss right now.

And I've thought about starting my own business, but can't get beyond the "doing what?" part.
ms_hooligan
Jan. 20th, 2014 05:51 am (UTC)
I'm lucky enough to have a tech writing job, but regular peeks at Indeed and LinkedIn are telling me that if this job were to go away (like the last two I held), I would be SOL, especially since I prefer full-time over contract (although with Obamacare that's less of an issue now). And I still have another 10-plus years to retirement. I have no idea how this is all going to pan out. I suppose I should learn some programming languages but I don't want to ... I like the writing part of tech writing.
ortho_bob
Jan. 20th, 2014 02:52 pm (UTC)
So it's not just my self-pitying imagination? There really are fewer tech writing jobs with more specialized demands (and lower pay)?

Edited at 2014-01-20 03:15 pm (UTC)
ms_hooligan
Jan. 20th, 2014 03:33 pm (UTC)
That's what it is looking like to me at the moment. There are still senior jobs, but they are "lone writers" at small, established companies and the older writers in those positions are likely hanging on as long as they can. Or else they require very specialized experience. My employer used to hire three senior writers but as the company gets bigger and needs more writers, the seniors are being replaced by mid-level and the new positions are junior. I feel like we should be re-inventing ourselves in some way but I'm not sure what, exactly.
randomstring
Jan. 20th, 2014 12:43 pm (UTC)

Depressing but interesting reading:

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424053111903480904576512250915629460

See also "Race again the machine" http://www.amazon.co.uk/Race-Against-The-Machine-Accelerating-ebook/dp/B005WTR4ZI and "Average is Over" http://www.amazon.co.uk/Average-Is-Over-Powering-Stagnation/dp/0525953736

The last one is written from a very right wing view point but interesting if I don't actually agree with a lot of it.

Drop me a message with your email address if you'd like a copy of the books.
randomstring
Jan. 20th, 2014 12:52 pm (UTC)

Finished too soon...

The question of how do you run an economy with no large middle class is going to become very relevant soon. We're heading rapidly towards a society where the only thing that matters is who you were born too.

Tom Frank "One Market under God" and "Pity the Billionaires" are also good.

For a fictionalised account of the issues try Manna: Two Visions of Humanity's Future
Brain, Marshall (free online at http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm)


ortho_bob
Jan. 20th, 2014 03:02 pm (UTC)
I've seen that guy's books but the titles alone make me too angry to go further. These wannabe Thomas Friedmans.... Maybe there's a career there, writing glibly about how everything is getting worse and how that's really a good thing.
randomstring
Jan. 20th, 2014 03:13 pm (UTC)

Cowen's books are annoying and I don't recommend giving him any money

Race against the Machine is far more considered. Tom Frank is left wing ("Pity the Billionaire" is especially good)

ortho_bob
Jan. 20th, 2014 03:29 pm (UTC)
Just about to edit my comment as I meant Cowen specifically, not Frank, who I've been a fan of since One Market Under God. The list of Cowen's titles is enough to make a red mist rise in my head. Will have to investigate the other book.

If you like Tom Frank, have you tried Evgeny Morozov's To Save Everything Click Here:The Folly of Technological Solutionism? He's being published everywhere these days -- New Yorker, Salon, Baffler, and is always worth reading.

Edited at 2014-01-20 03:39 pm (UTC)
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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