Sunday, January 27, 2013

My Life These Days, Part 2: The Job, or "Job"

One evening this week my housemate asked me, "How's the new job going?" And I replied that I like it (a lot), but that I wonder how much of that is just that I'm grateful to have a job in which I'm getting paid to do something at least approximately in my writing and editing field. I mean, it's better than just answering the phone. It's better than the stinging irony of doing data entry when you're wholly qualified and endowed with the anointed wordsmithery gifts to be a content creator

These days, if someone asks me, "Oh, what do you do?", I can truthfully say, "I'm a web-content writer and editor" -- because that is exactly what it said under "job description" in the e-mail from my temp-agency rep about this several-months-long gig. I don't even say the word "temp," because that would be misleading -- I'm not a substitute receptionist any more; I'm a short-term contract employee, or some shit like that. I'm pretty sure it says that phrase somewhere in the paperwork I was given after "passing" my interview. And yes, if you're endowed with anointed wordsmithery gifts, you are still allowed to say "or some shit like that" when the mood strikes you.

As I mentioned in another post, the job I'm doing now isn't the most glamorous or challenging or impressive gig I've ever had in my 12-year+ writing and editing career. I used to be a crime reporter at a daily newspaper, where I won Virginia's highest journalism-writing award (only one is given in the state each year!), the Virginia Press Association (VPA)'s Best In Show award, beating out entries from The Washington Post (any story with a Virginia dateline was eligible) and nearly every other paper in the state. Bob Freaking Woodward had won the award the year before I did! I've had the high salary (well, high for a writer: $62,500), I've written magazine cover stories, I've traveled all over the U.S. for work (San Jose and Palm Springs, CA; Phoenix; Chicago; Atlanta; Charleston, SC), I've written motivational speeches (two of them!) that were given during an annual event on Capitol Hill. A press release I wrote was responsible for landing my then-organization in a prominent ad slot on Times Square. I've done a thing or two.

So posting, managing, and cleaning up an organization's Intranet site, and even drafting brand-new documentation that shows users how to do various things on that Intranet, is not exactly the most party-icebreaker kind of work I've ever had. 

But it's getting there. It's getting closer to the kind of work that I want to do. It's moving in the right direction. And I'm truly enjoying it. You wouldn't believe what a giant nerd I am at this gig, although I think a lot of that is that employees there are explicitly forbidden from so much as checking non-work e-mail, let alone logging into Facebook. And let alone blogging. Hence the five-day gap between posts, before the Cowboy Christie Is Coming one (God, what do I have against straightforward titles, huh?), which only got posted when it did because I'd already started a draft earlier in the week. So in lieu of sitting there sneaking through other Internet portals to do personal writing -- guess what? I work.

I work hard. I work well. I work fast. 

After what seemed like a mildly discouraging, compressed training session on my first (half-) day, immediately following the interview, I worried that the CMS would take a while to learn. Nope -- turns out, the fairly young (early twenties, maybe) girl who filled the role previously was just employing a whirlwind style of training, a style perhaps more appropriate for her Twitter generation or something. The following Tuesday, my first full day at the job, the IT/web chief stopped by my desk to provide "an overview" of the Intranet. It took me a moment to realize that she didn't know I'd already received some degree of rushed-through training, or that I had been my organization's de facto webmaster for at least a year, posting and managing all of the content on their WordPress-based website. Her slow, easy style -- in which she didn't take for granted that I knew anything -- clicked with me much better, and after a few hours of poking around in there on my own, I felt confident doing just about anything using this new-to-me system. 

I love that I get to draft and revise the "how to" documentation they either had or didn't have prior to my arrival. I get a nerdy kick out of making something -- anything, really -- more user-friendly. It's kind of like playing a little psychological game, sitting there trying to come up with the perfect, straight-to-the-point, uncluttered sentences and graphics that will help someone understand how to do something. In other words, the documentation I'm creating is pretty much the opposite of this blog. I can be succinct when I need, or want, to be. (You don't believe me, do you?) That said, my screen-capture and image-editing skills are not just bad, but hilariously so -- I'm using some also-new-to-me thingiemabob called Snagit, and it can be sort of a bitch to work with. But even that's not so bad, because hey, it's something new, which means I can add it to my résumé and yammer about it in future job interviews.  

I spend my days in a cozy and private cubicle, one that I keep tidy and clean with a vigor that would probably be downright heartbreaking to a VP watching me through a surveillance camera and knowing that my contract is technically up in mid- to late March. ("Aww... She does know she can't stay, right?" I'm still technically a temp, after all, and temps are sort of the stray dogs of the corporate world.) My desktops are organized -- both my physical workspace and the documents I've been using on my computer, all categorized in little clearly labeled folders. I make to-do lists with little check boxes on them. Even my goddamn Microsoft Outlook e-mail inbox is organized; I made little folders for e-mails pertaining to different subjects, something I don't think I ever did before even at any of my "real" jobs. I make notes about how to make the Intranet more intuitive to navigate, how to make the content better. 

...Jesus, none of this should be a novelty to me. I mean, I pretty much just described what someone does when doing his or her job. Perhaps there's a reason I spent the last year temping and still don't have a "real" job. I should have been making to-do lists and how-to-improve-stuff lists all along.

My lunch "hour" (actually only 30 to 45 minutes) feels different here than it did at any of the admin-type temp gigs I had during the past year. At those other places, I took a full hour, walking or sitting in my car with a book, sulking or heaving a sigh tinged with exisential angst-and-ennui (why do those two words always go together? I mean, they don't even come from the same language), relieved to escape from the tedium of sitting at my desk beside an unringing phone or plonking in new fax numbers for newly elected Congress members. Now, strangely, although you'd think I'd feel more "deserving" of a break, having worked hard all day -- I find that I'm eager (or perhaps mostly anxious) to get back to my desk. God, what a nerd -- I need a bunch of jocks to give me a wedgie or something.

I walk to Union Station, because it's close and I can quickly get something off the Dollar Menu (shut up) and then just walk around, eating a double cheeseburger and marveling at the sights of Union Station, where I'm still essentially still a tourist: the bright-orange, prison-looking astronaut suits for kids at the Smithsonian store; the sprawling hot-pink Victoria's Secret store with its giant posters of lithe, tawny models and mountains of bras; the Old-World-seeming signs for trains going to New York City or to New England, with quaint nicknames like the Walden Express. I chow down on a burger, then I get back to my desk, because I want to get things done, I want to impress my bosses. 

For you see, I've hatched me a scheme, and it might be crazy, but better a crazy scheme than no scheme at all, I reckon.

My plan is get the Intranet work done so fast, to master what needs to be done there so thoroughly and efficiently, that they let me spend at least a few hours of the week doing what I'd really love to do: write and edit content for their main, non-Honeycomb-Hideout website, and spiffy up their social-media offerings. I mean, not to be all johnny-come-lately ("Hey, social media can be a great way for you to attract new clients!" "Yeah, no shit."), but their Facebook page at the very least would greatly benefit from even just two or three hours total of my creating and posting better content there. 

And if that doesn't pan out, I won't cry -- after just one week at this job, I went ahead and updated my LinkedIn page and résumé with new skills (learning the new CMS; creating documentation, which is nothing if not a form of technical writing, and NoVA is lousy with folks looking for good technical writers). If this is nothing more than a stepping stone, that's fine by me. Stepping is a kind of motion, after all.

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