The employment picture: why writers and decision makers should be willing to look between the lines

Recent employment numbers show a decline in unemployment but, while numbers don’t lie, they often don’t tell the entire story.  Employers continue to be reluctant to hire, especially those who have been unemployed for more than a year.  This has created a whole new economic market, the “gig economy,” in which those who are unemployed either contract their services on a temporary basis, or go into business for themselves.

Strange as it may seem, this may be a good thing, especially for writers.

When we contrast individuals against corporations, some startling fundamentals emerge.  Among these is the basic element of decision making ability; in a corporation, responsibilities and decision-making authority is often broken up into pieces.  Intended to ensure optimal quality and accountability of those choices, this also has the unintended consequence of creating a “Bubble Culture” in which decision makers tend to be unable to make choices beyond the limits of their office.  Their scope of responsibility also limits the necessary breadth of perspective and, consequently, creates a mentality which unintentionally restricts their to infer into the real ability of a candidate.

Basic translation:  when a manager lives in a bubble, they can’t see potentially great candidates because outside of that particular worldview and inability to look beneath the surface and read between the lines.

Individuals, on the other hand, are able to be more nimble in who they hire or, more importantly, which jobs they choose to undertake.  Writers, in particular, are able to choose a wide array of jobs and contracts offered while a firm specializing in public relations or technical writing can’t cross-function effectively due to the business culture.  The problem here lies in that writer often being pigeonholed for not having an organizational-based position, but more often than not having the skills and drive to be able to provide valuable service to a company which chooses to take a chance.

When an employer is large and bureaucratic, this sort of mentality is even more entrenched.  Many of the world’s largest employers are so compartmentalized that divisions and offices rarely talk to each other, and this only fosters the “Bubble Culture” of corporate cubicles in which decision makers are so constricted to employment requirements so specific to a job, otherwise outstanding candidates are frequently cast aside for missing what is considered a “key” piece of the puzzle.

In other words, candidates must be “near perfect” to get a shot, and it is often the most imperfect candidates who make the best-qualified employees.

Where this becomes an issue is in the quality of the candidate themselves.  Even though younger or more educated candidates are considered desirable in many workplaces due to the perception of being “untarnished” by poor choices or experience, it is those who are “perfect” who often find it difficult to deal with setback, while an applicant who has been knocked down and beat up show the sort of resiliency necessary to excel in today’s rugged economy.  This is especially true of writers.

Long story short, the “gig economy” is not as bad a thing as everything sees it, but it also requires writers and decision makers to open their eyes to the possibility of what could be, rather than the default line of “that’s what it is.”

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