“Real Writers” still best option, AI or 1 million chimps on computers creativity aside

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Artificial intelligence and computers can do amazing things based on previous analysis, but can they imagine a perfect David without that?

After being fed a trillion-gazillion bytes of previous human blood, sweat, and tears involved in artwork or literature, Artificial Intelligence is becoming/has begun to be judged capable of original production.  Professionally speaking, that sounds more reasonable than a million (or 10 million?) chimpanzees on keyboards knocking out even a couple verses of Bill Shakespeare-worthy prose by accident.

At the current time, I’m a way better writing alternative.

Without going deeply into whether its a good idea or not, the AI future has been coming almost 70 years,  and the chimps haven’t produced anything noteworthy.  Having read on LinkedIn about AI “knowing” how to make hiring decisions though, that’s a belief I can’t get on board with.

Having a “presence” – something that might push a magic button for a potential employer of my talents – and result in a tah dah! moment HAS to be better, because its worked that way before. Many sites still don’t recognize MSOffice includes Word, or journalism as somehow lacking “media and communications.”

Case in point, the recently concluded series SUITS.

Could the Zen of Harvey Specter and Mike Ross coming together on the basis of – well, a busted drug deal – and Mike’s statistical memory out-dueling Harvey’s ego on trivia happen with AI? I think not.

Far above the vast area between accidental genius and synthesized, analytical material becoming heart-breaking romance, discovering the answer to someone’s pain about any number of factors is what INTERVIEWING is about, and where writers of all stripes wear the sales hat.

Sports writing is easier than CBD content creation

Of course there are the numbers, the stats, the win-loss conclusion and opinions of the result, but sports have their own voice, and quotes are usually the most compelling part. If we have or haven’t seen the event, can you appreciate how a journalist presents it, accurately and colorfully?

That’s part of what interviewing does for “client voice.” Putting them together, with the proliferation of websites and blogs that require on-going production, is what long-form informational blogging has become.  Although not as direct as words from a winning coach, corporate voice is THE voice.

From high school journalism on, the need to set the hook with readers in the first paragraph was considered paramount. Now its the click value of the headline, because people scan vs. read.

Relative to value, while Charlotte pays above the national rates (as reported by Indeed, Glassdoor, Payscale), its often a case of job title-category being a determinant.

Copy writers at $26.38/hr, content writers,  and writers generally are close to $50k (Payscale says $47k is 10% above national avg., Glassdoor pegs avg. @ $55k), while content creation, including editors and social media types, are in the middle-upper teens per hour. Indeed puts these North Carolina rates at 15% below national averages.

Obviously there are ranges.  ‘Freelancers’ is a relative term ($22.46/hr., Payscale), tutors average $23/hr. (I usually bill at $30) and technical writers lead the overall pack at $32/hour. While descriptions for all have terms in common (white papers, blogs, SEO), writers seem to involve more interfacing with other creatives. Content creation is often  list-cicles or amalgamated research and rehashing as a group effort, with the focus on Google positioning.

*Everyone* wants copy/blogs/thought leadership that “meets and exceeds customer expectations.”

Technical Writing

“Thought Leadership” style has become a strong part of long-form informational blogging, and contrasting two previous projects with a recent sketchy client description highlights the importance of interviewing.

According to a Thumbtack lead, the client had an ESL (English Second Language) situation, and to his credit, knew he needed some expertise to make a business proposal sound right.

In hearing the project was “between 2,000-10,000 words” represented an awful lot of territory to offer overall pricing. Informing the client my blogs are often 1200-1500 words, so 10,000 was a lot, is a concrete example of both parties knowing what a project entails. Whether this business plan was going to include enough budget for technical writing was also a consideration.

jensenprocedOn the other hand, writing procedures for Parts Ordering and Returns was for “guys in the pits” using industrial laundry equipment (driers, folders, belted delivery systems, timing), not front office people. The primary point was well-defined, especially how plucking a part off a machine and reading the number was actually the third best option when ordering.

Two pages of specific information only took 945 words, and fact it included addressing issue of returns, so extra junk didn’t clog up the back dock area, was gravy.

Interviews as sales calls

Because client-facing verbal understanding is at the core of all successful work interactions, my mantra is that the Q&A to be most effective is always about determining those factors most important to clients, not an interrogation. Good information makes for better decisions.

During several other career stages, interviews were more accurately sales calls, where I was providing the information aspect, and how other people reacted was a measurable outcome.  “Interviewing” with the lawyer of someone whose property had a billboard I represented was another slice of interpretation – most would consider that “negotiation” though.

In scholastic fundraising, there was essentially 40 minutes to build rapport, present information and possibilities, (hopefully) get the green lights and signature that meant putting it on a calendar.  Most interviews focused on “fixing” a sponsor’s group problem in tough economic times.

That (fix some pain) remains the central theme for all kind of ‘gigs’ now, and Writers understand that every RFP (request for proposal) type of content we send should  be intended as a statement of what we bring to the table.

Without denigrating ‘foreign competition’ on the content front – because getting ideas across in writing is not bound by location or time zones – language differences when I’m just trying to make a point with outsourced service operations are multiplied in complexity when clarifying a corporate tone or voice.

ESL clients require extra attention, and grammatically and professionally, it still seems like some corporate material has been put through a Google translator called “English” that comes off as stilted in “American.” That might be where AI can makes inroads.

Recruiter read ‘tech writing’ experience as intended, but wrong on client needs

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I recently had three very different chances to interface with recruiters regarding the same possibility with a major Charlotte bank, in this case, for technical writers. While  that’s generically “a club in my bag,” it didn’t get much play until I added a resume on DICE site.

Basic point: Know which sites work best for your skill set and goals.

Two people, who supposedly know how certain skills may fit with work orders, told me Monster and Careerbuilder were places they found most of their placements and possibilities. I’ve never liked those chronologically-oriented sites, and there have been plenty of possibilities on LinkedIn and FlexJobs, including remote options. 

KEYWORDS – BIG DIFFERENCE

It’s worth noting that early searching for ‘Writer’ roles on LinkedIn often produced more Underwriter and Service writer possibilities than creative positions. Putting ‘content creation’ in the keyword box, that went from barely a handful to nearly 100, and often included marketing and editorial managers. Knowing more than one way to look for things is a legitimate piece of any search effort.

Non-negotiable factors like moving still allow frequent opportunities to contribute from a laptop – good content can be created any time or place.

This up close and personal situation reinforced operational negatives I’ve held for a long time about recruiters, but also led to an affirmation of  opinions about whether current “talent gaps” could be mitigated if finders of people for positions did a better job of interviewing.

In two of these calls, I admit first contact appointment-getters – with fairly heavy, difficult to understand accents – were a consideration. Repeatedly asking them to slow down, and yes, thinking scams often flourish with confusion, I was on guard. There are dialer-operations that turn over leads that fill client schedules, and we’re all aware that “others” are constantly phishing for data.

I fixed my attitude about totally different groups of people contacting me – because “I saw your resume…” isn’t actually out of the blue, I am out there – just in time.

Key in recruiters getting what they need

One caller was totally in left field, because he was trying to work with an online resume from 2015 (Careerbuilder). Trying to steer him to more current information like LinkedIn seemed futile. Trying to explain a 2015 post-Recession in retail resume, which  represented nothing  I was trying to accomplish in 2019 – just, no. Thinking I could turn that option into even a 3-month contract wasn’t a reality.

I admit being less nice to him, but fixing my attitude about different groups of people contacting me out of the blue with “I saw your resume…” came through just in time. 

Talking with Recruiter #2, the ‘take over’ local (Charlotte) person I’d scheduled a call with left me far far less confident about success compared to the CBD company I connected with through LinkedIn right after New Years. Maybe he was describing a totally different job – I found out a month later he was actually right on about a situation that sounded far above my comfort level regarding previous technical expertise.

There’s a definite difference in needing-to-be-done-a-certain-way design for multiple layers of starting from scratch tech writing vs. compilation and interpretation of content and “editorial values.”

Recruiter #3 was Goldilocks – just right – a pro out of Philly who interpreted my resume exactly the way I wrote it, and expect it to be read.

#3 had a WHOLE different POV on my matching the client’s  web/content management needs, not what I seemed to lack with #2. Don’t burn bridges with recruiters. Having an above average and realistic interview is still the goal of responding to online-available descriptions. 

He indicated there would be a training period, so that contract people were trained in Open Text, and picking up something on gigs becomes career enhancing expertise for content people. I haven’t been intimidated about using systems listed in job descriptions, and glad to know about up front training, which is nothing but good business.

Recruiter Guy #3 was prepared

He’d seen my LinkedIn profile, knew about my real estate, and made a suggestion about amping the job titles regarding tech writing for two specific jobs. He liked the continuity of  ‘2000 to Current’ – and frankly, side hustle business doesn’t have to pay all the bills to go on your CV.  When its relevant, make sure its known. You’ll rarely get asked about things people don’t know are possibilities.

  • Customer ordering and return procedures, written for “guys in the pits” v. front office personnel, regarding industrial laundry equipment.
  • Editing and formatting of 65 page Monthly Management Report – from 17 contributors.
  • After Hours Care ‘cheat sheet’ of weekend staff procedures

CDTalent Enterprises has produced in a variety of situations that create editorial depth.

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This is an upgraded kronut by Sugarrmann, with an extra blob of flavorful lemon under the glazing, after I reviewed a previous version’s tastefulness.  I’m not a coder.

I appreciated speaking 40 minutes vs. ten – If you’ve gotten jaded hearing about recruiters and eight seconds checking a resume, getting to phone calls is actually the goal. You don’t WIN! because someone responded, and IMHO, getting the right kind of help by better communicating your expertise is its own reward.

As a gig, we’ll see about phone interviews next week, but part of my work system is to keep the professional options hopper productive. While its proof nothing goes away on the Internet AND what it can deliver as results, I’m elementally glad my opinions about how much better recruiters could do with interviewing turned out to be right.