What Is It I Do Exactly?

I don’t know about you, readers, but it’s taken me years to really remember/know/understand what most of my friends do for a living. Some of them don’t really know what I do either. And hell, I dated someone for many years and never quite understood what he did. Probably that’s because he generally slept in until 10 am, surfed the internet all day, and then took people out for drinks and dinner, but there must have been some kind of work in there somewhere. The friends whose jobs I can actually describe well are friends who I’ve worked with or whose industries I’ve worked in.

Well, if you’re following my blog and wondering what it is I do, I write technical manuals. User guides, upgrade guides, installation guides, and all kinds of other technical content for a cyber security company. At least, that’s what I do in the current iteration of the full time employment phase of my life. In other iterations, I’ve been an ESL teacher, a localization/translation project coordinator, and the managing editor of an elearning company. So, I’ve always worked with language in some form or another.

When I fill out applications for credit cards, car loans, loyalty programs, or anything else that asks what my occupation is, I don’t expect to find technical writer as a menu item. But usually I find the generic writer or professional services or something somewhat related to what I do. Not so in my most recent experience. An application I filled out last week had the most motley collection of job titles I’ve ever seen, but nothing close to writer. For example:

  • Auctioneer. I get that this is a legit profession, but in the world of jobs out there, how many auctioneers are there compared to all the different kinds of writers?
  • Gem Dealer. Also a legit profession (although I’d venture a guess that there aren’t that many of these people in the world) and I realize that a gem dealer and a jeweler are not one and the same, but again, they have both of these categories but nothing at all for writers?
  • Parking Lot Owner. Ha! For real? Oddly enough, Melissa and I talked about owning parking lots in Philadelphia some day when we finished college. We thought we’d just rake in the cash.
  • Senior Political Figure. No politician and no junior political figure, just senior.
  • Vending Machine Operator. Is this the little elf who sits inside and throws what you order down the chute? Or is it someone who stands outside and pushes the buttons for you? Either way, I’d like to tick that button.

I ended up putting down Engineer because, well, I work in the engineering department anyway.

As a technical writer, I’d love to talk to the person whose job it was to create this application. Were user studies or any sort of research involved in the selection of job titles that made the list? Or was the writer having a laugh? I wish I knew. Every time I publish a technical document for my company, I consider putting something goofy in it just to see if anyone notices. The main document I work on is over 1,500 pages long. I’d like to pick what I believe is the most obscure and unused topic in it and give this experiment a try. But cyber security doesn’t leave a lot of room for joking around in the docs. I should know; I was the primary author of my department’s style guide, which dictates our stoic tone and bland word choices. If I had to write error messages like these, I’d constantly be stressed out. There’s a reason they call me Jen Seriously.

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