Last month, I graduated with an M.A. in English/Professional Writing. I began my masters program in 2007 after moving back to Louisiana from NYC. But due to several factors including my mother’s death, I didn’t complete my studies. In 2018, jolted by the impending end of an eight-year contract job (it began as a three-month gig, but ended up lasting eight lovely, lazy years), I decided it would be a good time to finish the degree and make a positive transition. It wasn’t easy.
I’d been in the corporate/freelance world for so long that I’d forgotten what it was like to be in academia, another world of its own. The mentality is different, the workload is different, the expectations are different and the challenges are different. I pitched a fit several times during the year-and-a-half, but learned a lot about myself, my limits, communication with others, sanity vs. insanity and how nice it is to not do a damn thing once you’ve finally accomplished your goals.
COVID-19 has so many of us contemplating life, what it means and what we want for the future. The world has been altered, and going forward we have no choice but to make changes regarding how we work and live. Will we be kinder, more considerate of each other? Will we be more inclusive? Will we respect each other’s privacy and time more? Will we be more conscious of the environment and take bigger leaps to heal Mother Earth? Now, after writing, defending and finishing my thesis, graduating via virtual ceremony (I must have reshot that 10-second video 20 times before I said, “oh, f**k it.”), completing an online internship, moving my 93-year-old grandmother next door to me, self-isolating, binge-watching online shows, freaking out over the state of the world, realizing that the news and social media weren’t helping my anxiety level, coming to terms with perimenopause, learning I may have an auto-immune disease (which I’m determined to beat), finally getting a full night’s sleep here and there, learning to appreciate what I have and deciding on a healthy, holistic (but not too woo-woo) plan of action, I’m now back job hunting during the coronavirus, and it is weird.
Jobs, especially remote, are in high demand. And while I would love the perfect fit, that may not happen, at least not just yet. But I have a question. If we are to become a kinder world, shouldn’t we take a look at our language? Last year, HR Dive published an article regarding a LinkedIn report on word choices in job ads.
“LinkedIn said language affects every aspect of the hiring process, from how organizations describe themselves to the tone they set for applicants. Choosing the right words for an ad can impact a company’s ability to attract ‘a balanced cohort of talent,’ the social media platform added in its report.“
I also touched on this a couple of years ago in an article on my other blog Anne-Julia Price. But while job hunting I’m once again noticing the aggressive language of job ads, and they’re a little off-putting. Are writing/editing jobs the equivalent of going to battle or therapy? Are companies looking for human beings or robots? How soon will we be replaced by AI? I love to write. I’m confident, well-organized, detail-oriented, curious and adaptable. And I want to work for a company or clients and write, edit or translate in a way that attracts readers. But I want to touch their heart, not throttle them. Some of the wording in the jobs ads is almost laughable, if not frightening. For example:
- Lives and breathes (insert subject here)
- Young (eek, ageist much?)
Let’s break these down.
- Aggressive: I can definitely be assertive, but I try not to be aggressive. Isn’t there enough of that in the world? More on that here.
- Multitasker: I’ve done this for years, but frankly don’t think it’s been too beneficial and wouldn’t mind focusing on only one or two projects at a time and give them my all.
- Fast-paced: The world is spinning too quickly as it is. Chill out a little.
- Obsessed: Although I tend to get a little carried away with my love of France or worry too much about keeping my grandmother safe and healthy (I must stop hovering.), I try not to get obsessed about anything. Really not healthy.
- Possessed: Yeah, again, not healthy. Breathe it out.
- Addicted: To love? I used to be. To a really good croissant? Sure. But addiction? There’s therapy for that.
- Junkie: See #6.
- Lives and breathes: I try to do both. But live and breathe marketing? SEO? Sales? No thank you.
- Deadline-driven: I always meet my deadlines, if I don’t get it out beforehand, but I’d say I’m more driven about doing a good job rather than the deadline itself.
- Data-driven: See #9.
- Kickass: That one, I can be. But I don’t necessarily want to read it in a job ad.
- Insatiable: A little much, non?
- Perfectionist: Well, I have been capable of staying up all hours of the night trying to make my work perfect, but I try to avoid it. A gal’s gotta sleep sometime.
- Rockstar: I don’t play an instrument (although I keep trying – must practice more often), but I’m good at what I do. But seriously, Rockstar? Isn’t that a little cheesy?
- Killer: Really not a fan of this word.
- Rapid: See #3.
- Young: While I’m sure I may be young to some, I wouldn’t consider myself young or old. Somewhere in the middle-ish? I know that team compatibility is important. Certain subjects may require certain types of people or personalities. But is this just a roundabout way of asking for a young and energetic employee, who knows everything and will work for next to nothing for hours on end? I don’t apply to those jobs anyway, but still. Language.
Some of these are worse than others, depending on their context within the ad. And of course, and fortunately, not all job ads use aggressive and anxiety-ridden language. I like to work. But I also like to live this one life. And I’m not sure that being obsessed, addicted, a junkie or killer is very healthy. Diversity is finally being discussed in the workplace, with new guidelines seriously being studied and implemented. But companies might also want to take a look at the wording they use in their ads. They could also back off on the exclamation points while they’re at it. Rather than stabbing jobseekers with their text, they could apply those words that make the prospective employee feel included, welcomed and supported. Or maybe these words they’ve chosen are simply an indication of how much they really do need new writers on their team? Food for thought.