Hit the ground and just take it easy for a bit, you ninjas

You see this a lot in job advertisements: Candidates need to be able to hit the ground running.

Hit the ground running. I guess what this really means is that once you plant yourself at your desk on your very first day, you need to know what to do. Without any inconvenient hassles like training or guidance.

Reminds me of this dangerous* toy I had when I was a kid. The SSP Racer was a car that you pulled a zip cord through to make the wheels spin, and when you put the car on the ground, it zoomed off like a rocket. Loved those things. Problem is, when those cars hit the ground running, they usually just spun out erratically and crashed into a wall.

I suppose if I were ever writing a job description, I might revise it to say:

Candidates need to be able to hit the ground and be still for a minute, take in your surroundings, figure out where things are and how you fit in. Examine your role in the operation and work on ways that we can all benefit from your knowledge and expertise. Carefully explore the terrain and try to learn from the experience of the others around you. Meanwhile, we’ll provide excellent training and support.

This is probably why I don’t write job ads. Anyway, while we’re here, you might as well listen to me rant about a few other hiring cliches I’ve had just about enough of:

Rock stars: I don’t think HR departments realize how terrible rock stars are. They’re moody, unpredictable, ultrasensitive, with explosive tempers. Are these really the traits you’re looking for? Because I think I could be a good fit. Wait, you just mean very talented? Ah. Guess you could have said that instead. Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that not all rock stars are talented (I’m looking at you, Anthony Keidis).

Ozzy Osbourne applies for a job
Yes, right, well, my skills include shrieking and stomping around. At my previous firm, Black Sabbath, I helped define a genre. I type about 50 words a minute and am proficient in the Microsoft suite of products, including PowerPoint.

Ninjas: Companies often want ninjas to work for them. Not sure how being a stealthy assassin can help us achieve positive momentum on our initiatives and mission-critical deliverables or whatever, but I’ll play along. Are tabi boots and throwing stars included as part of employment, or am I responsible for my own weapons and gear?

Where is everyone?
Where is everyone? I don’t know, Phil, looks like everyone’s been assassinated. Whose idea was it to hire that ninja, anyway?

Wizards: Oh, you want me to do magic? Gotcha. (No disrespect intended, but this salary does not seem commensurate with actual wizardry—is there a typo in that number?)

Team player: There’s no I in TEAM, everyone! There is a me, though, so whatever. I’m not even sure what being a team player means in all these job ads. Especially when it’s always paired with the requirement that a candidate be able to work with little or no direction. Which is it, people? Am I part of a team or am I a lone wolf?

Self-starter: I guess this is where being a self-starter comes in. No idea what you should be doing? Figure it out. Then do it.

Show initiative: It’s been my experience that most managers are really annoyed by people who show initiative, so stop asking for it.

Competitive salary: We pay just as little as the other companies. Also, we will never actually tell you what this competitive salary is unless we hire you, after we’ve already taken up a lot of your time and ours.

Applying and interviewing for jobs is a horrible, degrading, soul-crushing process. The people who write job ads could make things easier on everyone by just saying what they mean.

* In the 1970s, toys weren’t dangerous. Children were dangerous. If you used a toy wrong, it wasn’t the toy’s fault. Like that time I pulled one of the zip cords on my SSP Racer and put the spinning wheels directly onto my stupid head. My hair got tangled around both axles, and my mom had to shave my head to remove it, leaving an enormous, gaping bald spot above my left ear that let the world know that I was an idiot kid who couldn’t be trusted with simple toys. They stopped making the SSP Racer soon after, and I guess the world is a safer place for stupid children.

SSP Racer
Hey, kids, rev this thing up and put it directly onto your head. Totally safe. You will not regret it ever.

Going forward, I see potential upside to synergies

But only if we can leverage our core competencies!

It’s been a long time, everyone. Have you missed me? Of course you have.

I’ve been away for the past few months getting used to my new day job at Morningstar, the financial people, not the sausage company. That’s right: High Finance. I bring the street to Wall Street. Or something.

Anyway, in addition to learning about daytime commuting, I’m also learning a great deal about stocks, markets, Big Business, “financials,” P/E ratios, forward earnings, trailing 12-month earnings, CAGRs. It’s a little overwhelming sometimes, but fun. I remember feeling like this before, back when I worked in the Sports department of a newspaper even though I wasn’t a “sports guy.” You get the jargon wrong in a baseball story, your coworkers will torment you for a long time.

The language of finance is really, like with any other specialty, very much its own language. The editors try to keep the jargon to a minimum, but it’s a losing battle, I’m afraid. Fact is, in any specialized industry or field, its language is a large part of what distinguishes it. Legal writing, medical, academic — a certain amount of jargon indicates authority. But it’s also often used to exclude, to show off, or to cloud meaning (obfuscate!). And the audience, too, expects a certain amount of jargon or it can feel like you’re being talked down to. Most readers of financial documents know what EPS means, so do we need to spell it out for them? I think that might be insulting to some readers. But readability is important, too; nobody likes to read a bunch of abbreviations or other shorthand.

It’s unlikely we’ll eradicate jargon, nor should we strive to. It’s just a matter of balance and purpose, I guess. Like editing any other kind of copy: You want accuracy and clarity, with a focus on readers.