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The Devil is in the Details

May 31, 2012
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When you make your living as an editor, details are everything. It’s not just that you’re a detail-oriented person, and so you are meticulous. People expect it from you, and hold you to a higher standard, or at least it feels that way. You’ve put yourself out there as someone who notices the small things, and so you’re held to that.

As a copy editor, you notice things like people using “that” instead of “who.” You notice that most people could take their writing to the next level just by deleting all the extra times they use the word “that.” You don’t necessarily obsess over correct grammar*, but it comes naturally and you enjoy editing.

Then you get laid off from your job as an editor, and your new job is writing and re-writing cover letters and resumes. You spend your days reading job descriptions and trying to figure out what each company means by project manager (because they’re all different). You rewrite your resume to make it sound like all your previous jobs were just mere preparation for the way you’ll fulfill their needs. Even though you’ve never heard of a company, and you think their job description is full of made up words to make them sound important, you want that job and you painstakingly prepare for it. Sure, your job as an editor did absolutely nothing to prepare you for a job as the assistant to an accountant, but you’re good with details! Details are everything!

But this new job of Cover Letter and Resume Writer is not like your old job. This new job is a lot more taxing because every time you send out a new application, you know it’s going to be rejected. And rejection sucks. Being judged from a single sheet of paper sucks. That’s just the way it is. You’re in the middle of a recession, and everyone is looking for a job. And those people probably have more experience than you. I sent out hundreds of applications for two years after my last full time job, and had one interview for a full time position. I’ve worked three different part time jobs since then (One I’m still doing, and I love it. Wouldn’t go back for anything.).

It’s like this. Let’s say you bought a new car. It’s not the Albert Einstein of cars, but it’s also not the Snooki of cars. It’s pretty average, and some might even call it slightly above average. You plan on driving this car for as long as possible, and the only thing that will make you buy a new car is if the engine falls out of your just-slightly-above-average car.

Not long after you buy your car, you get in a wreck. It wasn’t your fault, and it wasn’t anything really serious, but it still caused damage. After the wreck, things have changed and you end up driving the car a lot. More than you had ever planned on driving it, and it begins to take a toll on the car. It feels sluggish, and it doesn’t matter that you wash it regularly and get its oil changed every 3,000 miles. Your poor, slightly above average car is tired long before it should be.

That’s what unemployment feels like. You’ve been dealt this blow, and then you have to look for a new job. It’s not hard labor by any means, but it’s taxing. And you feel stupid for complaining about it, because why are you tired? You don’t go into work everyday. You spend your days looking at job boards, and then for 15 or 20 hours a week you work retail. Big whoop. You’re not looking after a child, or answering to a boss. You eat lunch while watching reruns on TV, and everyday is Saturday. But even when it’s Saturday, you feel guilty for relaxing because you didn’t earn that time off.

You feel yourself slipping and your brain feels like cotton. It’s like you took Nyquil, minus the ability to sleep. You used to notice every typo, and now you not only miss them, but you care a lot less about them.

And it’s not just grammar, but all other details. You’re out of practice, and you spend your days staring at a computer. Even when you get another job, your “time off” seems to have taken a permanent toll on your ability to notice details. You aren’t costing your company millions of dollars, but you make typos and misread things.

Then you make a hair appointment, think it’s at 2:30 p.m., and find out that it was actually at 2 p.m. You feel like a fool and try to figure out why your brain feels fuzzy and you can’t remember when to use whom instead of who. While you’re still trying to figure this out, you stop at Starbucks and hope that the espresso will make your brain sharp for even just a little bit, while you write a blog post about your worn out brain.


*Unless removing someone from your Facebook feed for horrible grammar is considered obsessing. But come on, how hard is it to use a period or a comma once in a while?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Schniff Schnaf Shalomie permalink
    June 1, 2012 5:28 pm

    Looks like others are falling back on the proofreading skills:

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/01/opinion/perlman-romney-needs-editor/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

  2. July 13, 2012 7:53 pm

    I was there last year – unemployed – and I feel for you. I’m working 70+ hours a week now and nowhere near as tired or stressed as I was when I was looking for work. I think it’s really a 24/7 job – being unemployed – because you never really “finish” for the day and then get to go home and relax, you are there all the time thinking maybe there is one more thing you need to do, or that you didn’t do enough.

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