I’ve got a couple of short-subject topics today, neither of which I have a whole lot to say about, but the two together might help you understand some of the reasoning behind why the job market is what it is.
Supply & Demand
You might hear this phrase in an economics class, but do you understand how it applies to the technical writing market?
Briefly: the products and services in our economy are priced based on their availability (supply) and how much people need them (demand). Availability of a given product or service will go up when the price customers are willing to pay for it goes up. However, the higher the price for a given product or service, the less people are going to want it. The supply and demand “curves” (usually those lines are more curvy like asymptotes) meet a point of equilibrium, which is the market price, which can fluctuate as supply or demand changes occur.
These dynamics are represented by the two lines on the graph below.
So how would this work in the tech writing job market?
Consider Huntsville, Alabama, a city with a lot of defense and technology companies. If the technology industry is booming, there is a high demand on the part of employers to hire technical writers and so they’re willing to pay more to hire a good one. Let’s say that word gets around that Seattle is the hot place for tech writers to get a job, so hundreds of them pack up and head for the Pacific Northwest so they can get in on the action.
Employers who previously had only five people applying for one position suddenly find they’ve interviewing ten or twenty people. With this much competition for jobs, the price/salary at which employers are willing to pay drops because there is now more competition. On the other hand, given the competitive market, the employers can’t force salaries too low because they might not get the candidate they want because someone else could outbid them. The equilibrium point (asking salary) is likely to stay higher than the national average because demand is so high.
On the flip side, a tourism-focused area like Orlando, Florida, does not have as much demand for technical writers. While the climate might be nice, there aren’t a lot of technical writers in the area…or at least not as many as in Huntsville. Salaries are much lower because companies are not competing for talent. The pressure on wages is downward.
As you can see, supply and demand can vary by location, though the pandemic is likely to change this as more people work from home and talent searches go national…which might be a topic for another day. Bottom line, for now: it’s easier and better to pursue a job where there’s more work (thanks, Captain Obvious!).
Last In, First Out
Speaking of hiring, if you’re a new hire at a company, and the economy suddenly turns sour or a major contract ends, you might want to keep your resume fresh. Why? It’s the “last in, first out” dynamic, and it’s pretty common.
It might seem unfair, but from a business point of view, the new guy/gal is the most expendable for a couple reasons:
- The company hasn’t spent a lot of money on you yet.
- If seniority is a priority in the organization, you’ll be at the bottom of the pecking order.
- You haven’t been around long enough to have added value or learned enough about the organization to be worth keeping.
Can you overcome this dynamic? Sometimes. You might attach yourself to key projects in the organization. You might bring in new business or become a key point of contact with an important customer. But, again, sometimes economics doesn’t care how nice you are.
I share these bits of insight for your situational awareness. English majors don’t always get a lot of education about the business world, so the more you know, the better you can navigate the experience. As usual, if anyone has questions about the dynamics of the business world, I’m here to help.
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Your friend the Economics professor likes this week’s post. Excellent wrangling of supply and demand and application to the job market. Bravo!