What kind of job does my spouse want?

Okay, so the spouse is in the early stages of a job hunt. He’s currently employed, but the place where he’s working is doing the same thing that his old job (which he left) was doing, even though they told him they wouldn’t–asking him to work a lot of late evenings and weekends to support arbitrary schedules, and causing him a lot of stress. I won’t go into where he works, obviously, but both this job and the previous one are involved with quality assurance for a consumer electronics product.

A bit of history: He was in software development for about 5 years, starting in 1989, working on various enterprise software projects. After that, he moved into software quality assurance, doing various jobs up to and including team leadership (but no management–he’s not really interested in the management path). In 2002 he switched over to software quality assurance for a very successful small consumer electronics device, which he did until early last year. He left that company because the schedules got insane, the management expected ridiculous time commitments, and he didn’t mesh with the new management team. Since the middle of last year he’s been working for another consumer electronics company doing pretty much the same job. He likes the people there but the schedules are starting to get almost as bad as the previous company. He’s a hard worker and a good one, but he’s at the point in his life where he doesn’t want to work like a fresh-out-of-college engineer, giving up all his nights and weekends to the cause.

So…he’s been going to a career counselor, and trying to figure out what he wants to do. I know he would be very good at technical writing (which is what I do, incidentally), since he writes very well and his technical background is much stronger than mine. He’s very good at explaining things to people (and loves to do it) so he would also be good at training. Finally, he’s good at QA and has a knack both for finding bugs that others miss and for designing systems and test structures. The career guy agrees that any of these would be good for him, but if he could find something that combined two or more, he’d be happy as a clam.

He asked me to ask around and see if anyone I knew might be aware of jobs that might combine some aspects of tech writing, training, and/or software QA, so of course I immediately thought of the Dope. :slight_smile:


  1. He doesn’t want to travel. Period. So something like a trainer job where he’d have to go all over the country delivering classes is right out.

  2. He wants a relatively predictable schedule. He doesn’t mind working late nights or weekends temporarily to get something out (that’s just part of the industry) but he doesn’t want to be working late every night and be “on call” for weekends so he can’t make plans.

  3. He wants to work in a stable company that’s not on the cutting edge of technology. Something where the product cycles are long and predictable, not short and insane.

  4. At this point, he doesn’t really care if the product is “boring.” He’s worked on very boring relational database QA before and didn’t mind it at all. He’s had it with working on “rock star” products that eat your life.

  5. He’s making pretty good money now, but we can afford for him to take a pay cut for the right job, as long as it’s not a huge pay cut.

So…any ideas? I’m not looking for particular companies (though suggestions wouldn’t be bad, of course–we’re in the Silicon Valley/San Jose area) but more like types of jobs that might combine two or more of the three things he’s good at: QA, tech writing, and training/explaining things.


I worked professionally as a tech writer for many years, first as an employee and then as a freelance. He could do a lot worse than simply set himself up as a freelance tech writer. Thanks to the rise of the 'net, it’s never been easier to announce your services, spread the word, and find work. I tried this for several years, and they were very happy years indeed.

It’s relatively easy work for someone with your spouse’s aptitude and background, and it tends to pay quite well. It’s quite a specialised skill. The number of available technical writers in any given area tends to be quite small, and the number of good writers actually worth hiring is smaller still.

If he can manage the basics, he’ll do well: deal honestly and fairly; be punctual and reliable; get the specs of the work understood and agreed in writing by all concerned before the work is done, especially the decision-makers and whoever will be approving payment; work fast, efficiently and achieve a good ‘right first time’ level of dependability; be thorough, and always deliver just a little bit more than was strictly necessary, to show goodwill.

What about teaching at a community college or a career center? AFAIK most community colleges do not require teaching degrees, rather they prefer actual experience in the field.

Thanks for the suggestions–I’ll pass them along. The freelance thing sounds like a great idea, except for the fact that I neglected to mention another pertinent fact: he hates selling himself. He wouldn’t enjoy having to go out and beat the bushes for employment.

What he’d really like to do is find a place he can settle in and stay. Variety is not what he wants right now.

The community college idea is interesting–hadn’t thought of that at all. I’ll see what he thinks of it.

Thanks again!

Regardless of how his day job evolves, the Community College avenue may worth pursuing. Many such institutions have evening and weekend courses, and he might make a good part-time instructor. Also, he might be able to cultivate some job leads that way. Just be careful regarding the school’s policies - although your husband does not sound like the type that would devote an entire lecture in shameless self-promotion.

I’ll take a moment in passing to say you are adding more and more riders/conditions, and building up a picture of your spouse as a rather shiftless person individual who doesn’t want to do much, and is hoping some perfect, easy job will just fall into his lap. Not saying he is like that. But it’s the picture I get from your description so far. If a few months from now he still hasn’t found that wonder job, perhaps it will be because someone with more drive and determination worked harder to find it and get it?

Anyway, if he wants to follow the route I was suggesting, he wouldn’t have to sell himself much. I never did. Here’s the path.

  1. Sign up with every agency you can find that supplies freelancers to the IT industry. Some will say they don’t handle tech writers. Ignore them and supply your details anyway. Get your details and your resume and the fact that you’re a freelance tech writer for hire stashed in as many databases as possible. It is impossible to overdo this.

  2. Set up a simple, one page website effectively just saying, ‘Freelance tech writer for hire’. Learn about meta tags and use them, so that people can actually find you on the web. Be sure to include a nice, smiling, friendly photo and up-to-date contact details, including a direct phone number.

  3. Wait for the phone to ring or the email to arrive. It will, but never at a convenient time.

  4. Be ready and available to start work at the drop of a hat. When the first gig does come along, and it will, you might well get a 9am phone call for a 10.30 appointment / interview / start time. It happens. Have a clean shirt and a business suit ready to throw on. Have a briefcase fully stocked and ready to go. Your most powerful magical incantation at this stage is the phrase, ‘I can start immediately, I’ll be right over’.

  5. Don’t haggle over your first three assignments, no matter how lousy the terms and conditions are. Until you have your track record of three recent assignments, your bargaining power is effectively zero. You need these first three gigs to build up a track record and some industry contacts.

  6. Do your first three assignments. Do a great job in each case, build up contacts and connections, earn and ask for some glowing testimonials.

  7. Once you have three freelance assignments under your belt, you’re golden. This is what the IT industry wants to see: the three most recent assignments. Once you get to this stage, you have a track record and so you have some bargaining power.

Okay. I’m going to take this as my failing to explain things properly. Because he is most certainly not “shiftless” and isn’t looking for that perfect cushy job. What he’s looking for is something stable and predictable, that doesn’t require many late evenings and weekends in support of an arbitrary schedule that he has no control over. He wants a job where most days he can go into work at a regular time and leave at a regular time–where there aren’t “crises” every week that need everyone to give up their lives to handle them–even though they aren’t really crises at all and there’s a new one every week. He wants a job where the success of the product (and in some cases, the company) doesn’t ride on short intense schedules. In short, he wants a job where he can use his talents and experience and that acknowledges the fact that his job is an important part–but not the be-all and end-all–of his existence. He’s not “ambitious” in a conventional sense, and not interested in climbing the corporate ladder, though he is certainly willing and able to put in extra time evenings and weekends if it’s genuinely needed (please don’t miss this part). He’s a nerd (and I mean that in the most complimentary way). He wants to find his niche, settle in, do his usual good job, and have a life outside work.

Don’t tell me that such a job doesn’t exist–I have one. If my company was hiring, I’d have his resume in here in an instant. But if my company (a large database company) has jobs like that, I’m sure other companies do as well.

I apologize if some of that sounded defensive–it’s just that it came as quite a surprise to see him referred to as “shiftless” when he’s had a 20±year career in the software industry with numerous promotions and awards. At this point in his career he just wants to step out of the rat race a bit and slow down. If that’s “shiftless,” then I guess you can tag me that way too (the only difference is, I was lucky enough to end up in exactly the sort of job he wants to find too).

I do appreciate the rest of your advice, though. As I said, I don’t really think the freelance route is what he’s looking for, but I mentioned it to him last night and he agrees that it’s something worth investigating, at least.