writing prompt: ads

There are lots of writing exercises out there that involve the quick-fire approach of using an classified ad as a starting point. The infamous Hemingway baby shoes one-liner is an example (forgive me if I don’t provide the link, yet again). I often had students write or respond to personal ads as an in-class writing assignment. One kind of classified ad is less suited to this kind of writing exercise, and that is, job ads.

Job ads tend to be very dry. We need x, y, z; get in touch if this is you. Some companies take recruitment more seriously and they indulge in marketing speak. Wow, are we a great company to work for!

My personal advice for anybody writing any kind of ad? Stay away from WOW.

Every once in a while I see an employment ad that jolts me, the kind of thing that gets story ideas firing immediately. Here’s one I saw today:

Farsi Linguist with Final Top Secret / SCI clearance for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Who would apply for this job? Really, I’m serious. A fluent speaker of Farsi is somebody either native to that part of the world, or somebody with close ties and long associations. So I ask again: who would apply for this job?

Have you ever run across a job ad that stopped you in your tracks? I’m not talking about the overblown fake-ads (for example: earn 3k a month lounging on your couch and eating bonbons!) I mean real ads that are astounding or outrageous in some way. Back a long time ago when I was looking for my first academic appointment I remember seeing some postings that took my breath away, usually from small colleges, something like this: non-tenure track faculty member to teach four introductory composition sections each trimester, take over undergraduate advising for the English Department., and assume the normal range of administrative responsibilities.

Which basically meant: come work your rear off teaching the most time intensive courses we’ve got and anything else we can think to heap on your desk, including but not limited to sweeping the halls, fixing the copier, and taking notes at every itty-bitty committee meeting. We’ve got next to nothing to pay you and after three years or so when you’re rung dry, we’ll boot you out for the next new PhD desperate for a job. If you had any research aspirations or family obligations let us just say: ha.

And still, I have to say the Guantanamo Bay linguist is the most disturbing ad I’ve ever run into.