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Help needed

Updated: Dec 16, 2023

I've recently embarked on some exciting and fulfilling work for a small non-profit organization in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Some of the work involves revisions to their website, which needs quite a bit of TLC.

On a related note, let's have a look at the websites of two much larger, not-for-profit funding organizations: the United Way (British Columbia Division) and the Vancouver Foundation. On the whole, the main web content of both sites does a fine job of conveying seriousness and professionalism. The passages I want to look at come from job postings for upcoming positions within the organizations.

Does anyone else out there read job descriptions (just for the hell of it) and find most of them clunky and/or confusing? Maybe it's because they're temporary documents and thus aren't given much care and attention. Maybe employers are trying to cram as many descriptors of their ideal candidate as possible into the text. Maybe the presence of a lot of "sophisticated" (or hip, or politically correct, etc.) vocabulary is valued more highly than overall clarity. I'm not sure. (Maybe I should just be grateful I'm not desperately looking for work and am at leisure to nitpick about other people's writing!)

Here are a couple of examples:

The Vancouver Foundation is currently looking for a "Coordinator, Indigenous Priorities." The post is long; the responsibilities of the job are numerous—and, in many cases, unclear. For instance, the successful candidate will be expected to do the following:

  • Support delivering granting programs that advances Indigenous priorities, including identifying resourcing needs and coordinating communications

  • Collaborates with other departmental liaisons to support alignment of data needs across the organization

While it's not impossibly difficult to guess what the first of these phrases means, the wording is extremely awkward. Here is what I think is the intended meaning:

  • Help administer programs that provide funding and other support for Indigenous groups, by identifying the groups' needs and managing communications between all program participants

As for the second responsibility, I'm guessing the successful candidate will collaborate with people in other departments ... but I confess I have no idea what "alignment of data needs" means.

The United Way, for its part, is seeking a "Community Builder" (Lonsdale neighbourhood) with the following skills:

  • You can share an inspirational message and can catalyze people to use their ideas to strengthen their community. 

  • As a creative, you are happy to sit with a resident and generate ideas for ways they can contribute to their community. You have confidence in the process and can lean into discomfort and ambiguity to make things happen.

Hmm ... I'm not sure I would like to be catalyzed. It sounds painful. The meaning of the sentence is clear, but a simple "help" or "encourage" would be better, I think. The wording of the second bullet point is similarly awkward—particularly the idea of leaning into ambiguity. How about this: "You enjoy collaborating with community members to generate ideas and accomplish goals, even when the process is uncomfortable or uncertain"?


My revision is still wordy and, somehow, inadequate. Maybe certain job postings aren't much different from dating app profiles. Descriptions can be helpful, but ultimately the qualities that make for a good match will be hard to express in words.

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