The Odyssey Effect

AKA, the as-soon-as-you-buy-a-new-car-everyone-has-that-car effect.

Okay, I made up the Odyssey Effect*, but it turns out there is a name for that phenomenon: it’s called Baader-Meinhof phenomenon or, more scientifically, frequency illusion. And it doesn’t just apply to products. Words, songs, and even the language in job postings can trigger the feeling.

I was reminded of the “Odyssey Effect” while at a recent STC chapter meeting. A new member and I were talking about job hunting. She is stronger in tools knowledge and experience but weaker in domain knowledge, whereas I am just the opposite. When searching for jobs, she remembers all the postings requiring domain knowledge (network engineering experience, etc.), and I remember all the postings requiring FrameMaker and so on. As a result, we each think there are more job postings for the other person.  In this case, our frequency illusion comes about because of selective attention to something we are missing, rather than something we have. Realizing my fellow job-seeker (even with her skills) was also experiencing frustration was an ah-ha moment. Shared pain. It helps.

Although, in both cases the frequency illusion is not entirely an illusion. There are more job postings that require experience with specific technical writing tools than not. And there are many job postings requiring specific and varied types of domain knowledge. Just as I cannot learn every tool, it is impossible for my colleague (or me) to be conversant in all flavors of domain knowledge.

So, what to do? Continue learning as many tools as I can, build a portfolio through real experience, and start a blog. But also, stay objective and avoid selective attention to skills I have yet to develop. Then, when I find that right company that needs my talents, I will be ready.

*The Odyssey Effect: Because after you buy a Honda Odyssey, everyone in your neighborhood has a Honda Odyssey.


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