When I get bored I look up job openings for tech writers. I also surf craigslist for apartments. I do this because it’s a good idea to know where I can work and what it would cost to live there. For example, an editorial assistant in New York City doesn’t make enough to live alone in Manhattan. If I were going to work there (and since I’m going into book publishing, it’s a viable option), I’d need to live outside of Manhattan, and that would mean a morning commute that would need to be factored into the workday.

I also do these kinds of searches to see what skills I need for various companies. I was looking at job openings at Google (because all those pictures of their offices intrigue me), and they require tech writers with an understanding of various computer languages. I know HTML and some CSS. I understand how to use almost the entirety of the Adobe suite. To work for Google, I’m going to need to know C++ and Python and Java. I know none of these. Luckily, I don’t actually want to work for Google, but knowing what’s required lets me see what I could learn to make me a more well-rounded technical communicator.

The more you know, the more you can do, and the more you can do, the better you’ll get paid. Which means that with the right combination of skills, I could afford an apartment in Manhattan at some point.

The next time you get bored, don’t hit the StumbleUpon button. Pick through the want ads and browse through apartment listings. Take twenty minutes and figure out what it takes in skills and cash to work at a job you want in a city you want. Plan further ahead than a security deposit. Plan far enough ahead that what you have to offer is what’s being looked for in the first place.