Don’t expect to be an expert in a new job

Edited Obama

An edited Obama speech - he certainly wouldn't claim to be an expert at his job

You’re experienced right? You’ve got an internship (or two or three), some work experience under your belt and a little bit of student media (or a lot) so you know what you’re doing. Right?

Or not…

Now, while I might be one to honk my horn from time to time, I like to think such honking is backed up by lots of very hard work, a careful, thoughtful approach to all I do and a tendency to throw myself into things without always checking someone put the safety mat out. (Disclaimer: recommended, but not my fault if you get hurt)

What I have been reminded of during my first full month at the Guardian is that you are always learning. Not a massive revelation I know, but one worth reflecting on so you can make the best of it.

It’s been a while since my copy was properly edited and challenged, since my decision making has come into focus and it has been utterly refreshing and a bit of a shock at the same time.

Let me ask you: How carefully do you consider the wording, meaning and tone of each sentence? How often do you waste words and therefore your reader’s time with your copy?

What I have been reminded of in the last four weeks is to remember who you are writing for. For me, for too long it has been students, other journalists and here on Hacks. A small and somewhat well defined community of people and I have developed a style that represents that.

Now some of the work I am doing is more B2B and ‘sector’ based, so my copy writing needs to adjust accordingly. I am of course not going to nail it straight away, or every time but that is why we have editors. Mine so far have been patient and happy to help guide me.

The thing is, you should not be frustrated by the learning curve, you should embrace it. Don’t just make the changes suggested or requested by an editor, understand them. You need to engage with your environment, your audience and your industry.

We have had several guest posters acknowledging that you will rarely, if ever, get to write about your passions. But the plus side is that you gain niche knowledge and get exposed to a range of opportunities that would not have come your way otherwise.

This is true as long as you do take on board criticism, don’t expect to start out an expert; I mean that whether you are writing about your area of ‘expertise’ or cranes or fish (unless they are your expertise!) just remember you do not know it all.

Running before you can walk is always ungraceful and ultimately you will end up flat on your face. Sometimes baby steps (and they are called that for a reason) are the best way forward. That does not mean you should not be reaching for the stars, I’m a big one for unbridled ambition (ask the Chancer)…

But it does mean have a road map and route planned to get there.


About Nick Petrie
Social Media & Campaigns Editor @TheTimes of London. Co-founder @Wannabehacks. Interested in communities, conversations, storytelling.

7 Responses to Don’t expect to be an expert in a new job

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Don’t expect to be an expert in a new job « Wannabe Hacks --

  2. I remember back at the start of second year when I did a short work experience placement at a local newspaper and was told that my style of writing was totally wrong for it. I hadn’t appreciated the aim of the newspaper. Now, having worked my way around various different topics, publications and target markets as a freelancer, intern and former Redbricker, I like to think I’ve got a better understanding but more importantly, know that I don’t know best. I’m now at a marketing company where terms like ‘brand identity’ and ‘target market’ are thrown around liberally, and it’s definitely an asset to have worked across a lot of sectors and learned to appreciate how many different markets there are out there.
    I say worked…I’m still ‘the intern’ too.

    • The Intern says:

      Sometimes it can be really hard to get the measure of an audience / readership. Especially if you are new to the industry you are covering – when this is the case you cannot be afraid to ask for help/guidance from those around you who know more than you.

  3. rosieniven says:

    Some of my longest days have been my first day on a job. I remember getting out about three hours after I was due to finish because there was so much to take in. So when do we find out what you are working on at the Guardian? Don’t keep us in suspense!

  4. emanuelle_esposti says:

    It may be a cliche, but I think we are all still learning in everything we do, and we should attempt to cultivate both the grace and the strength of character to accept criticism where it’s due and to learn from ourselves and those around us!

  5. Adam Smith says:

    “How carefully do you consider the wording, meaning and tone of each sentence? How often do you waste words and therefore your reader’s time with your copy?”

    Nailed some of the key considerations there. Been one of the biggest wake up calls on my course.

    • The Intern says:

      Hi Adam

      I approved this comment so I could ask you to make it again in the morning when we launch our new site – any content / comments added now are not coming over.

      Thanks very much

      The Intern.

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