Don’t expect to be an expert in a new job
December 1, 2010 7 Comments
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.