Passing The Torch: Get In The Game
I was blessed that when I graduated school, I had a dynamic, successful, no-bull mentor, Al Holiday. Al cared enough about our industry, and me, to selflessly take the time to sit down this know-it-all, recent court reporting graduate, and drill into my head the opportunity that I was potentially missing. For 35 years I have shared this story with every intern, young peer and industry friend. Although these are from the freelance experience, the same required tenacity and work ethic applies across the board. I’ve also updated this presentation to include the technology explosion that has taken place, as these “Keys To Excel” apply to many professions and careers.
Continue To Grow: Never rest on your accomplishments. Keep current on cutting-edge technology and continue to reach career milestones. Do not let up on attaining your next certification, whether it be RPR, RMR, RDR, CRR, writing successful bid proposals, or whatever your industry offers as the next milestone.
Get involved in your state association, leadership committees, and plan on being a resource to others. It won’t happen overnight. Take baby steps and get your toe in the water early in your career. Now. Today.
“If not now, then when? If not me, then who?”
Get Organized: Before your first depo, project or meeting know how you’re going to organize and label, produce and archive your files, whether testimony, legal writings, solicitations or otherwise. These are in your toolbox for your entire career. And, backup, backup, backup. Do NOT trust yourself or your hardware, get self-starting update software, (a separate self-executing hard drive backup (like http://www.seagate.com), or better yet $8 a month online backup with http://www.carbonite.com.)
Feed Your Pipeline: Always keep things moving into, and out of, your production “Pipeline.” Write, edit, print. You’re never standing still, you’re always moving, producing. If you’re not writing or working on a project this afternoon between 2 and 6, you are not “off.” You are always available, (no matter what the call-in) while editing/proofing and vice versa. Your personal time is predictable and scheduled, and all other time is devoted to servicing your clients and/or firm.
Real Time or Wasted Time: Never write a job without setting up for real time. Never. Even if you don’t use it. You are investing in your own productivity and future by fine tuning your writing each hour, each job, each day. These dividends add up fast. Two years from now you’ll be absolutely amazed at what translates perfectly, even during miserably challenging expert testimony. Plus, technology keeps improving. You’ll need a good lead time to build a solid foundation of tech knowledge.
Elite reporter’s dictionaries rock because of this practice. Also, when real time is requested, it’s one more step that is common and comfortable to you. You are already dialed in, able to have complete focus and enjoy writing. Yes, I said it: NJOY writing. It is a very rewarding endeavor knowing you are knocking it out of the park, writing real time clean with a respected and professional audience depending on you. You are at the top of your industry, and everyone in the room knows it.
Superior Work Ethic: Every successful freelancer/owner that I know, has been the type of reporter that I describe below. All of these respected peers and friends came right out of school and hit the ground running (sprinting) with a superior work ethic and level of professionalism. They smoked other reporters’ productivity with a higher level of determination and diligence. Right from the starting gate, these “A” players had the foresight and vision to recognize opportunity, and were abundantly rewarded not only monetarily, but with a quality of career that many can only dream of.
Working For A Freelance Firm
1) Balance: Never let your pipeline get so backlogged and loaded with notes that you can’t keep a promised deadline; but ensure that you have flexibility to put a transcript a day (or two) out of rotation. To do this effectively you must be adept at communicating with each client about exactly what they need and expect. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Keeping your worries, questions and hands in your pockets, afraid to have a friendly, detailed professional discussion with each and every counsel about their expectations does NO ONE any good. How do you relay your non-communication back to the firm owner? Additionally, non-communication is a red flag to attorneys. They will appreciate that you are taking the time to inquire precisely what their parameters are. If you are timid, afraid or shy, build a bridge . . . and get over it.
2) Optimize Your Skills: Do not be the reporter that continually gets walked on accepting weak and infrequent workload from a firm for an extended period of time, getting so few assignments that your pipeline is always empty, as you constantly are waiting around begging for notes, like a dog in a kennel waiting for scraps from the big dogs. If this situation exists, your skills and commitment are not being optimized and respected. Let others sit in that kiddie pool. The water smells there anyway.
3) Perform Like An Olympic Champion: Respectfully eclipse your competition (other reporters in your same pool or firm) simply by outperforming them. Just like in sports, actions and results speak louder than words. There is no need nor place to gloat or boast, just surpass the crowd and get it done. Everyone will see your consistent dedication, sacrifice and superior performance. Some can hang, some can only hang on. You decide which you want to be.
4) Availability: If you say you’re “available” to work Monday to Friday 8:00 to 6:00, then you are completely ready and available to that agency each and every minute of that time, not making excuses, or moaning about the assignment, or turning down work because you’ve just scheduled an unplanned mani/pedi with Monique for 2 hours. It pays off when the quality job comes, and the owner is looking at the pool and wondering who is going to be rewarded…the productive workhorse….or the bellyacher with the fabulous toes.
You can catch up, edit, print, etc., on your own time, in the middle of the night and on weekends. J We firm owners really don’t object to when, as long as it’s not on our time. Just as long as you make yourself available for the impossible task that we have of covering/juggling multiple jobs, firms, proceedings, venues and personalities each and every day. Sorry for the tough love, but we cannot build a business which will ultimately feed you better and more frequent work if we can’t depend on you.
It’s your career. Ask yourself, “How do I see my career playing out?” Do you want to be the “A” player, the go-to person that the coach relies on in tough situations, who is always in the game on each key play? Or, do you want to be the casual floater your entire career, sitting on the bench, pouty-lipped murmuring, “How come they never throw ME the ball?”
You are our future, our new heroes, our Steno Olympians. Now, suit up, get in the game, and GO FOR IT!
We are all counting on you to carry the torch to others in the years to come.
Bringing 35 years/4000+ proceedings to your team:
Marty Herder, CSR, CCR,
Az Litigation Support, LLC.