5 Rules to Write By

By , June 20, 2009
I used to work as an administrative assistant [AA] for a temp-to-hire placement agency. For one assignment, they placed me at this company where their AA was on maternity leave. Their temp worker before me got the flu, so I was up. A very nice man was assigned to walk me through what I would be doing for them through the end of the week. We got along well, and it wasn’t because I was nice and he was nice. It turned out, he was nice to me because I knew stuff. On the second day, he asked me why I was doing temp work with all the skills I had.

I Learned a Few Things

What intrigued me was that I thought my skills were regular for anyone doing that job. When I told him as much, he laughed and said, “Uh, no. You know—” he paused to check for ears close by; seeing none he still lowered his voice to a clear whisper,”—more than a lot of people around here, definitely more than any temp I’ve seen come through our doors.” That exchange, and the rest of the week, showed me a lot. It went a long way to inform my work practices, mainly because it served to reinforce what I was already practicing. Several freelance jobs helped me to see the damage that can be done when people try to foster a friendly relationship instead of maintaining a worker/client relationship. And from these work experiences, I developed a core set of rules to write by. And I’m hoping my experiences can help you shape your core set of rules too.

1. Keep up Your Skills

I had mad skills. People notice when you can do a thing. It wasn’t that I could write a letter. It was that I could write the content, format the text, send it, flip it, make it into columns, copy, paste, drag and drop it. Companies have people who appreciate employees who can get a job done. For that reason, critically important to keep up your skills. You don’t want to miss deadlines because you didn’t know the mechanics of your hardware, software, or where to get the answer to a grammar question.

2. Keep up With Technological Advances

Microsoft Word is the predominant word processing application on the market. I am a die-hard fan of Corel WordPerfect. Don’t for an instant think that I would try to insist on having a company adopt software that I know and love just because. And even now, I have to convert my documents to PDF, (a piece of cake in WordPerfect for several version now), so that I can send it out. You’ll find that different word processing applications have universal behaviors. And then they have quirks that follow their individual logic. Love what you love, but learn what companies need.

3. Do What You Do

You may not have noticed, but I am a firm believer in being well-rounded. It’s important that a worker know more than their main job. That being said, unless you become an expert, don’t pretend you are one. Okay, you know software that the company doesn’t know well. You can help them to learn ins and outs of the application. You can charge for that, too. However, if you work for a company that wants you to suggest software, don’t do it. Again, if you’ve not become an expert, and don’t keep up with the latest trends and innovations, then you’re not giving the best and most well-researched advice. That’s a disservice to the company and to your reputation.

4. Always, Be Polite

Remember the movie Road House with Patrick Swayze. He told the bouncers, whatever comes up be polite…until it was time to not be polite. They had a cooler, who was Patrick Swayze’s character. You don’t. You have to know for yourself how to interact with co-workers different environments. Know how to talk to managers, secretaries, directors, custodians, and how to talk up for yourself when you need to.

5. Do Your Best Work

I know it sounds trite. But it really does bear stating. Some people, I heard and saw, thought that your best meant being best friends. Not quite the key. Socializing has a place but not before the job. Water cooler chatter is not for you if you want:
  • to be taken seriously
  • to steer clear of office politics
  • to execute your work in a timely manner
  • to be considered for more work
As a freelance writer, you will rarely have time to get into this kind of trouble. So, if you manage, then shame on you. And on those rare occasions, when you do have to go into an office setting, keep work in mind. If you’re there and you see a friend, or your meeting is with your friend, conduct business first if not only. Save your visiting for another time. If you run into them, be brief, and stay focused on the job you’re paid to do. And, believe it or not, you can be professional and still share your truly effervescent personality. In your work, you probably have guidelines that keep your production up. What are some of the things that you do to let people see the professional in you?

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