Knowing a Little More Saves a Lot

By , June 22, 2009

There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

How many times have you heard that? A gazillion, right? Well there’s a reason it’s so popular: It’s simply true most of the times. It’s an optimistic way of looking at everything in life.

If you can’t get it one way, there’s almost always another way to make a software program do what you need. If you’re not seeing what you need in a photo, there’s another way that you can set your camera to force the outcome. If it’s film, you may be able to catch it in the developing.

No, Not a Jack of All Trades

Some people think that because they are one thing, that’s all they have to be. Really, though, nothing is further from the truth. In daily life, it’s almost counterproductive to be only the one thing you say you are. Certainly, trying to live and work that way can be quite constraining.

I want to focus specifically on writers—you’re surprised, I know—but you can really apply it to any line of work you’re in. Let’s look at just a couple of related areas where learning their basics can improve your work life:

  • Computer – Learn how to turn it on and off the right way, how to attach and remove keyboards, mouses, USB flash drives. More than this may require an IT Guru, but if your keyboard fries, trust me unless the company requires it, you don’t want to have to make a big deal and create a time-suck getting on the help list.
  • Applications – If you can’t type, learn. If you can type, so much the better, since you’re writer and typing is what you’ll be doing. Learn how to open and close applications, save documents to desired locations, email a document in the body of a message or as an attachment
  • Coding – If you’re uploading to the internet, directly into a company site, (this doesn’t often happen), it’s good to know about how to format your text with HTML codes. Usually documents are submitted and the website will code as needed. Knowing the basics can make it easier for you to work with code people. For example, you don’t format title text in HTML. This is usually done in CSS when you indicate the heading as ‘<h1, 2, or 3>’ as desired
  • Platforms – Computers use PC or Mac operating systems [OS]. Knowing one will make it easy if you should ever need to migrate to the other. Your favorite software may behave a little differently on the platform different from yours. At least if you know this, you can be on guard for what might be different

What’s the Goal?

Do you need degrees in everything? Certainly not. The idea is to be able to do your job fully. Say you’re a writer. It will help you immeasurably to be able to put on your editor’s hat and revise your drafts. It saves time and frustration for you and your client/employer, when you don’t have to return to the same document countless times before it’s done.

Doing all that you can with a work in the basics of writing, allows more times for other things. Some of the things that can occur are creative and content changes. When the entire or large portions of the focus of the piece must be changed, you’ll be glad that you don’t have to focus on the mechanics of getting the writing done.

I am such a strong believer in that, until I include it in my resume. You’d be surprised how many times employers pointed out that it was an important piece of what they were looking for. They often made mention of how often candidates didn’t offer that piece.

As a writer, you can’t need grammar guidance, basic resource guidance, basic editing input. At least, not if you want to be taken seriously. In any job you pursue, there are core skills you’ll need to execute your tasks efficiently. Learn what they are and master them. If you can do that before you ask for the job then so much the better. If not, and you’re willing to learn on the job, present that as part of your attractiveness to the employer.

For freelancers, short term jobs may not offer this leeway. In that case, pick a different job. Because, you don’t want to waste anybody’s time/money. And that’s your only recourse because lying (fudging) is not an option.

A Little Extra Helps Everyone

Again, it can help in many professions to be able to perform more than your hired skill-set. We’re talking about writers because that is what I know. A close relation to this job is secretary and administrative assistant. I know these professions can also benefit from the extras discussed here.

Above, I listed four areas and why they can help you. Writers have broad particulars for how they write. For poetry, I rarely start a poem on computer. My preference is to write it longhand first. If I only wrote poetry, I still would need to type. Well, unless I only wrote it for me and never submitted or posted to a website or anything. And if, I was sure that my handwriting was good enough for me to return to it years later and still be able to read what I’d written and not have to guess.

I heard of a writer who insisted that typing was horrible and counter productive for creativity. She actually insisted on writing an entire novel draft longhand. The first person she sent it to, sent it back with a letter. She said that there were expletives in it. I never saw the letter so I can’t say for certain. But I know I wasn’t surprised. And apparently, she couldn’t be talked out of this by her friends and peers.

What is a little extra?

If you’re a writer, look at your skills almost as a jumping-off point. Just a little more will have you sailing along.

  • Learn how to type. Repeated for emphasis, but I don’t really want to call it extra. If you’re serious about writing, more importantly if you want others to take you and your writing seriously you need to know how to type, seriously.
  • Learn how to save files to locations other than the desktop. If you’re on a computer that doesn’t allow you to save, know how to get your work.
    • Save it to a flash drive. Know what a flash drive is. Also known as: Travel drive, USB drive, jump drive, and a few other names I can’t put
    • Know how to paste it into the body of an email if you can’t save it to send to yourself
    • If you can save documents only temporarily until your done, remember to delete the file and empty the trash. (If you don’t know what that means in computer-speak, you have a little work to do.)
  • Learn how to maneuver in the admin area. If you want to say yes to these types of assignments, get familiar with the applications beforehand, starting with the most popular. Two of the more popular content management systems [CMS] are Joomla! and WordPress. Depending on your work, you may even need some knowledge of cPanel.
  • Joomla is very powerful and a little complicated to use. WordPress started out as a blogging platform and is quickly evolving to a formidable content management system. Learn either one that you need. Or, to be really versatile, learn them both.
  • Get internet-savvy if your not already. Develop your core resources links and keep them at hand. Get a Gmail account and set up a Google document with all the links you need. There are a few ways to get this done, but a Gmail email account is a very powerful tool to have in your arsenal. You will grow into all that it can do for you.
  • Keep your personal email account personal. On my last job, I needed a Gmail account so I set up another one for work purposes. There’s no reason to mix your work email with your personal stuff and it shouldn’t be done.

These are just a few tips that will improve your job experience. They should increase your productivity, measurably, in time saved and money earned.

Who is Everyone?

Everyone involved is you: increasing your income and free time. Your boss: increasing his content in a timely manner. Your family: increasing the time you can spend with them, the things you can provide, and the better disposition as a result of being satisfied with your job. And, unless this is your first job ever, you know that’s a big  bonus.

Happy projections include an increased client base as word of your professionalism and skill gets around.

You’ve heard these things before, yes? Perhaps you’ve heard of other things too. Share your experiences if you’ve implemented these ideas in your work life. If you get some ideas here, I’d love to hear how they work out for you.

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