Keep in mind that there are less fortunate people struggling to find one, so the best job in the market is the one you have now.
Meanwhile, here are some ways to make yourself indispensable (warning: list does not include cozying up to bosses).
If there’s anything this recession taught me, it’s that learning a new skill or program or taking on a new function isn’t just a meantime thing. It might lead you to a new, exciting career.
It’s happened to all of us, in varying degrees. We send off an e-mail by mistake. We attribute the wrong quote to a source. We pull out all the wrong numbers for a report. We launch a project that ends up a flop. Shit happens. But after getting red in the face, what does one do?
1. Acknowledge what went wrong. You can’t address a problem if you are in denial. I had a major boo-boo a few years ago, which was primarily a technical problem involving a new software that we were trying out. It was difficult not having anybody to talk to; more difficult because many people thought it was my mistake. Since news had spread, I couldn’t very well send out an apology letter to explain that it was a software glitch. But yes, I realized that part of it was my mistake.
2. Think of what could have been done to avoid the incident. I could have done a test to ensure that the program worked. I could have put the launch on hold when I realized that there was something off with the system. However, I did not. What was worse was that the agent who offered me the software lied and said he had instructed me not to go on with the launch.
3. Learn the lesson. Since then, I’ve learned to always test. And I’ve kept the lesson to heart. (Of course, if that happens again, I’m really screwed.)
4. Forget. Because we’re only human and we make mistakes. On to the next!
The busy freelancer never gets to blog.
Which explains why I have been silent for a month. I’m happy to say that my freelance career hasn’t been idle the last month. On the contrary, it’s been sizzling!
Just this month, my design partner finally completed the illustrations for a financial management book that we translated into comics. My part of the work had long been done as early as mid-January, but it was the illustrations that took ages–and for good reason too. D would never submit anything half-baked. The lesson? We’re now more realistic about setting deadlines after realizing you can’t finish a comic book in two weeks.
I’m pretty excited about this comic book thing, precisely because it is my first time to be “writing” a comic book. (You won’t see us in the credits, and we signed a contract saying we can’t include the gig in our portfolio.) I was understandably anxious in the beginning and scoured the bookstores for teenage comic books to familiarize myself with the nuances and the tone of comic book writing (I’m used to writing business stories). The Australian-based client was quite happy, thankfully, and appreciated the fact that I was still around to do the proofreading a month after completing the project.
And then there’s the coffee table book, the work for which started this month. February is ending, and I find my pace a bit slow, as there were management issues to address, such as finding a cover designer and surveying a list of local publishers for rates. We still don’t know whether we’re going local or international (Lulu or Blurb comes to mind), but maybe that is something I should not worry about. Getting the book finished first should be priority #1.
Which also means that the next five months will see me uber busy. The research for this book means I will be going out of town, something I haven’t prepared for yet, but I hope to go to Dipolog (Zamboanga del Norte) for it, sometime before Easter.
This is a new thing, seeing a book from nothing to something, and it’s something I’m really excited about. Already, I’ve negotiated with my boss at work (my full-time job) for a flexible schedule (nothing later than 9 a.m. PST), and I just got approval to work at home on Wednesdays! Oh glory! Now that is what you call “work from home.”
I’m still apprehensive about this “work from home” thing, as I know every person who does it for the first time is, but it will probably curb my control problem, so I can learn to trust others to bring their fair share to the table even though I am not around. Of course, this new “work from home” bit says something about how my boss trusts me enough to allow me to work outside the HQ, and I certainly don’t want anyone thinking I’m slacking off when nobody’s watching.
So there. It’s been exciting, and I’m breathless while I look forward to the next six months (oh, there’s another book project coming up–something, uh, fishy!) of lucrative, productive freelancing.
How about you? Any good thing happened to you?
P.S. Did I mention I was actually in the hospital for five days this February? Not stress-related, thank you (although I would have believed so), but something related to a previous appendectomy. The time away helped me a lot. I realize now how I miss (1) not doing anything, (2) getting 8 hours of sleep, and (3) sleeping at night.
Two people asked me this question today: my sister and an old friend–also a writer–when we were talking about colleagues from workplaces past.
While the conversation with a friend brought back some painful memories in my career, I realized that I like where I am now. I have a great job that pays well (it could pay more–hint, hint, boss) and teaches me so many new things. Now, I do more than writing–I also do e-mail marketing. It’s exciting and it keeps me on my feet.
On top of that, I have an equally exciting site on arts and culture–it gives me this happy feeling of being alive. And the projects haven’t stopped coming! (Thank God!) Right now, I’m writing a comic strip for a financial management book. I’m learning so much, not just with the nuances of writing for comics but also about managing my finances well.
We have different ideas of where we want to be, but in the course of life, our routes change and steer to another direction. I don’t think I am where I wanted to be (I wanted to be a novelist and a reporter for Time magazine when I was younger), but I am loving where I am now. And I think that matters a lot.
Are you happy where you are now, career wise?
Form and substance. It’s an idea I got from Joan O., whom I worked with early in my career. Writing should make sense, but most importantly, the presentation should be topnotch. Especially in public relations, where first impressions count, form matters greatly. You want to get people’s attention, but the idea has to have something more to it than just attraction.
At work now, I sometimes wonder—am I too demanding to ask for both form and substance? And more importantly, is it too much to ask people to have the initiative to strive toward form and substance? Does one have to give instructions to resize images so they fit on a screen? Is one too myopic not to notice that the font is too thin, too small—an eyesore? Again, is it too much to ask of a developer, a designer, a creative director to have a little more initiative, improve a little here and there, to take my suggestions and improve on it? Does one have to go by the letter? Is it too much to ask of a designer to look at the work from a reader’s point of view, from someone who knows nothing about typography or treading?
It is during times like this that I miss Sam, my American boss from a trade journal I worked with. Having done manuscript editing before I joined the magazine, I understood that every change was meant to improve a piece and was not a judgment of my capability as a writer. Certainly, there were times when we argued, times when I felt I had made the right judgment, but ultimately I took criticism and suggestions with the knowledge that these were meant to improve my craft and to come up with better copy.
These are times when I also miss good old N, my former significant other, a kick-ass designer whom I worked with briefly. His creations never failed to impress. He had a bunch of ideas, and he would constantly run them by me during our alone times. SEO. Design. Usability. These were things I learned even before I actually read about them.
I miss working with someone brilliant. While I surely am learning a lot of things from what I do now, a big chunk of it is my own doing. But don’t you just miss having brilliant people who never fail to make you think every single hour? I am glad there’s J, who keeps me sane, and whose reading preferences run parallel to the NYT best-sellers list. He lent me Freakonomics some months ago, and I haven’t returned it yet because I keep on reading it over and over, digesting the wisdom.
I just miss brilliant interaction, that’s all. I miss fellow writers and editors who send me well-written articles they’ve read about on NYT, Salon, NYMag. I miss Kace and how we laughed so much over Cary Tennis.
I miss a great mind fuck.