I am not exactly a career person nowadays. But I used to be…
In my pre-baby life I was a flight attendant, and later a customer service rep, scheduler and marketing rep at a flight training facility (full-motion simulators, not planes). After 9/11, when the aviation industry took a big hit and many people lost theirs jobs in that industry, I went back to University and certified as a Technical Writer.
Technical Writers have a lot of interesting opportunities. They write technical manuals (processes, how-tos, tutorials), they edit and proof-read existing documents, they even create forms. I did a bit of all of that, but my main focus was more on the writing and editing side of the technical manuals.
At one place where I worked a six week contract while pregnant with the first baby, I helped design a new manual for the provincial long term care facilities (health sector). My job was to write and edit, but there were other people involved that focused on form development.
I remember the guy who developed some forms for our manual and he showed me a couple of tips and tricks while he fiddled around with layout. I was really impressed and vowed to learn more. But once the contract was done and my boss moved back to Ottawa, I lost touch with that organization and then the baby came and…well you know what happens when babies arrive, especially the first one. 🙂
Long story short, over the many years of SAHMing, I continued to dabble with computer applications. I learned everything I know about blogging by doing my own research, watching tutorials, and practicing. I did the same with word processing applications, goofing around with things on my blogs to practice my new skills.
This era really is an incredible time for self-learning. The internet, if you can filter out the crap, can be so helpful in developing your own skill set, right? There is an abundance of help available. You have to know where to look and be able to distinguish between what is authentic and what is not. This comes with experience and I have a lot of that. Everyone who knows me knows how much time I spend staring at my phone. I read, and read some more, and learn everything I can to help improve my skill set all the time.
But I didn’t really get anywhere in terms of career development during the early years of parenting. There were so many distractions, and incredibly awkward house that needed massive improvements, and very active children that required a tremendous amount of outdoor play in order for me to stay sane.
I didn’t have a lot of time to sit and stare at computers and learn things for myself. It wasn’t a priority.
Then, the kids got older and started expressing interest in joining teams and activities. I became the person responsible for registering them. And, with that came the exposure to many, many forms.
Most forms are poorly designed, namely the school ones. (OMG someone put them out of their misery please!) Over the years, forms in some organizations improved dramatically and, in some cases, became more efficient by online versions. Not all are simple or straight forward, but more and more there is evidence that people have complained and organizations have listened.
It gets trickier with the smaller private clubs, the charities and the volunteer-run sports organizations for kids activities.
One such place, a little private tennis club with beautiful clay courts, had such an inadequate form. The club didn’t have a big following for kids activities, but one of the coaches there started to notice the interest in tennis namely by the many kids who walked past the court from the nearby school. He decided to develop the junior tennis program and my son, who attends that school, became a regular there. It was partly because of him that the coach decided to develop a second junior tennis program called High Performance for those kids that needed more advanced lessons.
The forms however remained atrocious and unchanged.
Until a few months go. At the closing of the courts before the polar vortex descended upon us, I took it upon myself to sit at my desk and fool around with my word processor application. I created a new form, then another one, then adjusted both forms, then made changes. I watched tutorials, picked the brain of a few people online, played around with it more, and finally had a draft I was happy with.
I finally sent it to the coach. I offered for him to use this form for free on the condition he give me a recommendation on LinkedIn and allow me to keep my name in the footer. In addition, if the club liked how I designed the form for the Junior Tennis program, I would be happy to create other forms for them at a reduced rate (implying I have a rate, which I do not. But they don’t know that…) 🙂
He was thrilled. So thrilled in fact that he offered a discount for both my kids in the upcoming tennis programs. 🙂
So now I’m left to wonder if there is an opportunity for me to develop this a little bit further. Perhaps I can post my new skill and see if anyone else requires some help with their forms. I saw another really badly designed on just recently by an animal adoption agency…they didn’t even delete the prior person’s personal information before sending one on to me. They had no blank template, or the know-how to create one.
(Aside note: The trouble with those organizations is they are volunteer based, which means I’m not going to be getting rich creating forms for them. What it may do however, if they accept, is get my name out for other organizations that will see my work. It’s called…marketing. Or networking.)
So this is the stage I’m at. I quite like developing forms, but it is time consuming and I prefer to have no distractions when I’m working on designing or redeveloping forms. Also, there is something to be said about online forms…I have some very basic knowledge on how to do this, but perhaps not enough to add this as an acquired skill set. Maybe I will be spending a little more time watching online tutorials in the not to distant future.
It’s a slow process, digging myself out of the parenting trenches. The kids are still young enough to need a lot of attention, and then there’s the chauffeuring to and from the activities. But, lucky for me, wifi is widespread, and mobile technology more advanced now than when my minions were younger, so who knows? Perhaps next time you see me with my nose buried in my phone, I’m ‘working’ by watching or reading up on one of those tutorials.