For this purpose we define employability generally as ability to work and be “employed” as employees and independent contractors. There is no secret that I often write about how court reporters need to ask for more money, be confident, and negotiate for better benefits or conditions. It’s true. We constantly have market forces exerted on us to lower our expectations in terms of earnings, or make our deadlines tighter, or make our work harder. We are the polite opposition to those market forces. No, we will not work for free. No, we will not give away expedites. No, we will not reprint the entire transcript because your client disagrees subjectively with the potential interpretations arising from the placement of a comma.
But today there’s an important addition to all of that. Today it’s time to say out loud: In addition to demanding you be paid what you are worth, you must make yourself employable. It struck me as I read this Quora answer to the question, “What is the saddest truth about smart people?” The answer itself has a simple theme: Smart people can be the smartest people in the room, but can be unsuccessful and unhappy if they do not take on risks or new opportunities. Now I adapt to this to court reporting. Imagine you are now the fastest, most knowledgeable court reporter in all the world. Imagine you have nothing more to do or learn. Imagine that you are undoubtedly the best. Now imagine that you cannot write a resume or cover letter. You make great transcripts but your cover letters are just awful with misplaced words or rambling ideas. Who will an employer hire; the best court reporter in the world, or the one who knows how to write a resume? In all likelihood, the one who knows how to write, because they have the skill of being able to write, and that makes them employable.
So now it is my time to urge every student, every current reporter, and every non-reporter to do what a theory teacher once taught me: Never stop learning. You don’t have to learn to be the best x, or y, or z. You don’t have to discover new technologies or be a genius. You need only apply yourself to things that interest you. Take a step back and look at a job you really want. What kinds of things make a person employable for that position? You may find that there are a bunch of tangential qualities that can actually make you much more likely to land a position or career. Indeed, basic life skills, like writing a cover letter, go a long way to landing work. Be sure to spell check, double check, and/or have an honest friend review submissions you will make to an agency. I fondly recall a time when I applied to work at or with Reporter’s Ink (as of writing proper spelling) as a freelancer, and before that, I worked with Jaguar. They wanted a sample of my work, and so I provided it to them. They immediately insisted I use their layout, so I applied their layout, and sent the whole thing without checking. Turns out the swap from Jaguar to Reporter’s Ink’s layout stacked the lettering into one another. Succinctly, I lost myself a job opportunity because I didn’t check myself. Don’t be me, get the job, be employable, check yourself, and succeed!