“So, what do you do?”- it’s not an unreasonable question. Ever since I entered the world of full time work I’ve found myself getting flummoxed by how to answer; in the past week alone no less than three people have asked me what my job is. Most of the conversations have gone like this:
Friendly enquirer: “So, where do you work?”
Me: “Portsmouth”. (I know, this isn’t what people mean. But if I say the company it doesn’t mean anything to anyone, it’s not like a well-known name or something like “Away with the fairies SCHOOL” which gives an indication of your profession).
Friendly enquirer: “Oh…and what do you do?”
Me: “I’m an editorial assistant for a science writing company.”
Friendly enquirer: *Blank stare*
Me: *sigh* “I edit and write things…abstracts…posters…conferences…mumble mumble.”
And it’s not just curious friends and family I need to explain to, all sorts of forms and documents require an “Occupation”. This one, at least, is reasonably simple; I just write down what’s on my payslip:
But even that has its set backs. Often, this isn’t on the list- the person on the phone suggests publishing, I try to explain that no, I don’t work in publishing. I appreciate it isn’t immediately obvious. An editorial assistant is most commonly associated with the publishing industry- someone that edits and assists.
Editorial Assistant, Science Writing Company. Bit clearer?
Here is what I actually do:
In no particular order I: write abstracts for conferences, administrate a commenting process for said abstracts, complete the submission process and deal with any communication with the conference, write and edit journal articles, check proofs, create graphs and tables, generate graphics, design and create posters, arrange printing, update intranet databases, oversee administrative assistants, find and acquire journal articles, locate out of print texts, research and write review papers, create powerpoint presentations, format articles to journal guidelines, and more, plus all the associated admin.
I’ve learnt a lot over the past 14 months, from the simple- how to use Microsoft Outlook for maximum effect- to the slightly more complex- how to research and write a white paper for a major healthcare company. I am now Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, dtSearch, and ABBYY FineReader savvy and I’m proud of everything I’ve achieved, I just wish I was better at explaining myself, especially when it comes to promoting myself for my future career. I need some sort of metephorical/virtual placard that asks people to look past my job title and see all my skills. My many, many skills- like writing a blog post in my lunch break whilst checking the news and eating pitta and hummous. Skillz indeed.