Joan Padgett French Alumni
Briefly, tell us about your job. What do you find most rewarding? What are your greatest challenges within this profession?
I’ve worked as an editor and instructional designer for various companies for over 15 years. As an editor of art museum publications I edit scholarly essays written by curators and art historians for books that accompany exhibitions at galleries across Canada. As an instructional designer, I design and write training curriculum to teach adult learners specific skills and specialize in e-learning delivery: online self-study, webinars and virtual classroom.
What I find rewarding about editing is playing a part in shaping a writer’s work to enhance the author’s voice and make the content clear, accurate, engaging and meaningful to the reader. With instructional design I enjoy the dual aspects of analysis and creativity: I have to analyze both employer and learner needs; I have to write content that meets those needs and make it engaging and interesting; and I have to use graphic design skills to make the content visually appealing and to make abstract ideas more concrete.
The greatest challenges with both jobs usually revolve around deadlines. Content may get to me days or weeks after I’m expecting to receive it, but printing deadlines or overall project deadlines usually stay the same. I need to be able to work well under pressure and to not expect that any given day or week will flow the way I want or expect it to.
What experiences and activities helped you to map out your career pathway?
The tips below helped me to map out my career path, but they are general in nature and will be useful regardless of your career choice:
- Be willing to try new things and take on new challenges, even if they seem daunting at first and you’re not sure you can do it. Of course you can do it! And if you get stuck, ask for help.
- Take responsibility for your actions: admit to mistakes, show up for work on time and meet deadlines to build trust and respect.
- Take time to self-reflect and acknowledge your strengths and your weaknesses. Work at building on the former and minimizing the attitudes and behaviours that may be holding you back in your career.
- Remember that no one owes you a job and that few of us are in positions so specialized that we can’t be replaced. To be successful in your career, arrogance and complacency are not your friends.
- Be a lifelong learner. After you graduate, your education doesn’t stop. Take workshops, seminars, or certificate programs. The workplace is constantly evolving and if you don’t evolve with it and keep up with new technologies and methodologies, not only will your career options be more limited, you could lose your job and find it difficult to land a new one.
- Be a team player and an employee others like to work with. It’s far more likely that co-workers and employers will make an effort to help you further your career goals and give you good references if you make their jobs easier because you don’t create workplace conflict.
- Build a network of contacts within your profession. Those contacts will tell you about job openings and will expose you to new people who may be able to help you later in your career.
- Be true to yourself and your needs. It was important to me to work part-time when our son was younger because we wanted to have a work-life balance at home. I was working part-time when I applied for the technical editor position with the software company and it was advertised as full-time. During my second interview I said that I wanted to work part-time, and they still hired me, which leads me to the next point, below.
- Work hard and honour the trust your employer has placed in you. As my manager said to me at my six-month review, “Joan, you do in three days what a lot of the staff here does in five.” Few things help your career more than doing excellent work consistently.
As a student, did you see yourself in your current career? What stayed the same and/or changed?
No, when I was in school I didn’t see myself being an editor or an instructional designer. I thought that I’d become an academic and teach at a university, so I had to do my Master of Arts degree first, then a PhD. Working on my masters made me realize that I didn’t want to spend my life researching and writing papers and books on a narrow field (literary criticism) that would be of interest and value to so few people. So my plan to become an academic changed, but what stayed the same was my understanding that my career would revolve around my analytical and language and writing abilities.
What advice do you have for students who are interested in pursuing a degree in French?
Like completing a degree in English, completing a degree in French literature is a gateway to career opportunities in communications and education fields. A French degree doesn’t mean you have to work solely in that language, or train later to become a teacher or translator. I find that those who learn another language have a far better understanding of grammar and syntax than those who speak only one language. My study of French literature definitely helped shape the skills I use now as an editor and writer of English content, from correcting grammar errors to reorganizing text to make content more logical and easier to understand.
What job search advice do you have for students and recent graduates?
It’s rare for people to find an ideal job upon graduation, especially in the arts and humanities, so my advice is to avoid thinking that certain jobs are beneath you. Every job is a growth opportunity because you’ll learn what you do like to do and don’t like to do and what you’re good at and not good at.
If you’re in a job that doesn’t make use of all your talents and abilities, take control and create opportunities that can make use of other skills you want to develop. For example, in one of my first jobs after getting my masters degree, I asked if I could revamp the design of a newsletter and write all the content, and my employer said yes. My motto is, “If you don’t ask, you won’t get.” The worst that can happen is someone tells you no and then you move on.
Tell us a fun fact about your career path.
After my first year in my masters program, I applied for a program where I could teach English in a French high school. I got to teach in the city of Nantes in the Brittany/Loire region and in addition to travelling in that area, I also made several trips to Paris, as well as trips to the south of France and Spain. I lived in an apartment with two Germans and an Australian and met lots of great people. It was a fantastic experience, although it did confirm for me that I didn’t want to be a school teacher!