By Sarah Nageotte
“You look so much younger in person,” someone said to me at a recent state convention. As any woman will admit, and possibly even men, too, that is one compliment I will never grow tired of hearing.
Age is a number. That number can define a person. In fact, numbers correlate to entire groups and generations. Unfortunately, those numbers and dates and generations have been known to bring stereotypes. For instance, three common stereotypes are: Baby boomers are out of sync with technology, Generation Xers are negative cynics, and Millennials aren’t motivated by anything and think only of themselves.
I can write an entire novel on examples that debunk these stereotypes on each level. On the flipside, I know stories that go to further these theories. But what is relevant in today’s society, and most important to our profession, is to look at each age, each number, and each individual separately.
We need to challenge the stereotypes and treat everyone as an individual. We need to find common ground and connect on the human level shared by all. We need to find the talents each of us have to offer and always assume that everyone has value and worth to contribute. We need to mingle with different generations and those who approach things differently than ourselves. At the same time, we need to expect a lot and hold everyone to the same standards for all of us to learn, grow, and perform to our highest and best abilities.
The success of a profession is dependent on the contributions from all within, and the court reporting and captioning profession is not unique in this regard. I am now in my 17th year as an official court reporter, and I am halfway through my term as NCRA President. I did not get here by myself, and I do not continue each day on this journey alone. I have an entire network of professionals, friends, and family whom I turn to daily.
My network consists of my coworkers at the courthouse, the judges I report for, my colleagues in the field, students striving to be a part of the greatest profession of all time, and my mom, dad, boyfriend, daughter, and family as a whole. I am surrounded by individuals that stereotypes would lead you to believe I cannot get along, much less work with. Instead, I have taken the challenge to throw stereotypes out the window and look past numbers and generations. I look at the person. What can I give to them? What can I learn and gain from them? How can we work together to make our lives better? I encourage each of you to do the same. What do you have to offer? How can you enrich the life of someone else? Is it through mentoring? Sharing your experiences? Offering your perspective?
Ronald Reagan stated, “Each generation goes further than the generation preceding it because it stands on the shoulders of that generation. You will have opportunities beyond anything we’ve ever known.”
If we allow stereotypes to take hold of us, we will not go further, we will lose opportunities, and we will isolate ourselves from seeing true potential in one another. We should take the experience and history of what lies in the past to grow and move forward, and, yes, stand on the shoulders of those who preceded us. But we should always keep an open mind and be willing to accept that desired results can be accomplished through different means; and maybe, just maybe, someone in your network has an approach that is better than your own.
I am honored to be a part of our timeless — and ageless — profession. Whether you have been reporting one month or 50 years, you have the opportunity to network and continue to grow our profession. Mentor a court reporting student or new reporter entering the field. Reach out if you need guidance or assistance. Work together with your fellow court reporters and captioners. Learn from each other. Teach each other. Adapt to change. Grow and move forward together.
We should always recognize and be proud of the numbers we are assigned, the age we have attained, and the experiences and knowledge each of us possess. But please join me in challenging the stereotypes. Let us look at each person for who they are, and not which generation or number they carry. Start now and take one number — 2015 — and define 2015 as the year of you! You will make a difference for yourself and an entire profession!
Sarah E. Nageotte, RDR, CRR, CBC, is NCRA’s President. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.