By Jan Ballman, FAPR, RPR, CMRS
Caitlin Albrecht is a freelancer from Plymouth, Minn., who graduated from Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn.
JCR | What was the hardest part of transitioning from school to the real world?
CA | For me, it was the realization that my writing was still my writing. It may sound silly, but whenever I thought about that far-off day when I passed my last test and sailed out of school on cloud nine, I believed that a magic switch would flip, and I would suddenly have stellar writing. No longer would my hands freeze up and my heart start pounding its way out of my chest. From now on, writing would be a breeze as I focused on the finer things of life, like what steno machine I would select or what I would do with all the extra cash now that I was working. I can smile and shake my head now at my naïveté, but at the time, the shock of realizing I had to now take professional jobs and still deal with that paralyzing stress threw me into a tailspin.
JCR | What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started out?
CA | That it’s OK to not be perfect. While I still strive for perfection in my writing and transcription, I don’t beat myself up anymore about not achieving the unattainable standard I set for myself when I first began working. Providing realtime for clients has been a scary step for me, but also one of the biggest helps. I’m forced to admit that I don’t write everything perfectly, but it also boosts my desire to get every word down accurately the first time around. Ironically, throwing myself out there and showcasing my imperfection has skyrocketed my confidence and made me a better writer in the long run.
JCR | What is your next goal? What is a long-term goal?
CA | My current goal is to obtain my RPR. I completed the written test and first two legs while in school and have been working at that last Q & A leg ever since. I really struggle some days when I think about tackling that last leg, but my mentors and fellow reporters have been hugely encouraging and supportive. I know I belong in this profession; once I get my RPR, everyone else will know it, too. In the long term, I want to replace those letters with the RMR certification, and eventually become a Registered Diplomate Reporter.
JCR | Who is your mentor?
CA | I have been blessed with a number of incredible mentors, but the most influential have been Jan Ballman, Mary Mitchell, and Merilee Johnson. Jan was my mentor in school and really got me thinking about the reporter I wanted to be once I graduated. Mary walked me through my first years as a brand-new reporter and showed me how a true professional tackled the difficulties of reporting life (while still looking cool as a cucumber … I’m still working on that part). Finally, Merilee has been the catalyst for my success in providing realtime. Without her encouragement and selfless investment in my training, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today in the profession. These women have inspired me with their innovation, excellence, and determination, and I couldn’t be more grateful for them.
JCR | Do you have any advice for reporting students?
CA | Be kind to yourself and keep at it. I remember sitting in school and taking test after test, hopeful that maybe this time I’d write well enough to move on. It was the easiest thing to start an internal dialogue in my head about how I should have had a better brief for that four-stroker, or how everyone else in the class seemed to be doing just fine while my shoulders slumped in defeat. Court reporting school is tough! In the end, though, it really comes down to staying positive, outwardly and inwardly, and sitting down day after day in front of your steno machine and choosing to fight for every word. It really is a battle some days, but the outcome is worth it.
JCR | What do you like to do when you’re not reporting?
CA | I have been a student in Kung Fu San Soo, a self-defense martial art, for over a decade, and there’s nothing like getting on the mat to shake (or punch) out the stress of the day. I also volunteer with my church’s youth group and enjoy doing everything from having honest life discussions with the teens to attending the high school sporting events, concerts, and theater performances they’re involved in. When I’m not doing either of those things, I enjoy diving into a good Bible study or learning how to play new board games with my boyfriend, Matt.
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