Improvements by the year:
Year 1 (student): theory, passing my first 5-minute tests
Year 2 (student): mastering common homonyms, passing the RPR
Year 3 (reporter): sorting numbers, mastering prefixes/suffixes, developing QWERTY macros, learning realtime hookups, developing cap last, using quotes
Year 4 (reporter): learning captioning hookups, mastering organization in finance, mastering fingerspelling
Year 5 (reporter): tying up loose ends, focusing on speed
The great thing about court reporting is that there are always things to work on, whether speed, macros, or problematic words. Search for weakness! Highlight it. Eliminate it. Maybe your problem is that one of your prefixes or suffixes are the same, and you need to change one. Maybe your weakness is that compound words connect when you really meant them to be two words – always put an asterisk in the second stroke of a compound word. Perhaps your weakness is that you never learned how to create a macro. It’s never too late!
When I first graduated from court reporting school, I spent the first year working on QWERTY macros to speed up my editing time. This is tedious work, and I amassed over 100 different macros for the QWERTY board before leaving freelancing for captioning 1.5 years later.
When I entered captioning, there were so many things to remember. There was so much to set up. (I have an in-depth post on how to set up for captioning, if you’re considering it.) I was trying to remember every little detail and every requirement.
I have been in reporting for a little over two years now. I’ve done a realtime trial, captioning, freelance, and now I do transcripts for a radio show every morning, which I like the best. I’ve been an employee for a firm and an independent contractor. Two years in, I know Eclipse really well. I have every QWERTY macro I want. I know how to organize for taxes really well.
In captioning/producing drafts, you don’t need many macros. Freelance requires a lot more for efficiency.
Now my list (you should always keep one in your notebook) for what I want to improve is small and manageable. Among the things left on my list: Rarer homonyms that I want to remember, Eclipse spellcheck to improve, briefs with commas I’m still working on, and how to add a speaker into my dictionary from my steno board. In school, the list of what I had to improve was endless, and it was daunting. All that goes away with diligence.
It took me five years (2 in college, 2.5 in reporting, and .5 waiting for the okay to work) to get to my dream job. I wake up every morning at 8:00. I’m on the air at 8:08, and I finish at 11:20, all the while getting paid nearly three times the average American salary.
If you work to be the best, money will come to you. The people that are the most passionate will end up where they want to be. I knew I didn’t want big trials and lots of travel; I wanted a quiet life with lots of time left to focus on hobbies and health. That’s what I found. Whatever you want out of life, you can find it in steno.
I want to close with this: The two things that are the most important in steno are passion (to be the best you can be) and networking.