Three Important Non-Tech Skills for an Editor

In a change up from the technical elements that I’ve written about in the last couple posts, this time I’m going to talk about three skills that I think any editor needs if he or she aspires to eventually lead a whole team of editors – which is my goal.  Those three skills are public speaking, leadership, and project management.

Whether your speaking to 5 people or 500, you need to be able to have a commanding presence when you talk to people.  This is especially true if you are advocating for yourself or your team.  If you know how to present yourself and your arguments/thoughts in a professional and engaging manner, you’re more likely to be taken seriously.  I count the two main reasons for my heavy involvement in Issues as my personal relationship with the director (an undergraduate colleague) and my ability to make professional, logical, and convincing points when we discuss the show.  And I don’t even count myself as an amazing public speaker.  It’s one of many skills I’m working to improve.

Leadership should be obvious for anyone seeking any kind of managerial work.  If you can’t lead a team,  you’re not management material.  Right now I consider my leadership skills marginal.  My skills of empathizing and listening are top notch, which helps build good relationships with people I work with.  However, I’m not good at translating that into leadership capital.  This skills is probably even more important to me than public speaking.  After all, as a former public school teacher, I’ve had to do a great deal of public speaking.  It just wasn’t ideal circumstances, and I need to broaden my options.  Part of why I am no longer a teacher is because I substantially lack leadership skills at this point in time, which is a nightmare when attempting to manage a class of 20-25 high school students who would rather be anywhere but in your class.  (History teachers aren’t popular, what can I say?)

Finally, project management.  I’ll admit that right now project management is a nebulous concept to me.  To be clear, I’m not talking about project management as a profession in and of itself.  There are people who do make that their profession, and they excel at it.  But if you’re going to be anything more than an assistant editor, you’re going to have to navigate your team through projects.  And on an independent production like Issues, if you’re on the set, you may well be managing much more than just your area.  Over the course of our first season, I managed editing, the website, scheduling, and wardrobe.  It was quite an experience, and as such, I’ve discovered that I like doing a blend of pre- and post-production.  It makes me much more conscious of the needs of the project as a whole.  But as someone who seeks to be  a team leader, I need to have some definite project management skills.

So, as usually I’ll share some tips with you.  I’m hoping to evaluate my local Toastmasters branch to get a feeling for their communication and leadership programs.  It’s extremely cost effective ($20 new member fee and $27 in dues every 6 months) and very local – thus very easy to get to.  It also presents an opportunity to get to know people in my town.  To give you an idea of how isolating living in one town, working in a second, and attending school in a third is, the only person in town that I know is my next door neighbor.  That’s compared to the one-stop shop of undergraduate life, where I easily had a network of over 50 1st degree contacts, and hundreds of 2nd and 3rd degree contacts.

Project Management is a bit trickier.  It’s much harder to find training in it without talking to people who do it as a profession.  I’m currently looking at budgeting for some courses from the Project Management Institute, although I don’t know that I’d pursue a formal accreditation in it at this point in time.  It’s certainly a handy skills set to have in any field, so I consider it work at least thinking about.

What are your thoughts?  Are these important skills for an editor?  Any other skills that aren’t directly editing-related that you think an editor today should have?  Feel free to leave a comment and we’ll get a conversation going on this!

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  1. Toastmasters is helpful for public speaking and for learning how to run meetings. Also a good confidence builder and network expander.

  1. July 6th, 2009

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