What Makes a Great – and Happy – Transcriber?
Some of our transcribers at McGowan have been in the industry for decades, and freely declare that they still love their work, yet some of our friends and family tell us that the nature of our work would drive them crazy. What kind of characteristics does a person need to enjoy a career as a transcriber?
One trait which draws many of us to this work is a profound love of the English language. Many of us are lifelong lovers of reading, which equips us well for our work by enlarging our vocabularies. Our medical specialists in particular are not recommended as Scrabble opponents! Each respondent uses English differently, which is always interesting to hear. We often learn new words from different dialects and occasionally we may be given joy by the skilful use of foul language. Sometimes, we derive pleasure from the mastery with which respondents wield the language. At other times, we may suffer psychological discomfort as we type things like, ‘Did you receive the invite?’ ‘I rung her yesterday’, or ‘We wasn’t there.’ This may be considered the point at which our love of the language has spilled over into abject pedantry, an assessment which few of us would feel able to dispute.
Happily for us, grammar and spelling pedantry is a real advantage in our work. In our own lives, we may keep quiet about spelling or grammar abominations for fear of upsetting others, but our work allows free rein to our pedantry; discharges it in a safe environment, if you will.
We are all very proud of McGowan’s reputation for excellence, in which we are assisted by a quality control department whose eyes for detail would shame an unusually gifted eagle. When a transcript is accepted with a note such as, ‘Perfect, thank you’, we know we’ve done well.
Curiosity is a characteristic which helps many transcribers to enjoy their work. Most of us are intensely curious about the world, people and things. Some people might describe this trait as nosiness, which may not be inaccurate. This helps us to enjoy each day because we never know who we’re going to listen to or what we’re going to hear about. That’s part of the richness of the work. The interviews we transcribe cover an unimaginably wide array of subjects and as all humans are innately interesting, our curiosity is constantly piqued. Our curiosity also helps us to continue with a job which is difficult due to sound issues, etc. as we wonder what our respondent will say next.
Many transcribers are drawn to the work because of its solitary nature. Not everyone enjoys working alone every day but those of us who are introverts derive enormous relief from solitude. We have come to this work from many different jobs and industries and many of us find it perfectly suited to our personalities after years of struggling to cope in workplaces full of extraverts. Transcription work is a great opportunity for us to work to our strengths.
Of course, the solitary nature of the work means that we have to be self-motivated. Deadlines are not negotiable and when a particular transcription job is difficult, we have to have the persistence (or stubbornness) to complete it, no matter how long that takes. We have to be able to exercise self-discipline in this way because there is no boss chasing us, encouraging us or checking on how we’re doing. We have to be that boss for ourselves.
Thankfully, we all recognise how much we need one another for help and advice at times, and we all support one another as required. Often, someone else on the team will be familiar with words we’ve never heard before, be able to decipher a sentence which our ears cannot unscramble, or be able to confirm that indeed, the word ‘jollops’ is recognised in contemporary parlance. We also help each other by sharing jokes, images and pet photographs, which keeps up the spirits of the team.
In order to be able to complete our work and to harness the attributes I have already listed we do need a certain level of comfort with technology. We need to be proficient in using digital transcription software, navigating different client portals and we need to know Microsoft Word inside out. Expert-level coding skills are not necessary, but technophobia is not an option.
Lastly, as with all work, a sense of humour is invaluable. We never know what we’re going to hear each day. Our work could involve any subject and any person, which is something we all enjoy. Some of the utterances to which we are party are pure comedy gold, and it would be a dreadful shame not to be able to appreciate that.
Blog by Helen Roberts