I’m starting a new job soon. Thanks to the pandemic, I spent all of my last role as well as half of my previous one working from home. So I’ve been around my kids much more, which is great.
This got me thinking – has being a parent helped me professionally? And the answer is an unequivocal yes. I’m a Content Designer and there are many ways in which being a parent have made me better at my job.
That’s not to say parents are better at any job than those without kids, of course. I just know that my experience raising children has improved me professionally.
Understanding user need
The most important part of content design is understanding what we call ‘user need’ and making sure all content is perfectly tailored to it. Too many instructional websites don’t do this. They communicate what those behind them want to say instead of what users actually need to get from them.
All parents learn to assess user needs from day one! Babies don’t talk for quite a while, so we quickly pick up on clues and take the relevant action. Normally, this is getting rid of nappy content – and this isn’t entirely dissimilar to some of the copy-editing jobs I’ve had to do in my time.
Explaining things clearly
Of course, to make sure information is as easy as possible for users to understand it must be written clearly, in plain English. Indeed, GOV.UK recommends writing for a reading age of nine. So you can see where I’m going with this!
Once children start talking, they have lots of questions and, given the information age we’re now in, they’re about ever-increasingly complex topics. So, with over a decade of explaining complicated things to my kids, I’m very used to doing so in the simplest words possible.
Content is never truly final – even once it’s published. Times change, as do legislation and approaches to communicating information. So it’s important to make sure content is iterated to keep up to date and accurate.
The same can be said of parenting. I rarely get things right the first time and have lost count of how many iterations there have been to the kids’ bedtime routine, for example! But being kept on my toes in this way has really helped me look at my profession as open-ended.
This, of course, is something that you have to do in most jobs. Basically talking to those with a vested interest in what you’re doing without disappointing any of them. And it can be super fun when you have to deal with multiple stakeholders who disagree with one another as well as you.
Being a parent of siblings is work experience gold for this kind of thing! I’m forever managing the expectations of three iron-willed people who are all adept at substantiating their ‘professional’ opinions. It has taught me a lot about diplomacy, problem solving and collaboration.
The daily stand up
A key part of working in an agile delivery model, as my area of work is known, is the daily stand up. It sounds like a comedy routine – and sometimes it can resemble one – but it’s simply a new way of saying ‘team meeting’. It’s vital you refer to it as a stand up though. Otherwise, people know you’re over 40. It’s much like the faux pas of saying ‘PowerPoint Presentation’ now they seem to have become ‘slide decks’.
Anyway, I’ve been participating in a daily gathering of this kind for several years. We call it ‘dinner time’, but it’s the same thing. We discuss what everyone has been working on at school and address any issues that may be hindering progress. There’s also the opportunity for some light-hearted chat to boost team morale.
So there you go. I’m certain that being a parent has made me better at my job.
What about you? Have any of your experiences bringing up kids helped you in your career?