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May 23, 2016
On the Other Side of Everything
In this series, writers will cover generational attitudes toward work and career. Each writer will briefly cover his/her beliefs, thoughts, and feelings about the current state of his/her career and future goals.

Featuring: Anna Stevenson, Talent Zoo’s Very Own Online Editor

Age Group: 20s

To Teach or to Write?
Growing up, I considered two careers: teacher (both my parents were teachers) and writer (I wrote my first “novel” at nine years old—90 handwritten pages).

In my childhood imagination, success was making a lot of money and having summers off. Little did I know. As it turns out, teaching is so not in my wheelhouse.

So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I went to a pre-college event at Michigan State University just before graduating high school. 

At that event, a man stood in front of our group and said, “If you’re an English major, but you don’t want to teach, there’s a major you have to hear about.” It was called Professional Writing. I never looked back.

Ahhh… But What about Editing?
Four years later I found myself with a similar kind of dilemma. I wanted to read and write, and I had learned that there were such things as editors. My degree had prepared me well to become virtually any kind of writer or editor, but for many reasons, relocating to the Big City (Chicago, New York, etc.) simply didn’t appeal to me.

Success became getting a job that used my skills without having to rent an apartment with ten of my closest friends.

I landed my first real job at Michigan State, working as a production editor. Twelve years after penning that first novel, I was making a living getting other people’s work published.

It was the setup for a lifelong tenure working at the university. It would have been successful.

Shake It Up, Shake It Up
But I kept changing the benchmark.

The work was a great fit for me; the office atmosphere wasn’t. I wanted my life to inform my work, not the other way around.

Long before the deluge of think-pieces about Millennials, I was looking for work-life balance. Success: a job that put me in charge of my hours and gave me the flexibility to go running when I wanted. 

Freelancing (Not for the Faint of Heart)
At the end of 2010, I took a giant, flying leap to become a freelance editor, beginning a fairly unconventional (and not always lucrative) career. My first stop? Editor at Talent Zoo Media (the best!).

It has been through this work that I got my telecommuting sea legs and continue to test them out on a regular basis.

I have also worked for a wide variety of companies and people on a vast array of projects, from transcribing media files to editing dissertations. As of this year, I’m doing more work via word-of-mouth advertising than I am from putting my name on “available editors” lists. 

My projects shift and change from month to month, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sugar and Spice
In June of last year I became a mother to a baby girl. Needless to say, she’s raised the bar.

On the Other Side of Everything
So what is success on the other side of everything—of childhood, of college, of motherhood?
  1. Success is not always measured in money. I’ll be the first to admit that, as a freelancer, I’ve had more than a few (very) lean months. Some late nights I wish I had the security of a regular job.

    But as Millennial as it may sound, I feel most successful when I can stop and smell the flowers—or, rather, run past the flowers—when it suits me.

    I’ve also seen my daughter grow from a newborn to a sassy, almost-walking, almost-toddler. Priceless.

  2. A successful career doesn’t always look like one from the outside. Many people define a career as an upward progression through varying positions. It used to be that you could spend your entire career working for one company; these days, I’m not so sure.

    For me, “career success” isn’t reflected in conventional promotions. It’s keeping the lights on while exploring the boundaries of both my writing and editing abilities.

  3. Success is watching professional relationships bloom and grow. At the start of my freelance career, I put my name out there to try to find work. Six years on, the work is beginning to come to me. Circle of life.
Steering the Ship 
In many ways, I’ve already made it. I became the real writer and editor I always dreamed of being, even if I could never have imagined everything I’d work on over the years.

But am I at the pinnacle of my career?

Not even close.

If there’s one thing that steering the ship by myself has taught me, it’s that the finish line changes every day—in work and in life. 

That’s what makes it so exciting.

I don’t know how my career will turn out in the end. I doubt any of us do. But I do know that when I retire (knock on wood), I’ll be able to look back, certain of one thing…

It was a hell of a ride.

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Anna Stevenson is an old-school professional editor working in the digital world. She has worked on projects ranging from transcription to full-length book editing and moonlights as a writer.
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