You could say Shawn Chaillou knew he was the right "type" to succeed in
the data entry profession. "My parents were both computer programmers, and
they gave me a strong background in computers," he says. "When I began working,
it was only natural that I went into the field."
Chaillou believes data entry can be a terrific learning experience for
students, too. "Operators learn to use a large range of skills in day-to-day
work -- everything from basic computer operations to high-level decision making
on more complex jobs."
Data entry is not as easy as some people believe. Expectations are high.
"I think the most challenging part of the data entry field is similar to
most jobs in striving to meet high expectations of management," says Chaillou.
"As a keyer, it's important to have 100 percent accuracy and still maintain
speed throughout the day."
Jeannette Marshall owns a data entry firm. "Every job is different," she
says. "You have to look at the data and make decisions on your own. It's a
lot of work, and the pay isn't that great [for people who work for others]."
Marshall notes that self-employed data entry clerks can make a good salary.
"There's another aspect that data entry clerks need to consider," says
Marshall. "You have to watch for severe tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome."
The job is very repetitive, which can be challenging on the body. Occasionally
those employed in the field fall prey to injuries due to repetitive stress
syndrome. To help avoid strain, data entry clerks should make sure to frequently
give their eyes and hands a rest.
When asked what it takes to make it in the field, Marshall says, "You need
more than a twelfth grade education and an aptitude for the keyboard. You
need to be detail-oriented, have good spelling, be able to think on your feet
and be able to keep up the pace day after day."
She also warns that the field comes with challenges. "Many jobs you do
are not easy to decipher, and you have to know when it is best to leave the
data out, ask for assistance, or make the decision to put in the data to the
best of your ability."
Since Marshall owns her business, she is on call 24 hours a day, seven
days a week. "The timeframe is dictated by the customer," says Marshall. "Never
say you can't... you have to be there for the customer... until the work is
David Clark says the most challenging part of his job is, "having to be
'on' at all times when dealing with callers and staff alike." Clark says if
you're not careful, it would be easy to lose your cool.
On the other hand, Clark says the ever-changing workloads and tasks keep
the job interesting. He believes people enjoy the job because of the flexibility
of hours and the ability to work under minimal supervision.
Sometimes it's the little extras -- like unexpected gifts from guests --
that make the job worthwhile, according to Clark. "It gives a great feeling
of satisfaction for a job well done," he says.
Susan Gellerman enjoys the profession. "I've seen it grow substantially
due to some of my innovations, and I find that quite rewarding," she says.
She got into the profession after working with someone who didn't truly understand
the business. She felt she could do a better job on her own.
However, the challenge for Gellerman is scheduling and "making sure I have
enough people to do the work, especially since I rarely get more than a half-hour's
Emily Olmstead has entered data for the University of California at San
Diego and for the County of San Diego.
"Actually, I sort of fell into this career," she says. "I had just finished
completing courses at a local college to receive a paralegal certificate,
and the loans were coming due, and I didn't have a job. I was offered a job
and took it temporarily, and I quickly discovered I was better at the job
than I was at being a paralegal."
Olmstead says if you're not quite sure you want to work in the field on
a full-time basis, you can always try it on a temporary basis. "Actually,
it's a great temporary job," she says. "I stress temporary because data entry
and transcription can be very taxing on your body. I've already had one surgery
for carpal tunnel syndrome, and my hands fall asleep on me to this day."
Work hours are about the same for most data entry clerks. Olmstead's workday
is about eight hours long.
Raymond Mills is a self-employed data entry clerk. He works six to eight
hours per day, depending on project requirements and deadlines. But his hours
Chaillou's day is a bit different. "The average workday is eight hours,
though voluntary overtime is offered. In my current job, my workdays tend
to stretch out slightly longer, with the average being [between] eight and
10 hours per day." Chaillou is on call from 7 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. daily.
Chaillou believes the data entry field can be a great learning experience
for students. "Also, it can be a great stepping-stone into other jobs within
the profession," he says. "Employees within the field tend to learn what it
is like to work within deadlines in a business atmosphere."
Mills says you shouldn't be shy about being a data entry clerk. "It's not
necessarily a low-level profession, depending on how far you're willing to
go with it. Data entry keyers become heads of departments and start their
own businesses -- data entry has many facets to it.
"It's a very fascinating and lucrative career if you're willing to work
at it and apply your creative abilities."