First CTS Professionalisation Talk 2017-18: The importance and value of joining professional organisations

Carmen Swanwick-Roa discussed professional opportunities, Continuing Professional Development, advice from experienced linguists, and social opportunities

he Centre for Translation Studies (CTS) kicked off its 2017/18 series of Professionalisation Talks with a bang this past Tuesday. Carmen Swanwick-Roa gave an insightful talk on the reasons to join a professional organisation. Drawing on her experience as a member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI), the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) and Yorkshire Translators and Interpreters (YTI), as well as more specific organisations like the ITI Medical and Pharmaceutical Network, Carmen’s talk covered four main benefits: professional opportunities, Continuing Professional Development, advice from experienced linguists, and social opportunities, as explained further below. The talk was concluded with a Q&A session that dealt with how and why she chose to specialise in the medical field, where she gets most of her business from, how to deal with tricky customers and payment, and competition within the industry.

Carmen began by explaining how joining a professional organisation can be a good way to find work. Organisations such as the ITI put their members’ details in their directory where potential clients can find them. In addition, it is generally accepted that only full members of national professional organizations (MCIL, MITI and higher grades) can provide certified translations in the UK. Being a member of certain ITI and CIOL subgroups gives you access to resources such as Yahoo Groups where jobs are often posted by fellow translators and outsourcers. Gaining colleagues’ trust through the organisation can also lead to referrals, and members can ask colleagues about their previous experience of working with a particular client/agency. Furthermore, joining an organisation is a way to prove your professionalism as it proves to clients that you are trustworthy and that you have the experience. Even if you join at a lower grade, it still shows you are serious about developing your career which sends a good message out to potential clients.

Studying is not limited to university and joining a professional organisation can help support your Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Many offer translation workshops, giving you the chance to learn from an expert alongside fellow translators/interpreters; they host “meet the client” events where clients explain what they want from a translator; and they hold conferences for their members to go to various industry talks. On top of this, organisations send out journals and newsletters to keep members up-to-date with industry news. Many also hold online courses or give their members access to discounts on webinars so that you can continue to learn in the office.

A third reason to join professional organisations is the opportunity to network, which offers members the chance to meet other people in the language industry as well as to receive advice from experienced translators through platforms such as Yahoo groups and other online forums. Experienced colleagues can give you advice, not only on the appropriate terminology to use, but also on suitable translations when you are a bit stuck. Some organisations have also introduced their own mentoring schemes, a short-term process for new translators to help bridge the gap between education and professional work. Carmen stressed that it is very useful for freelance translators to be associated with local organisations to receive general advice and support, as well as getting the chance to get out of the office for a little while to work with their colleagues. Organisations host social events throughout the year (the YTI’s Christmas lunch comes to mind), giving members the opportunity to meet other people in the language industry one-on-one.

However, most organisations cost money, which can be an issue for students. Carmen recommended only joining one or two organisations to begin with and advised talking to them before joining as many of them offer a student rate. There is also the option to volunteer for various conferences when the tickets are over-budget: although they have to do a bit of work, volunteers have the chance to sit-in on the talks.

In conclusion, it seems there are almost too many reasons to join the professional organisations that are out there. It comes highly recommended to take advantage of these opportunities and the benefits now, as they will boost your career and general well-being in the future.

By Yunfei Xu, Zheqi Li, Sze-Ying Lai and Sarah Williams