Eleventh CTS Professionalisation Talk 2017-18

Summer Mouallem is a freelance linguist who boasts an impressive portfolio of training and experience.

In addition to her work as an interpreter and translator, she is a lecturer, published author, and language and culture consultant. As a Chartered Linguist, ITI Qualified Member and examiner for interpreting institutions, she offered an invaluable insight into the profession, providing students with some top tips on where to start out in the industry. 

Summer highlighted some essential skills and strengths employers look for in the field, something she said students should already be trying to refine and develop. As we know, networking is an essential part of being a freelance linguist, and as MA students, this process begins with classmates and lecturers. Summer stressed that putting in time, effort, and enthusiasm at this early stage will help secure shining recommendations and references in the future; this can be the difference between getting a job or not when you’re new to the profession. Students should also meet industry professionals outside of the university by registering in local, national, and international organisations and attending the events they organise. Summer recommended volunteering as a great way to both get your foot in the door and gain vital real-world experience.

It was also clear that training and studying were essential factors in Summer's professional achievements, as she discussed how her many qualifications (in translation, interpreting and subject-specific areas) allowed her to secure more work and negotiate higher rates. In this respect, she encouraged students to be resilient and motivated when starting out, promising that hard work, dedication, and a positive attitude are the keys to catching a break. 

The topic of CVs was discussed at length, drawing on experience Summer has gained throughout her career.  She offered concrete advice on what students should be doing with their CV:

  • Do it now! Find the time to build up several different copies. Divide the CV into multiple sections and prioritise information depending on the type of job.
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread. This is the first impression a company will have. Do not tarnish it with a mistake. 
  • Sleep on it. Once a CV is finished, do not rush to send it out. Don’t forget or miss anything.
  • Attach it to an e-mail with a cover letter. The cover letter should be a separate attachment (not the body of the e-mail) and of a similar format.
  • Include appropriate personal interests - your hobbies could be a great source of expertise for certain jobs.  

The most appropriate and useful way to enrich a CV is through Continuous Professional Development activities (CPD) that demonstrate specific skills and knowledge. Adding conferences, industry work, or a new interest are all valuable items to differentiate one CV from the rest. On a more personal basis, CPD is an important way to make a career more enjoyable and fulfilling. Summer recommends reading, speaking and listening to languages to learn more about the cultures and increase fluency. Keeping up-to-date on current issues in the language industry, as well as in the relevant countries, is fundamental to keep pace with this fast- and ever-changing industry. 

Summer concluded by explaining exactly why she loves her job; even with her busy schedule, her work is flexible and varied. There is the choice to work from home, during self-prescribed hours, on jobs you have chosen to take on. Every day brings new information, challenges, and environments. Although it can be stressful and lonely at times, good timekeeping, learning to say ‘no’ to jobs, and attending conferences can help avoid these potential issues. In short, it is a rewarding career that you can really make your own.

Reporters: Alisha Sesum and Sarah Williams


The Professionalisation Talks series is not open just to CTS MA and research students. We are also looking forward to welcoming LCS taught and research postgraduate students, undergraduates in their final year who are keen to find out more about the Language Services Industry, as well as professional linguists members of the Yorkshire Translators and Interpreters' Network.