Ninth CTS Professionalisation Talk 2017-18

Students at universities around the world eagerly gathered to listen to Jeannette Stewart’s talk on starting out in the language service industry.

Jeannette is the founder of the non-profit online volunteer community of linguists, Translation Commons, as well as a freelance columnist for Multilingual Magazine. She has over 20 years of experience in the language service industry having worked as a CEO of CommuniCare, a consultant for NBC Universal and a localisation leader for programs and initiatives for one of the Google Review vendors VistaTEC. 

During this talk, Jeannette stressed the importance of students planning their career before graduating. This includes developing a plan and considering career aspirations, as well as how to reach the finishing line. The preparation was broken down into two sections:

1. Preparing for the language service industry;

2. Preparing yourself for success.

Preparing for the language service industry

Jeannette began by emphasising the important role of translators in global commerce. For those aspiring to be freelancers, they are faced with the first hurdle when applying with agencies: 5 years’ experience and a solid specialisation. So, Jeannette recommended students to work in small and reputable language service providers (LSPs) for a minimum of 1-2 years, look for jobs on online platforms that pay you directly (even if the pay isn’t too great) and enter into mentoring programmes as ways of gaining some experience. Another top-tip was to look at subtitling and dubbing as an entry-level of specialisation. Jeannette also offered the students some invaluable advice: create a spreadsheet and list all the information possible on attractive companies, keeping it up-to-date with any contact made; be selective and personal when selling yourself; prepare thoroughly and completely; learn marketing and basic accounting skills. But above all, be current, relevant, and have infinite passion.

Preparing yourself for success

Being professional and having good interpersonal skills are vital for linguists working as freelancers or in-house. It is important to prepare for change and embrace it, which may include adopting a different pace of life to meet tight deadlines. There are many balancing acts that linguists must perfect; the first being their work-life balance. Each linguist should develop their own work schedules that suit them and not take on too much. However, an issue with balancing work is if linguists make themselves completely unavailable, they may run the risk of not being at the forefront of project managers’ minds. Lastly, productivity is key to success, and therefore finding a balance between being a perfectionist and submitting work is crucial. When work is scarce, linguists should see this as an opportunity to brush up on skills, volunteer, contact more agencies, be active on social media or have some quality rest. This time can be filled however, but spirits must be kept high.  

At the end of the talk, Jeannette responded to questions posed by the students:  

What can we do if our language pair isn’t in demand? 

If this is the case, you can decide whether you want to learn a new and easy language or whether you want to focus on learning new translation software, which can make you a highly desired candidate for some agencies. 

What about translating into a non-native language?

Although rare, some translators may also be able to translate into a language that is not their mother tongue, only when they are bilingual (or trilingual) and are living in the country where that language is spoken. 

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Reporters: Emma McNaught, Eleonora Pagnotta, Yi-Hsin Liu, Zheqi Li