Just after finishing a degree, for example, a Master’s degree in translation, most people feel quite confused on what to do next. Only a few students have everything already planned out, as well as, a decent budget to start freelancing; the truth is that the majority of us are not only clueless, but also broke. This is why we should always consider transferable skills as part of what we can gain through our career to get our dream job.
First things first, what are transferable skills? According to the Princeton University experts, they are “the skills you acquire and transfer to future employment settings. Common examples include interpersonal, communication, leadership and organizational skills”. Therefore, these are the skills that you will be able to gain in an office-like environment, which then will be super useful to you, when you will decide to change job, set up your own company or even start freelancing. Thinking about the translation industry, I believe that it can be quite hard and daunting to start freelancing without even knowing how to write to agencies or how to react to negative feedback. This is why, I think that starting from an in-house position, as a project manager, vendor controller or in-house translator will be a fantastic starting point to launch your career in this sector.
Having said that, I would like to share the abilities that I think will be very useful as a freelance translator to further boost your position in this very dynamic and competitive market.
It’s true, there’s nothing new here, but I really do think that people underestimate the importance of having good phone and e-mail manners. Being able to handle a challenging conversation with a client or an agency is something you will only be able to do with practice. Nobody mentions this when you are studying, but the power of a very well thought and written email is priceless and can solve many issues and situations that could escalate in no time. Of course, this “e-mail writing skill” intertwines with problem solving and sales, but I assure you that it’s all part of every translator/editor/vendor controller AND project manager’s role.
This second point is absolutely essential to stand out in an ocean of translators. Not only coming up with effective solutions, but also preventing problems through different workflows/workarounds is key. Would you choose someone that whinges about the text segmentation in a CAT tool, or someone who suggests preparing the file in a different way to avoid further problems? Well, I would surely prefer the second option. It’s important to think about the person we are working for/with always as a client. I am not saying that we all have to be formal and serious all the time, but being able to be proactive and efficient will definitely make you look professional to anyone you are delivering a project for.
Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling… Social medias and smartphones are great, but they make us also waste hours and hours of our lives doing essentially nothing. We do need to put them down and work our way through our tasks. Talking about tasks, when planning our day, it’s crucial to understand how long it will take us to perform them. We don’t want to pack too much stuff in our day, but we also don’t want to set a deadline too far away, when we could have translated something earlier on and fit in more projects. This is something that I learnt while working as a project manager: you need to provide turnaround times all the time. Everyone needs them because everyone has a boss or client to get back to.
The list could be never ending, because the skills and abilities you can gain from different jobs can have a fantastic and positive impact both on your productivity and happiness levels in your future or present jobs. If you are asking yourself what to do after your degree, try to think about what skills you would like to have in your personal portfolio and look for jobs that will provide you with them. This should not be the only requirement for looking for a job, but I still think it’s a good indicator for being able to then develop your career and help you move forward in your work life.