Hi everyone! Some of you get in touch with me on Instagram and Facebook asking where you should apply for a work placement and how you can start your career as a translator. I feel flattered being called a role model but at the same time, I can't tell you what you should or shouldn't be doing.
I am not that old to be giving advice, but then, when I really think about it, it's been 9 years since my MA degree and 13 since my BA. And all these years, I've always worked within the translation industry. So I've been doing this for almost a decade! When I look at myself 7-8 years ago, there is so much I wish I knew or that at least someone had told me about! So, instead of telling you what to do or not to do, I am addressing the below 8 tips to my younger self, hoping that perhaps these will help you too!
So, deep breath, and here we go:
1. Nothing is wrong with you — you are an introvert
Your Greek friends from university don’t get it and they think there’s something wrong with you. But really, there’s nothing wrong with you; you are simply an introvert. Having a 3-hour-long coffee break with them is not for you, but you can read in the library for 5 hours on your own — no problem. You feel better when you’re by yourself because that’s where you get your energy from. You get tired when you’re out for too long, but once you’ve recharged in your quiet space, you are unstoppable. According to research, introverts make more successful freelancers, so pat yourself on the shoulder girl, you’re on the right track.
2. Aim for balance
Remember the days when you used to go from 5 hours of lectures at uni to 2 hours of French followed by 4 hours of dance lessons? That was a bit too much. Nothing went wrong because of it, but, later on, you’ll appreciate doing nothing but sipping coffee at a seafront café. I guess aim for balance, is my advice here. Besides, again according to research, successful entrepreneurs are those who work less and value downtime!
3. Do not miss graduation day!
A bit too late as it already happened! You missed graduation day! Don’t be too busy working all the time and seriously, do not miss your own graduation because you started working in a new company and you don’t want to take time off! That is totally not OK. Yes, you’ll launch your own business at a young age, but graduation day is an important celebration. I guess, what I am trying to say is, take time off to celebrate! (I missed the graduation day of class 2010-11 but University of Surrey allowed me to attend the graduation of class 2017-18, yes 7 years late, but I did it!)
4. Don’t say yes to everything
You can definitely do it all, but is it all worth your time? The feedback you’ve had was excellent whether it was interpreting, teaching, translating or QA localisation testing. But what is it that makes you unique? Even if you are good at everything, some opportunities are simply not good enough for you.
5. Never give up
It’s very difficult at the beginning. Yes, living in London as a freelancer is tough, but you will figure it out. Make a plan and set small, daily targets that are achievable and realistic. Getting things ticked off your list will energise you. Build a strong network of supportive colleagues around you and go to as many events as you possibly can!
6. Tell everyone about you
Everyone needs to know who you are and what you do. Carry your business cards with you everywhere because you never know! But, don’t tell them you are a translator; that’s the ultimate conversation killer. Give your audience a user case in which you come in as a hero and save the day. They’ll remember you forever. Like for instance: “You know when a business wants to export their products in the Greek market and they need to make sure their clients understand what the product is about so they need a translator to write the product descriptions in Greek? Well, yes, that’s me, that's what I do”.
7. Translation! Really?
You've heard it so many times from your colleagues, your family and from your friends: "Why are you studying translation?", "Do you really have to study it to become a translator?", "Anyone can do it". But as Margaret Atwood says, "nolite te bastardes carborundorum" which leads me to my next and final tip.
8. Positive vibes
In our profession, as in every profession, there are colleagues who are tired, who do not want to take risks, who are perhaps a bit more traditional or perhaps just older than you! They will be moaning a lot! Don’t let this disappoint you. On the contrary, try showing them your perspective and why you think things are positive. Maybe they need someone fresh and young to lift their spirits. Take their advice, but always try things out for yourself and shape your own views. Have your own opinions and express them! Like for instance, having a website is not totally useless. Speaking on social media about your projects is not breaking confidentiality. Taking a selfie for your Instagram feed is not superficial. You can do what is often deemed controversial, dangerous or risky and still be a professional. It’s never about what you do, but how you do it!
What advice would you give your younger self? Leave me a comment!
Vasiliki is a professional translator and
interpreter working with English and Greek. She runs Greek to Me Translations from Oxford, UK. She is a Member of the CIoL and the ITI and she is registered with the Greek Embassy. She specialises in legal, marketing, and psychometrics. Her mission is to help you reach your goals through the power of words. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.