I know how frustrating it is when you are just starting out your career in translation (or any field, really) and no-one wants to hire you because you have no experience yet. Well, if someone among them doesn’t take the leap of faith to employ you, you will never gain some, will you? I know, it can be tricky!
Of course, companies are hesitating to trust someone just out of the university or from a different discipline, it is completely logical. They need high-functioning, committed workers who can prove their skills. But they also need enthusiastic employees who will go the extra mile to show what they deserve and can do. If you don’t insist and don’t try to show them how valuable you could be for their company they will never know, will they?
So let’s see how you can find some experience when you have none!
First of all, you might already have more experience than you think!
1. Your university assignments
For example, you might have done a translation for a local business, museum, even the university. This counts as experience, too! Think carefully and if you are still in university try to land assignments that are attached to the work environment and not just theoretical essays.
2. A friend definitely has asked you
to translate their certificate, diplomas, school essay (I’m sure you have had plenty of those requests 😛 ) This counts if it happened more than once and if you took it seriously and worked hard on it.
3. Part-time and summer jobs
If you have worked a part-time job during your student years, think how the skills you acquired there might prove useful: even a bar-tending job handling multicultural clients can be described as relevant in your work experience section. A job as a car-sales assistant will be valuable if you want to break into translating automotive texts. Make sure you are able to justify it if you are asked for it during an interview. Remember to make it all about the skills and particular knowledge that you gained during your work there.
Even if you didn’t work or had any experience whatsoever during your studies, there are still ways to gain experience at the beginning of your career.
You can volunteer for a non-profit organisation, like Translators Without Borders, where you will gain experience and you will be giving back to the community, too. Make sure you research the organisation you choose and don’t forget to allocate some time for actively looking for employment.
5. Look around you
Reach out to a company/client you would like to work with and offer them a translation you think they need for a competitive price – for example, if you notice that your favorite local cafe has international clients but doesn’t have a menu in different languages offer to translate it for them in a low (but still market respecting) price. Or for free coffee for a month (depending on the work needed, of course). Now, I’m in no case an advocate for working for free so please make sure you get at least some compensation for your time. It is a way to show yourself and others that you take your job seriously and its not just a hobby for you. Otherwise, people will treat you like a hobbyist and we definitely don’t want that!
Take a minute here to consider a few things:
It is easy to fall in the trap of low prices when you are just starting out but please remember:
If you don’t value your skills high enough, your clients won’t either.
People want to pay less , that’s for sure but don’t accept rates too low as you wouldn’t accept low services from anyone.
A successful career is built slowly but steadily and taking the worst paying jobs a) will not help you pay your rent b) makes you look cheap and c) wastes your time from looking for actually rewarding employment opportunities.
So don’t be afraid to ask, aim high and look out for opportunities. We all started somewhere and it takes hard work to go anywhere. Be passionate about what you do and you will never have anything to worry about!
cover photo by Sofia Petridena