It’s that time of year again—the time when translation students in their final semester at university start to think about how to approach their career as a new translator. Many soon-to-be graduates find themselves asking the same series of questions: What comes next? Which companies should we apply to? How do we become certified? Are we even hireable at all?
All these questions are important, but they only take into account one path as a language service provider—that is, building a career under a company's guidance and gaining experience. It's a path anyone in any industry is familiar with, but some of today's newly entering professionals may find that this option leaves something to be desired.
The relationship between entrepreneurship and language services is not a new concept. However, many soon-to-be and recent graduates are inclined to put off that option until they have gained more experience under the expertise of an established company, which is the path many experienced language service providers have used very successfully. However, the case can also be made for entrepreneurship immediately following university. While nothing can beat tangible experience, there are certain qualities and lifestyle habits that new graduates have developed throughout the course of their studies that may have prepared them for entrepreneurship. Of these qualities, the following stand out the most: (1) the ability to work autonomously; and (2) the tendency to keep up to date with their personal interests as well as with the world around them.
Recent graduates are no strangers to questioning how to go about navigating a career as new translators. A notable common trait of that generation is how they spend their free time. Between their many interests and busy schedules, they somehow seem to manage to keep up with favourite topics through the casual browsing of blogs, social media, newsletters or influencers. A common topic of conversation among students in the translation program is the translatability of many of those casual publications. The conversations often lead to exchanging possible translations of small chunks of copy, or speculating about the challenges and rewards of effectively translating that type of content.
Those discussion groups allow new graduates to hone their language and translation skills and, with new small businesses opening all the time, can be a springboard toward a career as an independent translator. A good place to start would be by offering small businesses, which already have a brand image, their services as language providers with expertise in wordplay and precision in a copywriting context. In other words, new graduates might find that their knowledge and education can be successfully marketed to small businesses that are not inclined to hire large translation firms. This is especially true for students who have a good knowledge of how copywritten and social media content should sound. Choosing to work with small businesses through their marketing efforts may be a viable way for new graduates to build a portfolio they can feel proud and feel confident about.
Whether in language services, retail, or hospitality, many university students of today's generation also work to support themselves. They spend several years balancing priorities and they learn certain necessary organizational skills, particularly those needed for completing a degree. One such skill is autonomy—a trait that goes hand in hand with entrepreneurship. A typical student who both works and goes to school learns to block out chunks of time for studying and completing assignments, just like chunks of time are blocked out for work for pay. New graduates can continue to use this skill by blocking out time for finding and serving clients.
By maintaining this routine, not only are new graduates working toward building their professional portfolio and becoming entrepreneurs, they are also decreasing the amount of drastic change that happens in the stressful transition from university life to work life. New graduates who are already self-motivated and self-driven might find that an entrepreneurial path is a good fit for their lifestyle after graduation.
Each new professional’s career path will look a little different—this is normal, and it becomes a selling point throughout an individual’s lifelong career. And since entrepreneurship is sometimes portrayed as a big, scary monster, some may be tempted to choose working for a translation agency out of fear rather than a legitimate desire. However, they should realize that the countless hours of hard work they put into graduating helped them develop characteristics, habits and skills that transfer very well into an entrepreneurial career. And while entrepreneurship is certainly not a venture to pursue frivolously, it does not have to be preceded by years of in-house experience. So, whether you choose to find an amazing translation agency to hone your skills, or you decide to shape your career yourself, it can be done, new graduate!
Lae Schmidt is a recent graduate of Concordia University in Montréal. During her studies in both her hometown of Los Angeles and her second home in Montréal, she worked with and learned from entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs in the hospitality industry and hopes to combine this with her career in translation. firstname.lastname@example.org https://www.linkedin.com/in/lae