How to Find Fulfilling Work: 5 Steps to Accomplish Delight in Your Translating Career


If you have a gift for easily learning and speaking different languages, you must know that you have a valuable career opportunity in your hands.

Being able to function well in intercultural collaborations is an advantage in today's world wherein global connectivity is continually pursued. It's not uncommon for companies or workplaces to bring together diverse teams, expand to other corners of the globe, and to build relationships with potential partners or clients from other cultures.

When you are able to speak more than one language, you can play a significant role in promoting global dynamics and collaboration — specifically, by working as a translator.

Pursuing a career in translation

Translators must possess a number of key skills and qualifications:

  • For one, you must be skilled in speaking a particular source language. This means that you can understand the majority of texts without referring to a dictionary (understanding that dictionaries are only used to assist their work rather than work for them).
This skill can be developed by spending time in the source language's country, taking courses, and reading publications written in the language.

  • You must also choose a specialization. A key to success is being able to function as an expert in translating each individual text you are provided, rather than being a supposed expert on every language all at once. Examples of translating specializations are Patents, Legal, Banking and Finance, Medical, IT, and Business.
  •  Your educational background can also be a plus. A Master's degree is common among translators since it can help develop greater linguistic ability, better research skills, technical expertise and planning goals.
Of course, it's not always a must; there are instances wherein a translator without a Master's degree can be equally effective in his work simply by residing in the source country for many years and interacting with the locals.

  • Finally, you need reasonable to advanced computer skills and resources. Translators work with all kinds of documents that could be sent by agencies and clients from a variety of devices.
It helps to be able to figure out any computer or compatibility issues that arise. In addition, your typing speed, your use of Google for research and referencing, and mastery of translation memory software and tools can all affect your efficiency.

Of course, even if you have the necessary skills and qualifications, being able to perform well in this profession can also depend on how well the job fits your lifestyle.

Working as a translator is perfect for you if:

You want to work independently.

Translators typically work freelance or for agencies, which means that you won't have to rely on the demands of superiors or fall victim to the uncertainties of the job market.

You prefer flexible working hours and conditions.

Freelancing or working through an agency means you won't have to be tied to nine-to-five desk job when you can simply connect to the internet at home or elsewhere and get the job done, as long as deadlines are met.

You are open to engaging in projects that cover a wide range of topics.
Because you stand to receive a variety of documents, you are constantly learning new vocabularies and language quirks and developing your translating skills. As such, the job will never cease to be interesting and educational.

You wish to build your global cultural intelligence.

Translation, by nature, is an exercise in intercultural performance. It is not merely about understanding a language, but also about understanding the people belonging to that culture. And with increasing cultural diversity, investing in building your cultural intelligence allows you to apply a global perspective to any situation.

Finding fulfillment and happiness in your translation career

Armed with the right skills and the lifestyle to match, how, then, can you be sure to build an appreciation and genuine passion for your career in translation, so that every day is a happy, rewarding one for you? Here are the key factors to observe:

Know what you are worth
Some translators lower their rate in order to secure clients, but this can demonstrate a lack of self-respect on your part. If you are fully aware of the qualifications, experience and expertise that you bring to the table, then you can be confident that you are charging your clients correctly and fairly, and that you are not short-changing yourself for the sake of finding work.

Take a time out at the right moment

While you do have the freedom to choose projects and arrange your schedule to suit your lifestyle, you might find yourself taking on more work than you can handle simply because you don't feel right turning clients down, or you feel that you are not making enough so you need to do as much work as you can.

Keep in mind that you can only be an effective translator when you are able to regularly rest and recharge.

Say no to bad clients

There's no reason to keep working with clients who deliver sloppy materials, demand for lower rates or shorter timeframes, fail to pay on time or produce all kinds of difficulties for you.

Remember that there will always be other clients that you can work harmoniously with, so spare yourself the stress of dealing with problematic people or organizations.

Delegate when it's necessary for efficiency

If you cannot complete the work on your own, consider hiring another translator to help you with the load. It's a win-win all around — you won't be bogged down with a mountain of work, you'll discover a fellow translator who can collaborate well with you for future projects and you'll be able to deliver positive results to your client and gain their favorable feedback.

Stick to your values

Finally, the key to being a truly happy translator is to know for certain that you are leading your professional life according to the values you hold dear.

When you allow yourself to grab opportunities to learn and grow while working, when you engage in translation precisely because of the intercultural connections you can make, when you channel your translation skills toward understanding as much as you can about different people and different cultures — then you can truly say that you have much love for what you do, and every day at work is a truly enriching experience that you wouldn't trade for anything in the world.

Author Bio:

Salma El-Shurafa is an experienced Executive Coach and founder of The Pathway Project. She is a Professional Certified Coach by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach from The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and a graduate of CTI’s Co-Active Leadership program. Salma is the first Arab female faculty member of CTI in the region, a certified Agile profile coach and trainer as well as a Cultural Intelligence Certified Advanced Facilitator.

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