I was offered a set of passes to attend this event way back in March, and writing it up in my CPD booklet the other day reminded me of how inspiring it was. I’d never been to a networking event of this sort before, let alone one for International Women’s Day, and I really wasn’t quite sure what I would make of it. But wow! The speakers were just fantastic and I don’t think there was a single man or woman who didn’t leave feeling excited and energised about their career, regardless of the field they worked in.
I found Susan Hooper, a Managing Director with Royal Caribbean Cruises, especially inspiring. I loved how she advocated the importance of doing what you truly enjoy, even when that leads you off a more traditional or safe career path. She also said that NOT having a career plan was the best thing she’s ever done as it’s left her free to seize new opportunities that she’d otherwise never have considered. That gave me great food for thought as it’s contrary to received wisdom, and gave me confidence in the choices I’ve made.
So what has this got to do with translation? Well, most freelance translators will probably tell you that there is no such thing as a traditional career path into translation. I happen to disagree. Yes, there are plenty of translators in the UK from a range of backgrounds who have turned to freelance translation as a second career. But for every one of these, there is also a translator, either freelance or inhouse, who has slowly and steadily worked their way up the industry ladder (again, I’m referring to the UK here. A native English-speaking translator living in say, Germany, would have a very different set of options available to them). First, an inhouse position as a proofreader, checker or production assistant. Then, a promotion to project manager. Eventually, after several years, they may get some translation work. Finally, the time is right to go freelance.
Of course there is so much to be gained from this path – not only do you take the big leap to freelance with the benefit of several years’ worth of industry experience and contacts behind you, you also probably have a guarantee of work from your former employers. But attractive as it sounded, I just didn’t feel this was right for me.
I spent a lot of time speaking to those already established in the industry and even successfully interviewed for a few really great companies. But I never really felt any of these roles enabled me to make full use of my transferable skills and experience. What’s more, I just couldn’t see a way of creating just such a role inhouse either. I knew I’d be bored and I knew the excitement and buzz of working for myself was just what I needed. But this went against the advice of everyone I spoke to. So, wary of putting my long-suffering hsuband through yet another financially unstable couple of years, I chickened out after graduating from an MA in Specialised and Technical Translation and took a corporate job for a while. The plan was to work hard and gather a tidy little nest egg, before turning my attentions back to freelance translation.
Needless to say, it was a mistake and I very quickly realised it just wasn’t for me. In a way, that forced my hand and with a big gulp and very little savings I struck out on my own. And the rest, as they say, is history. That’s not to say it has been easy, or that I haven’t made mistakes (oh! the mistakes!), but going against the grain and throwing my career path out the window was the best thing I could have ever done.
By the way, the other speakers were Mary McPhail from WAGGGS, Minister Margaret Hodge, John Rendall from HSBC Business Banking and Jo Salter, Britain’s first female fast jet pilot. If you ever get a chance to hear any of them speak, I’d recommend it (er… except for maybe the Minister, who arrived late, rushed her speech then left as soon as she finished… happy International Women’s Day indeed!)