Becoming a Professional Translator – The Journey of a Lifetime

May 12, 2014 | Careers

When Life Takes a Detour

Sometimes the best-laid plans can change. Our career, where we live and how we think we are going to spend the rest of our lives can change when we least expect it. It can be an exciting adventure if we make the most of what we have learned along the way. I often get asked how I became a professional translator, and my answer is always the same:

“I didn’t choose translation, translation chose me”

Deciding to Become a Translator

Some professionals work for one company or in one career field their entire lives. Other professionals change jobs and fields, slowly building a skill-set that follows them. I had worked abroad and was working for an international student exchange program when the terrorist attack on 9/11 changed everything. Our company was one of the first affected by the events, and within a month our entire team around the US had been laid off.  This pivotal moment would change my life forever. I put my resume on the job hunting website and that’s when it happened!  A French aerospace company hired me as a translator and technical writer.

Working Up to a Career – Experience Comes From a Lifetime of Hard-Work

Why did this company think I had what it took to be a technical translator? I had life and work experience that translated into practical skills. It was the combined experience of more than a decade of working with aerospace and high-tech companies in France, using French and English in the workplace, developing and writing training materials on technical subjects and negotiating contracts in two languages coupled with a background in English language training. I call this “raw translation skills”.

Putting Practical Experience to Work – Hard Work Really Does Pay Off!

No diploma could ever give me what I had learned over decades in the workplace. I had practical hands-on work experience in two languages. A bit of hard work and a few more years in the field and I had become a professional translator.

Moonlighting as a Freelancer

For the next two decades, I worked as a full-time translator during the day while moonlighting as a freelance translator and technical writer.  I was able to build a business that I could take with me anywhere in the world.

Translation Lifestyle

I was able to live a “translation lifestyle” and either work full-time from a home office or keep my day job and translate part-time.  I can enjoy the best of both worlds.

Take Your Career Outside the Box

Don’t wait for an unforeseen event to force you to think outside the box. What life skills do you have that you can put to work for you?  Whatever your career holds in store for you, I wish you the best in your journey to becoming the best professional possible!

Feel free to write us and tell us about your own lifetime of experience and career choices. We’d be happy to give you input if you are considering a change and need a fresh perspective.

Recommended Reading

What Color Is Your Parachute – A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers