The world around us is rapidly transforming, driven by globalisation, digitalisation, changes in work practices and advances in technology more generally. In just a short period of time, many jobs will look very different than they do today. For example, the implementation of machine translation has created a whole new translation role that’s developed over the past decade.
Given these momentous changes, how do you stay on top of your career as a translator, or how can you best prepare for a translation role? Here are some top insights on how to future-proof your career in translation.
Working in translation can be highly fulfilling. There are many career paths to take in the field, and lots of opportunities. From translating for diplomats at the United Nations and localising video games to medical translation and advertising transcreation roles, it’s a highly diverse field. Here are just a few of the areas translators work in:
- Technical translation services
- Elearning translation
- Software localization services
- Ecommerce translation services
- Website localization services
- Dubbing and subtitling services
- Multilingual SEO
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook reports that translation jobs will grow much quicker than the average over the next few years, so job security is relatively high. If you’re interested in building a successful career in translation, follow the tips below.
There are two main parameters for specialisation: language and subject area. The benefits of specialisation are that it creates a barrier to entry, which helps boost job security as there will be less competition for jobs, and it increases productivity, according to Indeed recruiters. For instance, each field of knowledge, like cardio-vascular healthcare, has its own terminology, and becoming knowledgable about those industry-specific terms is necessary for high-quality results.
Translators usually translate into their mother tongue, the target language. Therefore, if you’d like to work at an international organisation like the UN or EU, check their official set of languages to see if your mother tongue aligns.
In terms of subject area, pick one that you’re passionate about. Areas in high demand are healthcare, law and science and technology. Generally, the more specialised the subject area, the higher the pay.
One key aspect to bear in mind is the popularity of the language pair you wish to pursue as working with an increasingly important language translates into better job prospects. The Washington Post reports that “Hindi, Bengali, Urdu and Indonesian will dominate much of the business world by 2050, followed by Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Russian.” (To read more on languages of the future, click here.)
As well as the requisite language skills, and expertise in a subject area, a fantastic way to hone translation skills and to demonstrate your prowess is to get certified.
This doesn’t have to be via a university degree in translation, though that would be a great route into a career as a certified translator as it’s considered the gold standard. As the field is largely unregulated, being certified helps assure employers and clients of the standard of your work.
There are many programs available, such as the American Translators Association certificate course, and in Hong Kong there’s the Higher Diploma in Translation and Interpretation at the HKU School of Professional and Continuing Education. As well as getting certified as a translator, it’s well worth considering gaining qualifications in the subject area you’ll be working in, such as a paralegal qualification if you aim to work in legal document translation.
Becoming a member of a professional organisation like The Chartered Institute of Linguistics, which has over 7,000 members, or The Hong Kong Translation Society, founded in 1971 to enhance the translation field, is another way to showcase your expertise and professionalism. These entities also facilitate networking opportunities, which can be highly beneficial when it comes to looking for new roles or gaining new clients for freelance work.
Develop tech smarts
There’s no doubt we are in the midst of a tech transformation. From cloud computing and blockchain to quantum computers and the Internet of Things, the whole economy is becoming digitalised to some degree, and translation is no different. As well as mastering a language pair, and a subject area, honing translation tech skills, and maintaining them against today’s backdrop of rapid tech developments, is one of the best ways to future-proof any career in translation.
Today’s translation methods often require specialised computer programs, like translation memory platform Wordfast and machine translation software SYSTRAN. A Nimdzi report in 2021 identified more than 750 tech solutions including translation management systems, integrators, interpreting systems, audiovisual translation tools and speech recognition, among others.
Gain practical experience
It’s the age-old stumbling block for first-time job seekers: how do you get the necessary experience to apply for a job that requires experience. While interning may be an option for some, taking on some freelance work is good way to start accumulating experience. It’s also a great side hustle if you’re still studying.
Translation agencies often outsource some of their work, so getting in contact with a few that operate in your area of specialisation is a good start. An advantage of working with an agency as a contract translator is you’ll be working with seasoned professionals, so you’ll pick up skills and knowledge along the way.
Another option is to sign up for online freelance translation platforms. However, at this level, the competition is fierce and you may be competing against other freelance translators in countries with a much lower cost of living, who can therefore charge industry-low rates.
Careers in translation and interpreting are hugely diverse and offer a lot of scope for career development and a good work/life balance. With these four tips in hand, you’ll be well on your way to getting ahead in this interesting field.
Into23 is always looking out for talent in the translation field, so if you are looking to start your career in the translation industry, get in contact with us today.