Tuesday 17 April 2012

Translators, Market Yourselves

Glendon's Translation Alumni Night was Friday, March 30 at the Glendon Manor. It was a night of interesting speeches, delicious hors d’oeuvres and a roomful of people just as obsessed with languages as me. Can anyone say #wishfulfillment?

There were four speakers:

1.     Donna Achimov, CEO of the Government of Canada's Translation Bureau
2.     Alana Chalmers, a Glendon Translation graduate working as an editor for an online magazine
3.     Gina Létourneau, legislative translator with the Government of Ontario
4.     James McLennan, founder of translation company Gaston Murdock

It was informative, interesting and practical.  The main point that stood out was that translators need to start marketing themselves. Which makes perfect sense. Translators sometimes don’t get the credit or attention they deserve. But, half the fault lies with us. We have to make people see how important and relevant our profession is, and that requires getting actively involved in promoting the profession.

Let's think about it for a second. When was the last time you heard anyone say “translators are the coolest thing since sliced bread”? Me? Never. But we ARE the coolest thing since sliced bread (after ice cream, OREO Cakesters and modern plumbing).

So, how do we get the word out there that we’re needed and important?

Well, Donna Achimov and James McLenna both mentioned the positive benefits that come from taking advantage of tools like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIN. Even YouTube can be used to further our “cause”. Traduction NB Translation, a non-profit organization committed to promoting the translation industry, started a campaign called “In New Brunswick, translators mean a lot!” The campaign included a video featuring a translator at work and the many awesome, cool tasks she accomplishes on a  day-to-day basis. Check out their website for more information.

I’ll admit it, back in Grade 11 when I read The Hunchbank of Notre Dame [in English], you can bet that the first thing on my mind was not “wow, this translation is super awesome. Kudos to whoever translated this masterpiece of literary genius.” (BTW, I think it was Lowell Bair but I can’t even say that with absolute certainty) It’s getting better, I think, and I don’t have much to compare it to. But in many of my Glendon Translation classes, the issue of the translator’s invisibility was addressed.It is a genuine concern and a topic of heated debate. I say, let’s step out from behind the curtain. I’m not trying to start a war here, but what’s wrong with being acknowledged for the important work we do? And, why not make use of the social media tools we have to do just that?

P.S., for pictures from Glendon School of Translation Alumni Night, check out the Glendon School of Translation facebook page.

Monday 26 March 2012

Fourth-Year Student Guide to Finding a Translation Job- Step #4

This is it. We’ve arrived at the end of my four-step guide to finding a translation job. And, coincidentally, the end of my four years at Glendon. Both are bittersweet.

So, let us consider the final and most important step in landing a translation job: the interview. Interviews are your opportunity to shine. They are also your opportunity to justify, explain or make up for any “deficiencies” in your résumé.

How to Impress on a Job Interview

I don’t know how justified I am in writing this considering I don’t actually have a translation job, but that has never stopped me before. Let’s first look to the master of the interview, the Prince of Fresh himself, Will Smith.

What can we learn from Will?

There are several things we can learn from him, first of which is honesty.
Interviewers are smart. They know when you’re pulling some line you read on a blog posting about how to land a job. So the key is to not do that. Sound as authentic as possible. In fact, be as authentic as possible. In other words, “be you.” I bet when they ask you what your biggest weakness is, you’re all fired up to say “perfectionist.” I’m also thinking they might have heard that one before.

So, ok, maybe your biggest weakness is that you’re a perfectionist. After all, if you are a translation student, that is more than likely true. But, provide examples, justify your statement, make them believe you. Let’s say you really are a perfectionist, which I am, here are two potential scenarios.

See how much more authentic the second one sounds? Why? Because not only is it true, but I’ve also proved that it’s true.

The second thing we can learn from Will is to show them the skills you have to offer. If you're missing one of the skills or experiences they've listed as requirements for the job, highlight the other valuable skills you can contribute to their organization (i.e. crazy-fast ability to solve Rubik's cubes) and state your willingness to develop and learn the skills you may be lacking.

There is one area in which I suggest you not take notes from Will Smith: what to wear. 

What to wear 

It depends entirely on the company. Choices could range from a full-blown business suit to a simple blazer and khaki pants. Research the company mission and values. If you’re lucky, the organization may even have a page on their website describing their team and corporate culture. Then, dress accordingly.

It’s true that the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is known for “lookin’ fly.” But, looking “fly” for a night out on the town and looking “fly” for a job interview are two completely different things.

Appropriate Job Interview Attire
NOT appropriate job interview attire

Final words of advice

 Be engaging, prepared and enthusiastic. Show them how awesome you really are.

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Fourth-Year Student Guide to Finding a Translation Job- Step #3

You’ve got your impressive résumé, your mind-blowing cover letter and now you get to sit back, relax and watch the magic happen. Right? Wrong. 

Sorry to break it to you but this is when the real work starts. Your impressive résumé and mind-blowing cover letter are of no use to you if they’re saved on your computer waiting to be e-mailed out. 
Get yourself out there!

So, you’ve probably heard the term “networking”. If you haven’t, here you go: Business Networking. You need to use your network, whether of online connections, friends, family, the next-door neighbour you only talk to when you both end up shoveling your driveways at the same time (awkward, right?) or school alumni. This involves getting your inner salesperson out. Sell yourself. And I mean that in the most non-offensive way possible. Show people what you have to offer. When opportunities present themselves to talk about your skills and what kind of job you’re looking for, 
don’t be shy. I have a friend, we’ll call her Serena. She’s sitting in a Starbucks, working on an assignment and using Photoshop to design a web page. There’s a guy sitting next to her who has been talking and talking and talking on the phone the entire time cutting deals, calling Tokyo, and trading stock. She’s finished her second macchiato, closed up her laptop and is about to get up. He puts his call on hold, gets her attention and asks her if she’s a Graphics Designer. She’s not. But he’s been watching her progress the entire time and gives her his card. Turns out this guy has about 100 connections in the field she’s interested in and he ends up linking her to some people hiring. We don’t all get a Starbucks story but the point is that we have to get out there and take advantage of opportunities to show people how awesome we really are. I mean who’s to say the guy at the party you’re at isn’t looking for a Translator for his up-and-coming website?

 Let people know you’re looking

Hey, I understand, telling people you’re broke and unemployed is not fun. It’s not. But you don’t really have to let people know you’re broke, you just have to let them know you’re looking. There’s a way to do that without appearing desperate or pathetic. I promise.  How about this: 

Easy, right? I’m not saying this will happen all the time. In fact, maybe it will only happen 1 out of every 50 times you ask. But that 1 time is all you need if it lands you a job, right?

So, it’s time to practice what I’m preaching. Glendon is having their Translation Alumni Night this month and I’ve got to get out there and sell myself, round up some business cards and get the ball rolling. You never know. Maybe this’ll be the chance I've been waiting for.

Saturday 25 February 2012

March 4th has never been this exciting

I absolutely have not given up my series on finding a translation job, but there was something I needed to tell you. Today. Before it was too late. Something you must know. Something that could potentially change your life forever. So here it is: Glendon’s Spring Open House, lovingly known as Expérience Glendon, is happening in 7 days and counting. 7 days! If you’re still undecided as to whether Glendon is for you, checking out the campus is the sure-fire way to make up your mind. Know you want to do translation but still don’t know where? This open house is the perfect opportunity to get an up-close and personal look at the life of a Glendon student.

Expérience Glendon

If you've applied to a number of different schools and are currently trying to sort through the 56,473 things you've been told over the course of the last 3 months, you might be feeling panicky, overwhelmed with information and bursting with questions. Have no fear. You’ll get to meet a professor from Glendon’s School of Translation and ask a student in the program whatever’s on your mind.  And by whatever is on your mind, I don’t mean “should I eat seven burritos in one sitting?” (But in case you were wondering, the answer to that question is always “no.”) I mean questions like “Why Glendon?” “If I’m in the Translation program, can I still go away on exchange?” “What are the classes like?” “What are the professors like?” “What does it take to make it in this field?”

There will be something small and sweet and delicious to eat

Not only is all of the above true, but you can also take a tour and check out our beautiful campus, sit in on some information sessions on how to succeed in your first year plus—PLUS!—there  will be cupcakes.

Blue, blue blue

Like winning free stuff? Don’t pretend you don’t. You know you do. But here's something you didn't know: if you wear blue to the event, you have the chance to win an on-the-spot prize. Nothing could be simpler. Just grab that blue sweater in your closet, you know, the really soft, comfy one you got on sale. Then wear it on March 4 to Expérience Glendon for a chance to win free stuff.

So what are you waiting for? This is about your future people, and time waits for no one. Register here:

Friday 24 February 2012

Fourth-Year Student Guide to Finding a Translation Job-Step #2 Cover Letter

Shoot me if I’m wrong (um, please don’t actually shoot me; it’s an expression) but cover letters are really hard to write. The problem is, of course, that you are expected to write in full sentences. Oh, the horror!

Full sentences please

It’s pretty hard to mess up point form, which is the standard way people structure their résumés. But ask me to be pithy in full sentences with a main clause, subject, verb etc. and I’m suddenly at a loss. I know: you’re shaking your heads thinking “How could this be? Chloe, you’re sooo smart, and I distinctly remember that at least one of the sentences in your past blog post had a subject and verb and everything.” My first response to this is “thank you, but I think you might be mistaken.” Once in a blue moon I am capable of adhering to the rules of English grammar and sentence structure, but not often. Plus, it’s so much harder in a cover letter. 

So, first things first, brush up on your grammar. You can start here if you want: 10 Words you Need to Stop Misspelling. Grammar, punctuation and spelling is where HR managers or anyone else reading your application will be incredibly critical, especially if you’re applying for a job that requires you be a perfectionist and/or detail oriented like, I don’t know... a translation position for example.  Look, finding a job is hard enough on its own being a student with little to no experience. Give yourself a fighting chance by not making careless mistakes. Even the teeniest, tiniest typo will get you out of the race before the shot’s even been fired.

Let’s talk content

The content of the cover letter should be very specific to the job you’re applying for. A professor once told me to write an entirely new cover letter for every position I apply for. It’s good advice because how many times have I found myself plugging in the job title and company name into the same generic cover letter only to find I forgot to change the company name, and now my application says how much I want to work for Zellers, when I actually applied to Wal-Mart? More times than I’d like to admit. They want to know you thought long and hard about the company and what they’re looking for. More importantly, they want to know that you have what they’re looking for. There is almost no excuse for not knowing anything about the company. Google anyone? Mention something—anything!—that proves you know what their mission and values are. Then show how your skills will help them fulfill that mission. If it’s a translation position at a customer-focused company, which many are, try something like this: I know that an organization that prides itself on providing their customers with accurate, timely information, needs detail-oriented employees who blah blah blah. See? Easy. Now you try it.

Tone it

And I don’t mean your arms, although if they’re looking anything like mine they might be due for a good work out. When it comes to your cover letter, adjust the tone to the company’s style. I once applied for a position at a company with a very young, hip, trendy vibe. I knew they were looking for people with a sense of humour so I did my best to inject that into my cover letter. I actually remember using the words “ninja-fast typing skills” in the body of the letter. And I got an interview! My interview was awful, and will be addressed later, but at least my cover letter got my foot in the door.

Make your conclusion chocolate cake

Leave them salivating and wanting more. You know, the way you feel after you’ve finished the last slice of cake but aren’t completely satisfied. I’d like to suggest you make them believe that choosing anyone else but you would be the worst mistake of the lives.  But we have to be realistic. At the end of the day, what’s really important is that you communicate your sincere desire to be part of their organization.

If you need any more help writing a cover letter, you can always visit one of Glendon’s Counselling and Disability Services workshops or even drop in Mondays: 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm and Thursdays: 11:00 am - 3:00 pm for résumé and cover letter writing help. See my past blog post for more information on that. And follow them on Twitter: @GLCandDServices

Monday 6 February 2012

Fourth-Year Student Guide to Finding a Translation Job- Step #1

Job hunting is fun…for the first hour and a half. Then it’s excruciating. But all of us—millionaire heiresses and criminals aside—have to do it at some point. So I decided to share my vast job-hunting knowledge and experience with you. And ok, YES, I haven't yet found a job in my field, and NO, I have no proof these steps will work (stop harassing me!).  But let's try them out together and first one with the job wins...the satisfaction of having a job (and money)!

I’m not the first person to think of sharing my job hunting tips with the masses. Many have done it before me, and better:

Exhibit A: York University's Career CentreFind the Job You Want

Exhibit B: Globe and MailPrimer for student job hunters

But here it is coming from a fourth-year Translation student perspective, coming from someone who’s starting to sweat a little as graduation comes nearer and the list of experiences on her résumé seem to be smaller than ever.

So here’s my how-to.

How to find a Translation Job if you’re a fourth-year student who

a) Does not have a parent or relative who owns a translation agency and would be willing to hire you no questions asked
b) Has zero to little professional translation experience
c) Is not francophone; or
d) Fits all of the above.

Let’s... begin at the beginning.

Step #1 Create an Awesome Résumé

Yeah, yeah I know…you’re résumé is a masterpiece, a work of unparalleled imagination, the embodiment of all that is literary genius. Shakespeare would be envious. If this were 1860, Mark Twain would be ripping the pencil from your hands in a fit of jealous rage.

But, let’s get real for a second. We all think our stuff is amazing. It’s really hard to be objective when we’ve spent hours writing a description of every awesome thing we’ve ever done throughout our entire life in the most flattering way possible. I thought my stuff was amazing too…until I brought it over to Glendon’s Counselling and Disability Services.

Get a Second (or Third Opinion)

You may be pretty proud of the lemonade stand you set up when you were five, and for certain jobs maybe it’s relevant. But for others, maybe it’s not. So, perhaps it doesn't need to be included in your list of work experiences. To confirm whether something on your résumé is relevant or not, it's always helpful to get opinions from an objective critic: your teacher, your most honest friend, or your school’s Career Services (all three if you can manage it).

Choose a Style that Suits Your Experience

My professor suggested that I use a functional résumé. For those of you in the crowd scratching your heads, don’t feel bad, I did that too. A functional résumé is a résumé organized based on your skills. It’s ideal for students because most of us have not yet had an opportunity to work in our chosen field. That doesn’t mean you wasted the year you served at McDonald’s or the 6 months you worked at Kernels Popcorn (yes, it’s true, I wore the popcorn shirt and everything) or the summers you spent as a camp counsellor. You gained valuable experience that can be applied to other positions and a functional résumé lets you highlight them. Monster explains Functional Résumés Here. My functional résumé is organized like this:
This isn’t verbatim, but you get the idea.

Take Advantage of the Free (Yes Free!) Resources at Your School

After having my résumé reviewed by my mom and my professor, I brought it over to Glendon’s Career and Counselling Services, now called Counselling and Disability Services. As you can see, it’s in a cute little building attached to the Glendon Manor.

They were super nice, super friendly and gave me candy, which was a nice bonus. More importantly, they also showed me the glaring flaws in my résumé that I would not have been able to spot on my own. 

Throughout the year, they have a ton of workshops on preparing for job interviews, writing resumes, networking, marketing your B.A. and exploring the hidden job market. And, as a Glendon student, you can also attend many of the workshops offered through the York University Career Centre.

I could go and on. I really could. But there are so many useful places out there for résumé-writing tips like here and here.

The next piece of the puzzle is the Cover Letter, and it's coming soon to a screen near you.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

So you want to be a Translator, eh?

If you are a future translator/translation student/translation enthusiast, and if the friends, family and strangers in your life are anything like mine, the following conversation may seem incredibly familiar:

And this reaction is sort of surprising. I mean, the job is in the name. But, I get it. It’s not something you hear every day. And when it comes to childhood dream jobs, it’s not exactly as popular as doctor, astronaut or cupcake taster...mmm cupcakes. 

Plus, with text translation tools like Google Translate and Babel Fish, some might even say translators will become obsolete before you know it, that in ten years they won’t even need us. But can an online translation program translate emotion, humour and irony? Nuh-uh. When it comes to translation, human > technology. Any day. Any place. Any time.

So, for those people in your life that keep on asking: 

What is Translation?

Translation is “the process of converting written texts from one language to another” Glendon Translation. But it’s not just that, it is transmitting culture and knowledge from one language group to another. I don’t mean to get all philosophical on you, but it’s actually really cool if you think about it. All that philosophical deep thinking translated from Ancient Greek and Latin, all that mathematical, scientific knowledge translated from Arabic, all that romance and poetry translated from French.

But, because I know you so well, I know you're thinking: Ok, fine, so I'm transmitting knowledge. Hooray. But, how am I going to bring home the bacon (or tofu for those of us vegetarians) with a Translation degree.?

What can you really do with Translation?

A ton.

Translators can work for major national and international corporations, the government, law firms, international organizations and non-profit organizations. Basically any job that requires the use of exceptional writing and language abilities. Want to travel the world while donating your time to organizations like  Translators Without Borders? Working with non-profits like Translators Without Borders means you’re helping people get access to knowledge they might otherwise not have had, and that’s pretty awesome.

Ok, so you’ve decided you want to be a Translator. Awesome. Where are you going to study?

Well, I chose Glendon.

What makes Translation at Glendon so special?

1.     You’re going to be studying on a bilingual campus. That means that while you’re learning French (or Spanish as the case may be) inside the classroom, you’re also being exposed to it outside the classroom, giving you the perfect opportunity to practice and perfect your language skills.
2.     The Translation Department offers work placements and internships so that before you’ve even graduated, you can gain incredibly valuable experience
3.     The professors are awesome. They are very accessible and want to help you.  In fact, they like it when you drop by their office and ask them questions.
4.     The small class size. The small-class size thing is great for many reasons, obviously. But one important one is getting a really personalized experience. All my professors know me by name so getting reference letters for graduate schools and jobs is easy peasy (do people still say that anymore? Well, I’m bringing it back.) And when it comes to giving you feedback on your assignment and where you went wrong, that’s so easy to do when there’s only 20 other people in your class. 

You’re convinced. Right?

You're not? How is that possible?!? Fine, if you're not yet certain that translation is for you, check out the following: