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4 Questions to promote yourself
Thread poster: Johanna González

Johanna González  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:08
English to Spanish
+ ...
Nov 12, 2010

Hello fellow proz-members!

I have been interning at a translation and interpreting company for about three months (3 weeks of which a part time assistant and I were left in charge of the translations department because the project manager had to leave on an emergency) and now I have been given the task of thinking of four questions to ask to translators and proofreaders applying to work for us.

I´ve seen lots and lots of CVs, learning a lot about what NOT to do when you are a freelance translator looking for jobs. I´ve seen VERY detailed CVs of people listing their various (impressive) qualifications and jobs - but they are so long it´s rather tiresome to really read through them and it is easy to miss important bits of information (i.e. that one translator also is a doctor and would have been our man for a highly medical translation if we just had noticed earlier and not the upteenth time we ploughed through his CV just before throwing it into the trash!).

Knowing that I would have to come up with a way of making myself noticed I thought: Why only think of four questions for the translator when the agency is looking to recruit someone?

What four questions would I like to be asked to highlight my skills and talents, similar to an elevator speech, in order to convince those customers and business partners out there, that I am their man (well, woman)?

What would I ask if I was to look for a translator or proofreader for my own needs? Based on all this, I have drafted and discarded and redrafted several elevator speeches, CVs and ¨Ice Breaker Questions¨ (similar to those on a dating site only less banal) trying to condense my skills, experience, qualifications and knowledge into a practical, bite-size package.

What I am proposing is to do a little bit of brainstorming - let´s put ourselves in the shoes of our potential customers - let´s pretend we want to have a very important document translated. What would you ask, apart from standards such as: What is your native language, do you have a degree, what program do you use, how much experience you have...

Let´s ask open ended questions that will allow us to write a nice paragraph selling our awesome services.

Let the brainstorming begin!


[Edited at 2010-11-12 04:35 GMT]

[Edited at 2010-11-12 04:35 GMT]


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:08
Flemish to English
+ ...
Management and marketing. Nov 12, 2010

The classical 4-p's of marketing?
I'll do a Swot-analysis of myself.
How do I create a competitve advantage vis-a-vis all the others in my market-niche?
Sometimes, agencies call because you are the only one to have and know how to use a particular computer-programme or sometime, they call because of the above-mentioned specialisation.
Do I work alone or do I form a team?


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
Struck off! Nov 12, 2010

That doctor must have been struck off, why on earth would you stay at home translating if you could be out doctoring?

Gosh Johanna, why don't you do your own work... The least you could do is provide 4 questions for us to comment on. There is a parallel here with people who post questions not having done any research themselves.


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Stanislav Pokorny  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 06:08
English to Czech
+ ...
Seconded Nov 12, 2010

Tatty wrote:
Gosh Johanna, why don't you do your own work... The least you could do is provide 4 questions for us to comment on. There is a parallel here with people who post questions not having done any research themselves.


Johanna, it's your homework, so come up with a few suggestions and then the discussion over those may begin. As for me, I am certainly not going to storm my brain over this.


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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:08
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Please! Nov 13, 2010

Tatty wrote:

That doctor must have been struck off, why on earth would you stay at home translating if you could be out doctoring?


There are plenty of doctors who translate, and lots of them are actually ProZ members. Without searching the lists, I could name some Norwegian, French, Arabic, Polish, Hungarian, German doctor translators to you. I am surprised that you did not come across any of them yet.

There are other professionals too who happen to be also translators, so please, next time think a little about what you say.

Or do you think that translation is such a lowly job that if they can help it, "real" professionals wouldn't it? They leave it to would be translators who happen to be able to speak two languages and can't think of something else to do, because it would require some effort to get qualifications? Nope. Probably they were fed up with the work of some of these so called translators and they knew that they could do a better job of it.

These professionals like translating, they are sought after and appreciated for their expertise and paid accordingly. So why wouldn't they do it?


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
Pull the other one! Nov 14, 2010

I really don't think that you would choose to study a degree in medicine with an eye to becoming a medical translator. That just isn't logical. People fall into translation as a second career for many reasons and it isn't uncommon for medical writers to offer translation services. Naturally, they are sought after and make a good living from translation but I can't believe that translating was their ultimate goal.

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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:08
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Logic has very little to do with it Nov 15, 2010

With apologies to Johanna for intruding with this argument in your thread.

Tatty wrote:
I really don't think that you would choose to study a degree in medicine with an eye to becoming a medical translator. That just isn't logical. People fall into translation as a second career for many reasons and it isn't uncommon for medical writers to offer translation services. Naturally, they are sought after and make a good living from translation but I can't believe that translating was their ultimate goal.


Let's be a bit more precise.
Medical writers are not necessarily doctors, so let's not dilute the issue.

Medical translators may be translators, medical writers or doctors, but if they are qualified doctors, it doesn't mean that they got into translation because they "must have been struck off"!

Indeed, they usually study medicine to become doctors, and some of the practising doctors translate on the side. There are some who retired, and happy to translate, because they realised that they love doing it and they are good at it. Some of them got into it by accident, or precisely because they feel the need to communicate the knowledge they have.

Professional people with degrees other than translation may translate besides doing their professional work or may choose to translate as a profession for various reasons, too numerous to list.

The do not have to be struck off their professional register to "resort" to translation.
It is an insult to say that. I could have started with this statement yesterday, but I did not want to be too impolite to you.

There is another aspect to the whole subject of changing profession. Life is not easy for any of us, but the best thing about it is nowadays that instead of being stuck in a job or profession you chose at the age of 16 or 18, often with naive views and false expectations, you can decide to do something else.

Sometimes the originally chosen profession turns out to be very different from what the young person imagines it to be, but they don't have to grin and bear it for the rest of their life, as it was common in the past. They can look for something else.

Sometimes family, health, economic or political circumstances - just to mention a few, force people to change track.

Alternatively, they may have done their bit in a profession they studied for, and they feel fulfilled, but they have a different dream or talent as well, and they say; all right, I have done that, now I want to pursue my other dream. Why shouldn't they?

It doesn't mean falling back on to do something else, and most likely they would have to study and obtain new qualifications. I think it shows interest, enthusiasm, enterprise, fighting spirit to embark on a new carrier. Nevertheless, a previous profession, like being a doctor may become an advantage, as is the case for translators.


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
Exactly Nov 15, 2010

Translation is a second profession for them, for whatever reason. And I am not knocking this in any way whatsoever. On the contrary, it stands to reason that medical translations produced by a doctor (or someone with a similar background) will be (much) more accurate than those done by a translator specialising in medical translation. This type of translator will also command high rates due to the degree of specialisation offered, with the knock-on effect of keeping rates up.

My original comment was in fact directly related to the original posting. But I didn't provide my train of thought for comic effect. So here goes: why would a doctor, whose intelligence is beyond question, be incapable of constructing an effective CV? By effective I mean that he failed to showcase his most important attribute, his medical training. Indeed he buried it in the depths of his CV. The only explanation that occurs to me is overcompensation. He has provided all his translation-related experience (listing his translations - which is what a newbie does), chosing to play down a very important asset. He may have something to hide, struck off maybe? Alternatively, though less likely, it could be an attempt to show that he has adjusted to his new sendentary lifestyle. But all in all I do agree that the comic effect is somewhat limited.

(BTW, a translator in the UK is not classed as a professional, whereas a doctor clearly is. Naturally, we translators, especially those holding a degree in medicine can beg to differ in private. However, this does not change the fact that from a statistics or UK government point of view, a doctor-turned-translator will have fallen a notch on the official ranking of occupations.)

There's an idea for one of Johanna's questions - do you hold any non-translation related qualifications. This would give a translator the opportunity to showcase their specialism, pretty much cutting to the chase.


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Johanna González  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:08
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for your ideas Apr 3, 2011

... and sorry for this very, very delayed answer. It got so busy in the office that I forgot I had posted the question. I was a little bit suprised at some of the reactions to my post - it is always very interesting to see how the way we choose to communicate online conveys a certain image of the person behind the screen.

In the end, three of the four questions we came up with were (I can´t remember the fourth):

1. What is your competitive advantage? (We wanted to know what makes the translator different from all the others)

2. How can your customers benefit from your particular set of skills and experience? (In #1 we asked for features, now we are asking for the benefits - does the translator know his/her client and his/her needs?)

3. Think about past translation projects. What was your biggest challenge and how did you deal with it? (Does the translator have good problem-solving skills? Is he/she able to effectively use his/her resources and find a solution?)


@Tatty: I am sorry if I gave the impression I was asking you and other ProZ users to do my homework - that was not my intention. I already had a couple of ideas which I had originally included in my post and then edited out because I decided I wanted to hear what other people had to say before sharing them. I suppose I need to be more transparent.

@Williams: Ah yes. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. A very classical approach and definitely a good first step - I think we got that with the first question. I also noticed that after initially "swotting" oneself it is a good idea to get other opinions, sometimes friends and family see something we might not be aware of. Knowledge of a particular computer program would be an answer for the competitive advantage, right?

Tatty wrote:
There's an idea for one of Johanna's questions - do you hold any non-translation related qualifications. This would give a translator the opportunity to showcase their specialism, pretty much cutting to the chase.


Holding non-translation related qualifications, like our dear doctor, could also be part of a competitive advantage. I do like that question, it is nicely formulated and something not everyone would think of asking.

When presenting oneself one should also be able to explain why the customer will have more benefits by hiring someone with that particular qualification as opposed to someone else who does not have it.

It is like when I bought my first bass: the store clerk started to explain all the technical features, which at that time were incomprehensible to me, and kept on saying that it had an "active pickup that uses a pre-amp, powered by a 9V battery". But it was not until he explained the benefits (the active pickup gives the player more control over the tone and has a juicier sound due to reduced signal loss) that I understood why I might prefer an active bass to a passive one.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:08
English to German
+ ...
I don't think this will work. Apr 4, 2011

If I was asked such generic questions I would probably be rather annoyed. Here is why:

Johanna González wrote:
1. What is your competitive advantage? (We wanted to know what makes the translator different from all the others)


This question indicates that nobody has bothered to read my carefully prepared cover letter and CV.


2. How can your customers benefit from your particular set of skills and experience? (In #1 we asked for features, now we are asking for the benefits - does the translator know his/her client and his/her needs?)


No, the translator does not know the client and their needs because we hardly ever know which project we will work on next. Translators write for the reader, the target group and the user of the translated material, not for the agency. Exception: Your agency is looking for a translator for a particular account.

3. Think about past translation projects. What was your biggest challenge and how did you deal with it? (Does the translator have good problem-solving skills? Is he/she able to effectively use his/her resources and find a solution?)


Uhm, thinking about our translation projects is what we do all day long. It is our profession. Try this with a medical doctor: "Please think about medical things now.", or ask a lawyer to think about law. Asked about the biggest challenges, I would probably answer "incapable project managers".



Holding non-translation related qualifications, like our dear doctor, could also be part of a competitive advantage. I do like that question, it is nicely formulated and something not everyone would think of asking.


Such "non-translation related" qualifications are not "part of a competitive advantage" - they are your strongest asset, your unique selling point.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 12:08
Chinese to English
Wordy to wordier Apr 4, 2011

The thing about these topics is that they start out with a nice KISS principle, then very quickly introduce definitely non-simple concepts like "benefits" and "USP"

My 4 questions?

Name: Phil Hand

What do you do: Chinese>English

What's your rate: absolutely pitiful

Why you for this job: because I did one just like it last month/I worked in this field in a previous life/just because I'm a professional unlike 99% of people in my language pair


Agencies are never really going to invest the time to think about our "USPs" or the "benefits we bring to clients". They want basic data and a single reason to choose/not to choose you. Anything beyond that and you're dreaming.

[Edited at 2011-04-04 05:43 GMT]


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:08
English to German
+ ...
Not quite Apr 4, 2011

Phil Hand wrote:
My 4 questions?

Name: Phil Hand

What do you do: Chinese>English


Hm, if they have to ask you for your language pair, we are dealing with one out of two possible scenarios:
1. They forgot while dialing your number, why they were calling you in the first place. (Bad.)
2. You called them first and you didn't introduce yourself properly. (Bad.)


What's your rate: absolutely pitiful


Not good. Too juvenile. Firstly, this indicates that you are used to grief, secondly, they might not share your sense of humour. Never talk bad about other outsourcers, it will backfire.

Why you for this job: because I did one just like it last month/I worked in this field in a previous life


Excellent. Now we are getting somewhere.

just because I'm a professional unlike 99% of people in my language pair


Bad. 1. Define: "professional", 2. Never, ever start any badmouthing about your colleagues/competitors. Now, thaaaat is "unprofessional".


My best clients are those who called me on the phone. Why did they do that? This way they could perfectly evaluate my command of the source language. Then they would start talking about the oncoming project, using a lot of specific technical vocabulary. After you passed this test (that's what it is!), you can start talking about rates, payment terms and how you run your business.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:08
Member (2008)
Italian to English
My first question Apr 4, 2011

Johanna González wrote:

....I have been interning at a translation and interpreting company for about three months...


My first question would be "Are you prepared to work for nothing?".


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 12:08
Chinese to English
Literal much? Apr 4, 2011

Thanks, Nicole. I think you took me a little bit literally there. I'm not suggesting that I would ever use that exact language to present myself to a client. I am saying that all this talk of USPs, benefits, and the rest is above and beyond what 99% of agencies will ever remember about you.

The point is this: we have to market ourselves, so think marketing basics. The no.1 lesson of all the marketing research that has ever been done is: if people remember your brand name they will buy your stuff. Therefore, lots of contact and lots of reminding people that you exist. I'm XXX, I translate BBB>AAA. Save your benefits and USPs for someone who cares more than a harassed PM who just wants a name to assign this Belgian sock prospectus to.

And as for never bad mouthing your colleagues... welcome to my language pair. I swear to you you would not even recognise the industry out here. Of course I would never be so crass as to point a finger and say, "that person is a bad translator", but I have to make that point clearly to agencies every week of the year. I do it without saying the words, but they get the point. And I have to do it, because most end clients, and most agencies, do not have the resources to tell what kind of a job you're doing.


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Johanna González  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:08
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Lol... NO! Apr 4, 2011

Tom in London wrote:

Johanna González wrote:

....I have been interning at a translation and interpreting company for about three months...


My first question would be "Are you prepared to work for nothing?".


It was not a voluntary internship - it was part of my course of studies and thus compulsory. Otherwise I wouldn´t be allowed to take my examination this summer because I´d be missing 90 credits. Besides - I did get a stipend, free housing and a car from the company, which is not usual for an internship.

[Edited at 2011-04-04 13:41 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-04-04 13:41 GMT]


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