What to do when given a test that is barely relevant to your specialty
Thread poster: Matthias Hirsh

Matthias Hirsh  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:12
Member (2018)
Japanese to English
Sep 20

Is it poor manners or definitively inadvisable for someone with less than two years of experience to refuse a test or ask for a different one when an agency offers you one that is barely related to the fields you clearly told them you specialize in?

There have been several instances of agencies offering me tests that are only broadly related to what I told them I am comfortable doing and have done successfully in the past. For example, I have worked on some manuals and IFUs for medi
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Is it poor manners or definitively inadvisable for someone with less than two years of experience to refuse a test or ask for a different one when an agency offers you one that is barely related to the fields you clearly told them you specialize in?

There have been several instances of agencies offering me tests that are only broadly related to what I told them I am comfortable doing and have done successfully in the past. For example, I have worked on some manuals and IFUs for medical devices. I find an agency that claims to do a lot of work in that field and I apply telling them I am interested in doing only work in that field for them. They send me an article from a medical journal.

Aside from never sending the test back, is there any chance I'd make any headway if I requested a different test or offered to show them samples of previous IFU work instead of taking a test I'd probably not pass?
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DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
Multitudes Sep 21

Matthias, thanking to my lucky stars I have never worked with agencies (middlemen), yet the obvious reasons are, say, to check:
1) how you weak-willed flexible you are to sponge on you even harder;
2) how you communicate and handle stress situations;
3) how broad your interdisciplinary knowledge;
4) how you can work in their style for the audience;
5) how you may fit/
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Matthias, thanking to my lucky stars I have never worked with agencies (middlemen), yet the obvious reasons are, say, to check:
1) how you weak-willed flexible you are to sponge on you even harder;
2) how you communicate and handle stress situations;
3) how broad your interdisciplinary knowledge;
4) how you can work in their style for the audience;
5) how you may fit/cope with a specific project;
6) how needy you are;
and so on and on.
Why, the very accepting of a free* test does show some qualities.

Even
Specialty Fields:
>creative writing, literature, entertainment, and transcreation
>some experience with IFUs for medical devices; would like to pursue this further
and other info counts.

However, you also may be right for having zillions bottom-feeders, they just don't care much...
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Samuel Murray
Morano El-Kholy
 

Matthias Hirsh  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:12
Member (2018)
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Please explain? Sep 21

When you say my willingness to take an unpaid test shows certain qualities, do you mean I should/could, even with just under 2 years professional experience, ask to be paid to take tests or refuse to take unpaid ones? Is offering only samples instead an option?


I’ve heard of more veteran translators who are busy refusing unpaid tests, I just didn’t know of that was a weight I could throw around without getting laughed out of the email chain.


Carole Biselele
 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 10:12
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
What's so hard? Sep 21

If you can do it, do it.
If you can't, say it.


 

Ph_B
France
Local time: 04:12
Member (Jan 2019)
French
+ ...
It is inadvisable to do a test you're likely to fail Sep 21

"Is it poor manners or definitively inadvisable for someone with less than two years of experience to refuse a test?"

It isn't poor manners if you answer the request politely and it is definitely inadvisable to do a test if you're not comfortable doing it. What will the agency think if you fail the test - as you may if it isn't something you're comfortable with?

"or ask for a different one?"

Nothing wrong with that, but if the agency keeps sending you tests
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"Is it poor manners or definitively inadvisable for someone with less than two years of experience to refuse a test?"

It isn't poor manners if you answer the request politely and it is definitely inadvisable to do a test if you're not comfortable doing it. What will the agency think if you fail the test - as you may if it isn't something you're comfortable with?

"or ask for a different one?"

Nothing wrong with that, but if the agency keeps sending you tests that don't fit your profile, try and find other agencies or better still, direct clients.

"offered to show them samples of previous IFU work"

That's better than doing a test you might fail, if you kow your work is good (e.g. accepted by a client) and as long as you don't disclose any information that shouldn't be.



[Edited at 2019-09-21 08:59 GMT]
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Morano El-Kholy
 

Ana Cuesta  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:12
Member
English to Spanish
Refuse it and explain why, maybe suggest a different kind of test piece Sep 21

There is nothing unprofessional in refusing a test piece because it is outside your specialties, quite the opposite. As an example, my own background is in Chemistry so I do Pharma but not other kinds of Medical, and if I get sent a test (or as a matter of fact a paid job) about say, surgical interventions, I would refuse it and explain why.

Now, I think the problem may be in defining what is or isn’t within your specialties/capabilities. Personally, I find your stated “IFUs for
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There is nothing unprofessional in refusing a test piece because it is outside your specialties, quite the opposite. As an example, my own background is in Chemistry so I do Pharma but not other kinds of Medical, and if I get sent a test (or as a matter of fact a paid job) about say, surgical interventions, I would refuse it and explain why.

Now, I think the problem may be in defining what is or isn’t within your specialties/capabilities. Personally, I find your stated “IFUs for Medical Devices” a bit broad, since there are all sorts of different kinds of Medical Devices (again, I would happily translate the IFU for a glucometer, but not so for a prosthetic implant) and then you have IFUs directed at HPs and others directed at patients (and the level of technicality is of course very different).

So it could be a good idea to define what is it that makes you confident about translating the kind of IFUs you have translated and not about translating the medical journal article they sent you as a test. Perhaps this company deals with highly technical medical devices and needs someone with a strong medical background (hence the test piece they sent you wouldn’t be out of place). And maybe you are comfortable translating IFUs for patients and your strong point is writing in a clear language patients can understand (which could be a good selling point, since we all have suffered from incomprehensible instructions).

At the end of the day, a test (paid or not) is an opportunity for both parties to decide if they could be a good match for a collaboration or not.

My apologies in advance if I am making too many assumptions…
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Teresa Borges
Morano El-Kholy
 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:12
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Might nonetheless be realistic Sep 21

Matthias Hirsh wrote:
I have worked on some manuals and IFUs for medical devices. I find an agency that claims to do a lot of work in that field and I apply telling them I am interested in doing only work in that field for them. They send me an article from a medical journal.


1) Specializations are not cut and dried. In my experience, these areas are not clearly delineated by (especially Japanese) agencies as clearly as you would like them to be. Agencies may well apply a rather loose interpretation when classifying the document. For example, I worked in the stock market for close on two decades, but I get asked to translate derivatives contracts, fund management reports, accounting standards and so on. So while you may feel a certain amount of trepidation, it is likely that the test reflects the kind of work this agency will want from you.

2) The more tightly you define your specializations, the less work you will get. This one should be obvious, right? The medical device market is only a sub-sector of the healthcare industry. Unless you are able to corner the market for medical device translations at multiple agencies, I suspect you will struggle to fill your working day with that specialization alone. Tackling medical translations in the broader sense, however, will raise your chances of long-term survival significantly.

3) You only learn by pushing yourself beyond what feels comfortable. If it's something that simply you don't believe you can translate, then by all means decline it. If you think it's going to be demanding and challenging but you can probably just about do it, accept it. You will almost certainly learn something of value. Positive development is seldom achieved without some concomitant discomfort.

4) EDIT: I have had a mix of paid and unpaid tests. If I think it's a serious agency (particularly Japanese), I accept either, unless I'm really busy. If I had refused unpaid tests in the past, I'd probably have a client base only half the size I have today. If I were you I'd accept them, particularly at this stage of your career.

Regards,
Dan

[Edited at 2019-09-21 10:14 GMT]


Teresa Borges
Morano El-Kholy
Nikki Scott-Despaigne
LEXpert
 


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