July 1, 2020

What translation graduates should know

By admin-emal-15 Views-No Comment

Translator at work

You’re now qualified to stare at a box all day!

I’ve been talking a lot to young people trying to enter the translation profession. Germany is a good market for polyglots, as long as you have a good working knowledge of German and native-level fluency in English. However, the big misconception is that there’s no such thing as the “average” job for a translator.

In my experience, many people who’ve studied translation don’t work in translation and many who thrive in this field have a totally different background. I actually studied international management, but I was making enough money from translation by the time I graduated, so I never bothered to switch.

On the other hand, translation graduates my find themselves doing project management, product design, technical writing, software administration, teaching or running their own company. I even know one who’s become a successful makeup artist.

The lack of structured careers can be a gift or a curse. What you end up doing depends not just on your hard skills but on factors such as:

  • Where and how you want to live your life
  • The general economy
  • How much you want to or have to earn
  • How much you want to work
  • Your political leanings
  • Inheritance

This might be equally true for teachers and doctors, but there’s much fewer government-protected jobs for “pure” translators.

Although some kids come out of university almost computer-illiterate, translation is, in the wider sense, a computer job. Even interpreters will soon spend most of their time looking at a screen.

So where can you go? The IT industry is notorious for job descriptions that are moving targets. Typical keywords for language jobs in IT are:

  • Localization: adaptation of software products, often involves project management
  • Technical writing: also known as user assistance, information development, knowledge management, etc.
  • User experience (UX) writing / copywriting: all the text in the user interface (excluding documentation)

These jobs are usually well-paid, permanent, and as sustainable as your company’s business model. Jobs for translators in the German public sector may include:

  • University translation: some demand for DE>EN in-house translators
  • Community counseling / social work
  • In-house translators and interpreters at various ministries

However, public-sector jobs are often limited, part-time only and not paid exorbitantly.

There’s many paths you can follow; the best way is to enter the job market early and get to know your niche, stay curious about the world around you and talk to everyone. What are your job hunt experiences? I’d love to hear more!


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