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14438_ITI_Career_Bulletin_2017_v2 (5)

Finding your niche

Finding your niche opportunities Specialisation can help individuals stand out in a crowded marketplace. But how do you identify and develop specific subject areas? Arantza Elosua has some advice Arantza Elosua (MITI, MSc, MA) is an English and Catalan into Spanish translator, interpreter and teacher managing www. thespanishlinguist. com. She is based in Glasgow and has been freelance in the UK since 2004. You can find her on LinkedIn and on Twitter: @ArantzaElosua and Linkedin. On occasion, I speak to postgraduate students in Translation Studies about their career prospects once they complete their master’s degrees. They are all bilingual or multilingual, and come from a variety of countries and walks of life. They are all future professional translators or interpreters who will find their gap to fill. And yet, they can’t help but wonder what will happen once they enter the working world. When we cover ‘specialisation’, there is usually a collective sigh and a ‘rabbit in headlights’ fearful look in their eyes. I think we can all relate to the fear of the unknown when making important professional decisions which seem irreversible, even if they hardly ever are. In fact, it was not so many years ago that I had the same concerns. However specialised I was, it had never occurred to me before that I had to let potential and existing clients know what I could do best and what made me different from another translator with apparently the same qualities. At the time I was working for several translation companies as well as for a handful of direct clients and was more of a ‘generalist’. One day I would be translating medical books and leaflets for the NHS and the next I would be working on luxury hotel brochures. I did not see it as a problem, as the work was coming in and that was all that mattered. However, I had a clear idea of which texts I enjoyed the most – the ones I feel privileged to translate – and this remains the same today. So one day, I decided to work only with direct clients and to specialise only in the subjects that were a perfect fit for me. ‘Try to focus on solid longterm specialisations that will not fade once they are out of fashion or be affected by the ups and downs in the ecconomy’ Specialising has helped me develop my career while finding my ‘niche’. By attracting new customers and their referrals, I can maintain my rates at a certain level and develop a good, loyal working relationship with clients. Specialisation starts to work once 18 ITI BULLETIN CAREERS SPECIAL www.iti.org.uk

specialisation you become a client’s first port of call when they need your specialised professional services and they know their message will be delivered perfectly in translation, regardless of any technicalities. It is a win-win situation for everyone: the translator, the client and, ultimately, the audience. There is no shame in being a ‘generalist’, and it is fine not to wish, for any reason, to narrow one’s fields of expertise or job opportunities. However, if you haven’t yet specialised because you don’t know where to start and it seems a daunting prospect, what follows is a step-by-step guide to help you identify your potential. Your background This is perhaps the single most relevant factor when determining your obvious areas of expertise. Most translators who struggle to find their best skills come from a linguistic background that might seem too broad. If you are not very experienced and come from a more general background, you have a solid language base, but need to work harder on identifying your market, which will one day provide your source of income. On the other hand, if your studies, training or professional experience are related to a more specific sector, such as medicine, law, engineering, finance, chemistry, or any other technical subject, you are one of the lucky few with a built-in glossary! Focus on these abilities and keep refreshing your language skills. Your experience Specialising does not mean that you will never translate a more general text again. With this in mind, try to focus on your past professional experience and all the projects that you have worked on or the places your life has taken you. You will be surprised to discover how many specific things you have learnt through work, hobbies, or even by living abroad in a different culture for some time. Everything counts and perhaps a couple of things will stick out more than others. How to know if it is specialisation or too general? Well, if your friends or ordinary people outside the industry are not following your conversation, this probably means it is specific enough. Many translators join the profession after a spell doing something different but complementary, such as teaching, working in-house, being on parental leave or relocating abroad. Translators are curious by nature and are always learning through translation research. Make the most of this, and work towards consolidating your strengths in a more formal and recognised manner. Your passions If you have a hobby, this could well become an asset. Generally, liking something is not enough per se. However, if you attend trade shows, webinars, courses or conferences, or read magazines, books, blogs and newsletters, and are moving with the industry and always learning, the hobby suddenly becomes part of your Continuing Professional Development. Perhaps your passion will one day become additional income but not your main source of work, due to it being too ‘niche’. On the plus side, there might be less competition and you could become a point of reference in your field, if you work towards it and keep clients happy while joining relevant groups or professional organisations. www.iti.org.uk ITI BULLETIN CAREERS SPECIAL 19

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