Why clear communication is key to mentoring?

Whether you have just launched your freelance career or you are an experienced translator at a juncture on your career path, wanting to finally specialise but not sure which direction to go; want to diversify in order to gain more income streams or become more resilient against the challenging circumstances of the industry or price pressures but don’t know where to start from, mentoring can be beneficial both for novice and seasoned translators.

I know it’s a lonely profession and you might feel stuck in the same place, not knowing what to do. You aren’t alone. 6 years into my freelance career as a freelance translator, I felt that I was just constantly working in order to earn a living which is a reality for some of us and I felt that I was not necessarily working for the right kind of clients as well. My main work came from agencies, I didn’t have any direct clients, I was feeling isolated and, I didn’t know what to do in order to find my way out of these conundrums. I needed an exit plan but I didn’t know how to construct it! I had just obtained my Diploma in Translation and became a member of the CIOL.

To tell you the truth I don’t have any experience of a formal mentoring program either as a mentor or as a mentee but this doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate how crucial professional support can be, at the time when you need it. If you are looking for a mentor, the most crucial thing is expressing what you need as clearly as possible as this will help your mentor to understand your needs and address them properly. I am emphasising this because this is what I didn’t do back then when I made a half baked attempt for finding a mentor through CIOL’s mentorship program.

When I coincidentally logged on to the website recently, instead of the main CIOL website, seeing my message and the message I received from the potential mentor who rejected to be my mentor, again led me to write this article. When I look at the message I wrote, it sounds more like I was moaning about not having direct clients and feeling isolated due to a lack of immediate network. I guess this was due to my failure to correctly understand what the mentorship program entailed. I failed to clearly identify and express the areas of linguistic concern I needed help with. I could have looked into mentoring more to understand what it involves but I didn’t pursue this way of mentoring at that time.

I went to my first ever international conference, which was the IAPTI London Conference in 2013 and met some Turkish translators there. I guess this is what I needed the most, other translators who work in my language pair, whom I can talk to about all that work-related stuff we have in common. We now have an active group of 16 Turkish translators and interpreters in the UK and as well as being an informal professional networking group, it also serves as a peer support group for anyone who needs it.

I was also approached by numerous younger Turkish translators through LinkedIn over the recent years as I am regarded as more experienced. I have always tried to help people who asked me for advice or direction, as best as I could. Probably this is a form of mentoring or peer support too however mentoring is a more structured way of support and the duration of it determined by the mentor and the mentee. There is plenty of information on the internet for freelance translators looking for such programs. Nowadays younger professionals are more open to communicating and social media provides a platform for strangers to connect and share with each other which is a good thing in terms of finding new support channels.

To summarise:

  • It’s okay to get help whether you are a novice or seasoned freelance translator as we cannot know how to do everything properly
  • If you need any help or support from other professionals, it’s crucial to always clearly communicate what you need from them

The freelance translator community is a supportive community and I am sure you will get the support you need either through a structured mentoring program or from your online freelance translator network.

About the author:

My name is Ali Yildirim. I originally studied Classical Archaeology at the University of Istanbul, before coming to the UK in 2001 and working as an archaeologist for 2 years.

I have worked in the language services industry in various roles including as a teacher of Turkish, interpreter and bilingual teaching assistant before setting out as a freelance Turkish translator in 2005. I obtained a diploma in translation in 2012 and became a member of the Institute of Chartered Linguists in the same year and obtained a Chartered Translator status in 2019. I am also a qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting and ISO 17100:2015 Qualified Translator.

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