4 February 2015

Why the ATA Mentoring Programme is worth exploring (before applications close)

This time last year I was feeling a bit stuck. My freelance translation business had reached a plateau of sorts, after a start that had exceeded all my expectations, and I had the impression that I had run out of ideas on how to push it forward.

At the time, the only thing I knew for sure was I wanted to keep trying, and the ATA Mentoring Programme emerged as a welcome tool, one of only a few things I had not yet tested, a way to step outside my own head and bring in some outside help.

Applications are now open for the 2015 class, until 7 March, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Whether, like me, you are somewhat stuck, or whether you can simply benefit from someone else's vision, experience and external assessment, which we arguably all can, at any stage in our careers, it definitely is worth applying!

The programme asks you to set yourself goals and will pair you with someone who can help you achieve them. Your mentor will most likely work in a different language pair and be located far away from you, but they will probably have lots of positive contributions to make. They will not do the work for you, but they can point you in the right direction, or at least in a direction that is worth exploring.

As I applied for the programme, I tried to pinpoint the problems I was facing. That was already good, insofar as I had to sit down, think what the problem might be and explain it in writing to someone who did not know me at all. It helped me define exactly where I felt I had reached a dead end.

A few weeks later, by the time I had actually been assigned a mentor, things had picked up on their own, and I am pretty sure that the exercise of trying to make sense of it all helped. My mentor became someone who would answer my questions and provide me with real-life benchmarks, which was very, very welcome. I had done lots of reading, followed many online debates and engaged in generous introspection, but the chance to ask an actual person concrete questions was quite refreshing.

My mentor made suggestions that have helped me define in greater detail the translator I want to be, gave me answers that allowed me to feel more confident on my chances of getting there and - as his single most important contribution - persuaded me to spend a small fortune to go to the ATA Conference in Chicago. That event changed the way I feel about the profession, so it was clearly great advice! And, of course, my mentor was around to make the whole thing less daunting.

The Mentoring Programme is free for ATA members, and I am pretty sure it will be worth every effort you put into it. You do not need to be a newbie, just someone with things to learn and explore, and it will help you from the moment you start to write down why you want to sign up for it. The programme will probably leave you with a much clearer idea of where you want to go in the field of translation a few years into the future.

By the way, in case you are wondering, I need to put in a few years' work first, but yes, I will hopefully return to the programme sooner rather than later, as a mentor!

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