The concept of mentoring is not very popular in Portugal, and this is also true for the translation industry. That’s why I was both surprised and happy when I heard about APTRAD’s first Mentoring Programme starting in November in a Skype chat room near you. Although I already had some experience as an editor and in-house translator, I had just established myself as a freelance professional and had not been able to fully explore all my skills and reach the type of clients I was interested in. So I saw APTRAD’s Mentoring Programme as an opportunity to assess my current professional situation and make important changes. APTRAD’s initiative caught my eye for the following four main reasons:
- Credibility – When an association of professional translators promotes a mentoring programme, you automatically believe their activities will be helpful and the mentors will be skilled, which immediately motivates you and raises your expectations.
- Practice vs Theory – BAs and MAs are obviously the soundest foundation for any qualified professional. However, translation, like many other professional activities, takes places outside the university gates, where 80% of your daily experiences will never be studied in class. This is why making contact with professional translators experienced in the art of real life is essential to complement all those countless hours studying Schleiermacher and Nida.
- Customised sessions – A fan of translation blogs, I had been following some of the main industry influencers for some time. Apart from articles and blog posts targeted at translators and linguists, I also read many others aimed at freelance professionals in general. On Facebook, I was already following such groups as “Tradutores com Vida” and “Standing Out”. Although these three sources provide useful, high-quality information, I believe it is paramount to absorb all of this critically and decide whether all the precious suggestions and advice are applicable to your particular case. There is never only one right answer. There is no doubt that having an experienced translator providing guidance specifically and only to you is more useful and productive at the end of the day.
- Intensive regime – Some time ago, I took a deep breath and sent Tess Whitty one email asking for professional advice. She replied promptly in an extremely friendly and warm tone. If only I could have my own personal guru! Someone available to answer several emails and give me a lot of advice! Well, APTRAD’s Mentoring Programme was it: I would be supervised by a mentor and have regular work sessions with specific goals.
These were my expectations when I applied for the programme, having chosen Teresa Sousa as my mentor.
Today, after completing the programme, the final balance is extremely positive. If it were possible to summarise all the benefits I took from my sessions with Teresa, I would single out these four points:
- Organisation – That’s right. You should never underestimate a basic skill. Teresa helped me discover that my organisational skills needed improvement. It was important to learn how to better organise all the information (contacts, tasks, clients, resources), as well as rewarding to later reap the benefits of that improvement.
- Practical knowledge – Our sessions were always held in a very casual, familiar environment, which made room for spontaneous sharing of both successful and unsuccessful experiences. From suggestions on how to improve my CV to advice on effective work methods, our sessions covered a wide range of subject matters and touched on all key points of freelance translation.
- Personal valorisation – On the other hand, there was also room for me to realise that many of my practices and work methods were correct. It was very important and motivating that an experienced professional approved of them. At the same time, my work with Teresa also focused on defining my professional identity, bearing in mind the need to stand out from other translators in some way. She provided me with guidance and suggestions on how to use other skills I had, fields of work I could explore, and CPD training I could consider doing.
- Designing Translations – All these months of mentoring sessions with Teresa, along with countless hours of brainstorming and individual work have culminated in the creation of my new professional brand. Recently launched, Designing Translations offers translation and DTP services, as a way of combining my translation and graphic design skills. Teresa’s availability, commitment and generosity have definitely contributed to this important step in my professional career.
After the end of APTRAD’s Mentoring Programme, Teresa still shows interest in my professional life and has accompanied the development of Designing Translations. While I enjoy the benefits of this programme, it remains only for me to give public thanks: first to APTRAD, who forged the path, and second to Teresa, who helped me invent the wheel to travel it. My last word goes to all those aspiring translators who are undecided or hesitant about applying to the next programme. There is only one right answer.