A new year provides the opportunity for a new start. What better way than by identifying what it is that makes you professionally unique so you can truly make your mark on the world?
Every industry in the world, translation included, is becoming more and more competitive each day. Whether you work as a freelancer, an employee or run your own show and employ lots of other people, there is always someone or some other company out there vying for the work you’ve currently got. Complacency simply isn’t an option.
In light of this, it’s important to carve yourself out a niche, as early as possible. Delivering work of excellent quality and being someone that your colleagues actually want to work with has become something of a given. You now also need to ensure that you offer something unique; something that sets you apart from the rest. Here’s TransTeach’s practical guide to identifying your professional ‘voice’ and using it to give you the X-Factor.
1) Don’t overlook the obvious
First thing’s first, don’t try to re-invent the wheel and don’t overthink things. Ironically, what comes extremely easy to you is often the very thing that sets you apart. If you love playing around with gadgets/IT, then the technology/apps side of things could well be where you shine. Small or large scale, these are vital tools for everyone from sole traders to business magnates, so if you’ve got the know-how, flaunt it!
If you’ve always had a head for figures, whether you’re working in an accountancy firm or for a wildlife charity, make those numbers count! Let people know what you like and what you feel you’re good at, so that you get the opportunity to do more of it.
2) Research, Research, Research!
Find out what niches other people have adopted to rule out or inspire you with ideas. You may be surprised at the way in which your professional ‘voice’ permits you to marry your areas of professional expertise (Russian language and online chess apps, for example; property law and sustainable tourism; adult literacy and fashion design; the permutations and combinations are almost endless!) The more bizarre your combination of skills sounds, the more unique your ‘voice’ is going to be.
To give an illustrative example, when I decided to start the TransTeach blog, and as it has developed, I’ve carried out extensive research on the other translation blogs/writers in the market. This would seem like an opportune moment to thank individuals such as Andrew Morris (creator of Standing Out –https://www.facebook.com/groups/standingoutgroup/ and Standing Out Island – https://www.facebook.com/groups/standingoutisland), Corinne McKay (Thoughts on Translation http://thoughtsontranslation.com/), Claire Cox (Lines from a Linguist https://clairecoxtranslations.wordpress.com/), Galina Green (http://britbitchberlin.com/), Lloyd Bingham (Capital Translations –http://capital-translations.co.uk/category/translation/) and countless others, for their ‘voice’, which has undoubtedly helped me to identify and carve out my own. I currently like to refer to this as Translation and Diversification [Trans-] meets Education [-Teach] (but more about that in point 4) below). Who knows what it will morph into in the future?
3) Try everything and anything
Your professional ‘voice’ changes over time, whether you think you can identify what it is straight away or not. If you can’t, because nothing immediately springs to mind, then get experimenting. Only by trying lots of things do you ever know where you particular talents lie. So, take online courses (there are plenty of free ones covering every topic imaginable these days), expose yourself to social media (both professionally and personally) and if something tickles your fancy, have a go!
I never set out in life to street dance, subtitle foreign films or help run a charity. When the opportunity arose to try these things, however, I was always at the front of the queue 🙂 Over time my professional voice has developed to include all of these unique facets.
4) Develop your social media presence
Nowadays, we’re constantly being told that an online presence is essential right from the off. Indeed it is. Social media provides opportunities that as a self-employed individual, employee or business owner you certainly shouldn’t miss out on. However, think carefully and research even more prudently before ever putting finger to keyboard. Why? Because a lot of people have done it before you and in the social media sphere too, you need to ‘shine’. You need to get known for what you and you alone can offer.
One way of developing your own virtual presence is to contribute to those of others. So, take your time, engage with those whose presence you admire and can relate to. Slowly but surely you’ll find your own ‘voice’ naturally emerges as a result.
As an example, since starting TransTeach I’ve always been recognised by my clients/colleagues for my diversification and my desire to help and educate others on how to do the same. They’ve also commented on the fact that I’m pretty creative. I freelance as well as being the UK and US Director for a large international translation agency. I also provide translator training and linguistic consultancy services. I’m the Development Director for a charity. I love all forms of creative writing and I’ve authored a number of children’s books. I invest in property as well because having multiple streams of income is always a good idea. As a result, I’ve personally followed, commented and retweeted lots of associated Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn content, slowly finding the place that I can call my professional home in the world of social media along the way.
5) Whatever your ‘voice’, make it a positive one
No matter what you decide are your professional USPs, and how those change over time, make sure that what also makes you shine is your positivity. If there’s one thing people value above all else today, given the constant barrage of bad news and the pressure of the 21st Century workplace, it’s someone with a smile who motivates them, inspires them and makes their day seem just that little bit better. Whether it be by sharing your unique skills or using them productively to educate and support others, make sure you do so at every possible opportunity. Those with the loudest and most powerful professional ‘voices’ today are undoubtedly those who use their uniqueness to benefit as many other people as possible. So, find your own ‘voice’, sing loud with it and use your song to helps lots of other people along the way. Good luck!
Claire Culliford (Founder of TransTeach)
If you have any comments about or advice concerning how you found your own professional voice, then feel free to share them here or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a topic that’s always a work in progress, so the more contributors, the better!