So you’ve just graduated – Now what?


by Christina Rena

Graduating is undoubtedly one of the most important events in one’s life. The flowers, the outfits, the smiles and cheers coming from friends and family are there to joyously conclude the big chapter that’s just ended. And yet, in many ways, a graduation is also like a bubble abruptly bursting; one day you’re a student, a member of some community, surrounded by mostly like-minded people with similar interests and worries, and the next you find yourself thrown into a sea of possibilities, anxieties and obstacles.

Now you’re charged with the task of figuring out what to do with yourself. And the most obvious answer to that question is easy to answer: ‘Enter the labour market.’ After all, this is what you’ve been training for for the past 4 years, right?

Entering the translation market in Greece is definitely a lot easier said than done, and it promises to be a (sometimes-not-so-fun) learning experience. Losing the student status means that you’ll have to let go of your relative naiveté and plunge right into the sea of translation and whatever that entails. And the first thing you realize when you find yourself underwater is that it really is just like an ocean in terms of vastness – there’s so many things you could be doing! However, it’s easy for everything to seem blurry at first, and if anything is certain, it’s that you need to start swimming in some direction in order not to drown. Let’s take a look at some of the decisions you’ll have to make.

#1 Should I go at it solo?

Some people might choose to not even consider this option, and that’s perfectly understandable. And for those of us that dare take an honest look at all the work and the risks involved in becoming a freelancer, it’s almost always guaranteed to look like a daunting task. Freelancing means you’ll be self-employed, and I think the word is pretty self-explanatory in terms of what that entails – you get to be your own boss. Now, that might sound amazing at first, but you need to consider that you’ll almost certainly not be just translating! Freelancing is doing everything that your boss would be doing if they were in charge – marketing, planning, managing your projects, getting new clients, scheduling, and, above all, making sure that your work is up to standards. That last part is particularly important, because it’s close to impossible to spot your own mistakes and fix them, especially if you’re just starting out. So how can you find out if you would feel comfortable taking up a not-so-easy project? Ask the only person who knows you best – yourself – for an honest answer! If that terminology is keeping you up at night, it’s probably not good for you – or your client!

Now what about freelancing specifically in Greece? Whether you have considered that option or not, it’s important to know what the situation is like. A friendly warning: you might have to do some math! Registering yourself is not as simple or as cheap as you might think. Here’s a preliminary, non-exhaustive list of all the things you’ll have to pay for: monthly insurance, business tax, accountant fee, possibly a POS, marketing costs, all the software you might use (CAT tools, OCR), all the hardware you might use (printer, scanner, dictionaries), etc. Put the numbers down and draw your own conclusions! And pay attention to the “free” part in “freelancing”. If a company asks for your exclusive loyalty and dedication in exchange for a steady amount of work, that should be a red flag and what they’re asking might be borderline illegal.

All that being said, my personal opinion is that making sure you’re good at what you do should be top priority for translators who are just entering the market. There’s a lot of companies to choose from, and you don’t have to accept dubious working standards; personally I’ve had the chance of working with one of the best translator agencies in terms of work quality and work environment. Just make sure you’re being clear about the value you can offer, and try to pick the one that will be most helpful to you in terms of specialization. Which brings me to the next big issue…

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#2 What should I specialize in?

Or, you might say, how on earth am I supposed to know what I should specialize in?!

While this question seems a bit difficult to answer at first, it’s actually a lot easier than you might think. To this I have a (somewhat cliché) tip to give you: you learn by doing. And by “learn” I don’t just mean the hard skills related to terminology etc. – completing different projects will give you a good sense of what you like most, so you’ll also learn a little bit more about yourself and your inclinations. Don’t think to yourself that this is something that you should decide on immediately and on the spot, because you risk making a lot of assumptions about the industries that you want to focus on/ avoid. Apart from your personal preference, it helps to bear in mind the particularities of each particular industry. For example, localizing games will probably be a lot different from legal translation in terms of the types of projects, the deadlines, the behavior and business culture of your clients, etc.

As far as I’m concerned, I always thought that the stress of choosing a specialization is more like the stress in the way Kirkegaard thought of it: “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom”. The great thing about being translators is that language is everywhere: everything that humans have or will ever attempt to do will most likely be communicated through language. Whether it be philosophy or accounting, chances are that translation will be necessary!

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#3 Well, the rates for Greek translation are around 0.02 EUR/ word and robots will soon replace us all anyway. Are you sure I shouldn’t just give up?

If you’ve ever tried to be a professional translator, chances are this thought has more than once invaded your mind. And it is true, to a large extent – the economic environment in Greece is far from ideal, and the same is true for the business culture. Translators are guaranteed to almost never get the credit they deserve, and when they do get noticed, it’s probably because of a blunder! Yet I don’t think that anyone would end up in a translation school because they dreamt of being rewarded with eternal glory or satisfying their parents’ expectations of a lucrative and steady career.

I often think of what one of my teachers used to say while I was still a student: There is no such thing as an inherently easy or difficult task. It’s all about whether you like it or not.

And it really is that simple. When looking for an answer to the question above, what you should first ask yourself is this: Do I like what I’m doing? Do I enjoy learning? Can I imagine myself working with language for most of my time? If the answer is yes, then I think giving up is something you’ll regret doing. Chances are you won’t get rich by translating, that much is true, but the rewards of doing what you love are, in my opinion, much greater.

As I mentioned before, translation means that you are legitimized in learning just about anything. And most likely your teachers at university weren’t just translators! There were lawyers, philosophers, IT professionals or economists as well. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to get an economics degree, for example – even being passionate and knowledgeable about your hobbies might give you a competitive edge, also in terms of soft skills. For me, that would currently be art, the Chinese language and debating. And if you’ve stuck with me so far, that means you’ve found me to be at least somewhat persuasive; so, if I had to make any last compelling arguments, I’d highly encourage you to not give up that foreign language you fell in love with, to join a debate club and finally to participate in the PEEMPIP mentoring program, where you’ll get a chance to speak with and learn from professional translators.

 About the author:

Christina Rena graduated from the Translation Department of the Ionian University in 2018 and she currently lives in Athens indulging in/ pursuing her favorite things: translation, languages, art, debating and running. You’ll often find her talking about how amazing Russian, Finnish or Chinese is or how you should absolutely visit the North and try the real 90 °C sauna plus ice swimming experience. She’ll also most likely try to convert you into a debater. You can find her on LinkedIn and/ or look at her art stuff on Artstation

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