Here’s a question for you: what is the worst possible job you can think of? The restriction is that it has to be a regular job, so anything obviously detrimental to individuals or society is out.
Okay, I’ll start: three jobs that make me break out in a cold sweat just thinking about them are, in no particular order: improv comedian, wedding planner, and tour guide.
Now that you know this about me, I’m sure you will also not be shocked to find out that I am not a fan of:
a. being in the spotlight
b. organizing groups of people
c. being put on the spot in front of people.
d. being put on the spot in front of people. I just really can’t emphasize that one enough.
Do I hear an “amen” from my fellow introverts? Now my husband, on the other hand, is a creative, out-of-the-box thinker with a chaotic bent and a deep aversion to paperwork. He told me that his job assignment in hell would be either tax accountant or insurance adjuster. I can see that. Scenarios involving “creative tax filing” and “missing insurance paperwork” do not tend to end well.
So that got me thinking: what type of person might answer the “kill me now” job question with “translator”?
- If graduation was a relief because it meant you’d never have to crack open another book again, translation might not be for you. To succeed in this field you have to be academically inclined and research-oriented. However you go about it, you have become an expert in your chosen field. As a medical translator, for instance, you have to understand what happens during an angioplasty procedure, because you need to be able to mentally follow along with the surgery so you can accurately interpret the shorthand statements often used in surgery reports. The learning never ends, and if that doesn’t sound like fun, this job is not for you.
- If sustained stretches of focused, solitary activity drive you up the wall, translation might not be for you. I love my friends and family and obviously no one wants to be totally alone, but I have to tell you, there is nothing like a quiet office in the morning with a cup of coffee and a fresh, challenging project on the computer to make the hours just fly by. In his bestseller “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes this feeling as a combination of total contentment and engagement. If you don’t ever derive this sense of satisfaction from the analytical and creative challenges of translation, this job is not for you.
When you are doing what you are designed to do, work becomes more fun than fun, as playwright Noël Coward observed. So if you are just starting out and you are wondering whether this is the right career for you, consider the above and be honest with yourself. If translating is not more fun than fun at least some of the time, this job is not for you.