Mentoring and Beyond: Business support by and for peers within ATA

The American Translators Association (ATA) set up its current mentoring program in 2011, and since then an estimated 240 mentor/mentee pairs have worked together to jointly explore the business side of translation and interpreting. The program has been a big success, so much so that the Mentoring Committee, which is part of ATA’s Business Practices Education Committee, is working to offer new avenues of support. This article provides a short overview of the different program offerings, categorized by level of business experience in the T&I industry.

Beginners: Starting out in a new profession can be a bewildering experience. You have more questions than answers and everyone around you appears to know so much more. At that stage, it can be hard to know what to ask. “How do I get my foot in the door?” may be a burning question on your mind as a new freelancer, but it is not specific enough for a fruitful mentoring relationship. The Savvy Newcomer program provides information for members who are new to ATA and the profession. Its community and shared discussions are a great starting point. You may actually discover that many questions have already been answered in detail, and The Savvy Newcomer team can help you find this information. You can start by visiting the Resources page to see some links that have proven helpful at this career stage.

Mid-career: Once you’ve learned the ropes and established your business, there will be new questions on your mind. You may want to explore specializations, advanced marketing, or software products. Several options are available at that stage:

Apply to be a mentee in the Mentoring Program: ATA members with a few years of experience may apply to work one-on-one with a seasoned ATA member who will meet with them monthly to explore specific concerns. Applicants are encouraged to define actionable goals in order to be paired with an experienced colleague who has a proven record of achieving these goals. Past examples of such goals include time management, deepening knowledge in a field of specialization, financial planning, staying organized, etc. Further information can be found on the Mentoring Program webpage and applications may be submitted until March 6, 2020.

New Masterminds Program: The Mentoring Committee is also working on a new, peer-to-peer offer for ATA members with 2-5 years of professional experience. The independent groups will choose a defined topic, such as “Marketing for freelance translators.” The committee is currently developing the ground rules for such groups and will offer training and guidance for establishing and running Mastermind groups in the summer/fall of 2020.

Advanced career: ATA members who have been working in the industry for several decades may encounter completely new professional situations. How can they keep learning, stay current on new developments, and open up new income streams? At that stage, the following options may be open:

Apply to be a mentor in the Mentoring Program: Experienced translators and interpreters have reported that sharing their knowledge and experience as a mentor is beneficial in several ways. Not only are mentors helping junior colleagues learn more about the business of translation, but they also can learn about new professional challenges and innovative programs. Certified mentors receive CE points for their active involvement. Further information for mentors can be found on the Mentoring Program webpage as well.

Advanced Mastermind Groups: The new Masterminds program (see above), which is designed to facilitate intensive discussions and goal-setting among peers, will also be of interest to ATA members with fully matured businesses. The new groups will be a place to explore questions such as “work opportunities for highly experienced translators” or “getting ready to retire.” Further information on the program will be available in the summer/fall of 2020.

About the authors

Susanne van Eyl is a past chair of ATA’s Mentoring Committee and has been a driving force in designing the program in its current format. She has benefited from the program both as a mentor and a mentee. Dorothee Racette is a past president of ATA and has been a mentor in the program since 2013.