How to Have a Super First Year in the ATA: The Mentoring Program

How to Have a Super First Year in the ATA: The Mentoring ProgramIn January 2015 I joined the American Translators Association for the first time and was ready to give it my all. When I logged into my online account with my shiny new member number and password, I felt like a deer in the headlights… How do I make the most of my membership? What resources are available to me? But most importantly, where do I start?

Thanks to all the resources and opportunities available through the ATA website, I got involved in the association as much as I could and closed 2015 feeling that my first year had been super great. I’m sure 2016 has already welcomed many new members to the ATA and I hope to provide some insight as to how to make the most of your year as a rookie through a series of blog posts with The Savvy Newcomer.

One of the first things I did as a new member was apply as a mentee for the Mentoring Program. This year’s deadline is March 5, 2016, so there’s no better time than now to get started on your application.

What is the Mentoring Program?

The program matches a mentee to a mentor for one year (April-March). Most matches are long-distance, so meetings are usually held online for one to two hours per month. If you’re just starting out in the business or are looking to make a career change and need a bit of extra guidance, the program is a great chance to get some extra help from someone with more business experience in the field.

How to Write a Winning Essay

The most important part of your application is writing a 400-word essay. Only 30 mentees are chosen to participate in the program, so you need to write one that makes you stand out. Emily Safrin, a 2015-2016 mentee, recommends staying focused on one or two realistic and measurable goals rather than a sweeping hope: “Not only does it help you as a mentee to be realistic and focused about what you want to achieve, but it also helps the committee to know that a candidate has a concrete plan that they will benefit from and not just a distant and shapeless dream.” Her specific goals included launching a website, creating an appropriate e-mail signature, connecting with direct clients, and setting and negotiating fair rates. “I now have my website and signature, as well as matching business cards,” she said.

In my essay, I specified my main goals as “how to get, work with and keep direct clients in the tourism and hospitality industry” and my secondary goals included improving my online presence and creating a rates chart with fair pricing for the American and Spanish markets. As you can see, being specific about what you want to do is key.

Mentees are in charge of setting the pace of the mentor-mentee relationship, keeping track of their goals and working on them, so make sure you also point out your strengths of working hard, following up and pulling through.

Benefits of Participating

The main thing to keep in mind is that you will get out as much as you put into the program. With her mentor’s help and encouragement, Emily cut off a bad relationship with an agency. “I feel like having [my mentor’s] support has helped me become braver and to create a vision for my career that I hope to see come to fruition in the coming years,” she said.

My mentor helped me see that I need to find a marketing tool that works for me. She pointed out that her main clients have come from encounters at museums or networking events, not from cold calling, emailing or paying office visits (which are all things I personally dread). She has encouraged me to be patient and to take time finding what works for me; a booming business doesn’t happen overnight.

All mentors and mentees also form part of a Yahoo Groups listserv, which is open to questions and discussion. I’ve gotten some great advice from other participants by directing questions to the entire group.

The mentoring program is a great opportunity to get some extra help and a push in the right direction from successful translators and interpreters. Why don’t you give it a try and apply?

To learn more details of what the program entails and find links to apply, please visit The Savvy Newcomer’s recent post on joining the ATA Mentoring Program.

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Author bio

Molly Yurick

Molly Yurick is a Spanish to English translator specialized in the tourism, hospitality and airline industries. In the past she has worked as a medical interpreter in Minnesota and as a cultural ambassador for the Ministry of Education in Spain. She has a B.A. in Spanish and Global Studies and a Certificate in Medical Interpreting from the University of Minnesota. She is currently living in northern Spain. You can visit her website at: http://yuricktranslations.com

Need advice or want to share your wisdom? Join the ATA Mentoring Program!

ATA Mentoring programThe Mentoring Program is an ATA membership benefit. Any ATA member can apply to become a mentee; this is a valuable privilege many members don’t know they have. If there is some new skill you want to learn but don’t know how, this is a good place to come.

ATA counts many talented translators and interpreters who are experts in a wide variety of fields, including literature and music, quantum physics, pharmaceuticals, law, and even hand-written historical documents. How to deal with medical interpreting or voice-over assignments is taught just as easily as time management or finding the perfect balance between work and home. The ATA Mentoring Committee will track down one of these experts to be your mentor and help you put the next piece of your professional puzzle in its proper place.

The main objective of the Mentoring Program is to convey the business side of the translation and interpreting profession to the mentees. For this reason, we generally don’t pair mentees and mentors based on language. In fact, in most cases they will not share the same working languages. It is unlikely, therefore, that the mentor and mentee will get sidetracked by language-specific questions.

Mentoring Program Basics

ATA mentorships last for one year, beginning in April. Pairs are matched according to:

  • Application packet
  • Goals
  • Specializations the participants have included in the ATA directory
  • What we know about participants from ATA activities

Alternatively, you can also propose your own ready-made mentor-mentee pair.

What the mentee should know

  • Mentees and mentors are matched once a year. The Program is limited to about 30 pairs. It’s a one-year commitment.
  • Mentees are selected by a competitive application process that includes a short essay covering background, experience, and what the applicant hopes to achieve as a mentee.
  • Mentees should have a solid amount of work experience. This allows them to be very specific about what they want to learn from a mentor and follow the advice given.
  • Mentees are matched to mentors based on goals. They are never matched on the basis of working languages. Two to three actionable goals is ideal.
  • Mentee goals must be business-centered. Learning how to pass the ATA certification exam is not an acceptable goal.
  • Each member can participate only once. Therefore, mentees need to be able to make a one-year commitment. Anyone who drops out during the year will not be able to return during another year.
  • Mentees may have been in the business for a number of years, but now want to explore something new with a mentor’s help; for example, adding CAT tools to workflow.
  • ATA-certified mentees receive 2 CE points for the finished mentoring year.

Benefits for the mentor

  • Enjoy the satisfaction of helping a colleague
  • Challenge your assumptions
  • Discover latent talents
  • Expand your professional network (mentors have their own private group for discussions and support)
  • Think outside the box!
  • ATA-certified mentors receive 2 CE points for the year

After their introduction, the mentor and mentee will decide jointly on the modus operandi of the mentoring year, which begins in April and ends in March. It is the mentee’s responsibility to drive the mentoring relationship; that is, to set goals, stay in touch with the mentor, and establish measurable milestones. It is the mentor’s responsibility to provide advice and encouragement.

We have tremendous appreciation for our mentors who are volunteers drawn from the vast ATA membership. Translators and interpreters are artisans whose craft and business savoir-faire need to be not only honed but also shared. Like any other profession, the more accomplished members will retire sooner or later, and not necessarily because of age—and why not, since there are other things in life to explore, no matter how much we love our profession—and leave the younger members to carry on. As facilitators and transmitters of knowledge, mentors are an essential part of our profession. If you have the professional experience and the desire to be part of this heroic group, we would be delighted to hear from you.

During this year’s ATA Annual Conference in Miami, the Mentoring Committee presented a session entitled “How to Be a Happy and Prosperous Translator or Interpreter.” We discussed the Mentoring Program in more detail, as we have done at past conferences, but also discussed our own experiences in some of the topics that are of interest to newcomers, such as getting a fair price for your work and keeping the passion for your career alive in spite of circumstances that may spoil it.

Are you interested in the Mentoring Program and would like to learn more about becoming a mentor or mentee? Check out these links for more information and answers to FAQs about the program:

ATA Mentoring Program
Free webinar: The ATA Mentoring Program explained
Questions and answers from the ATA Mentoring Program Webinar
ATA Annual Conference mentoring session: Becoming a Happy and Prosperous Translator/Interpreter
ATA Mentee Statement Worksheet
ATA Mentor Statement Worksheet

For questions regarding the ATA Mentoring Program, please contact Cathi or Susanne at mentoring@atanet.org. Have you already participated in the Mentoring Program and want to share your experience? We’d love to hear from you!

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The ATA Mentoring Program through the eyes of a mentor-mentee pair

With the deadline to apply for the ATA Mentoring Program for 2015 fast approaching this week—March 7, to be more precise—we thought this would be a great opportunity to showcase this hidden gem available to ATA members. But instead of providing a scholarly piece singing the wonders of this program, we found a mentor-mentee pair who was willing to share their experience.  Is this program right for you? Have you always been curious about it? Interested in taking your career to the next level? Looking for ways to give back to the profession? Read on! Continue reading

From ATA’s Mentoring Committee: How to Be a Happy and Prosperous Translator or Interpreter

By Eric Chiang

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ATA’s Mentoring Program has had two lives so far. Its first life began as the brainchild of then ATA Board member Courtney Searls-Ridge. Courtney followed her dream to build a mentoring program for ATA members: she organized, recruited, and cajoled to get the program off the ground in 2001. The program’s second life began in 2012 when Courtney passed the baton on to Susanne van Eyl. A year earlier, I had been the last mentee accepted into this first program, and luckily for me my mentor was Susanne. As so many mentors do, she encouraged me to grow professionally, in this case with an invitation to serve on the new Mentoring Committee. Paula Gordon rounded out our group of three. In 2014, we welcomed a new member, Cathi Witkowski Changanaqui, to the committee.

The Mentoring Program is an ATA membership benefit. Any ATA member can apply to become a mentee; this is a valuable privilege many members don’t know they have. Although the majority of mentees accepted into the program are newcomers, you don’t need to be a novice translator or interpreter to apply. As an example, if translating patents day after day has lost some of its appeal and you are now contemplating translating literature or, for that matter, opera libretti for the opera house nearest you, the Mentoring Program may be able to help you. Although we can’t promise that you will soon hobnob with editors—the real ones, as opposed to the revisers some of us are—of publishing houses or rub shoulders with the favored divas of Lincoln Center, it should not come as a surprise that ATA counts many talented translators and interpreters who are experts in a wide variety of fields, including literature and opera. The ATA Mentoring Committee will track down one of these members to be your mentor and help you put the next piece of your professional puzzle in its proper place.

The main objective of the Mentoring Program is to convey the business side of the translation and interpreting profession to the mentees. For this reason, we don’t pair mentees with mentors working in the same language. It is unlikely, therefore, that the mentor and mentee will get sidetracked by language-specific questions.

Potential mentees should have some professional experience before applying to the program. To apply, individuals must submit a completed ATA Mentee Statement Worksheet with an essay explaining their background and desire to become a mentee. Applications must be submitted by March 1 of each year.

After their introduction, mentor and mentee will decide jointly on the modus operandi of the mentoring year, which begins and ends in April. It is the mentee’s responsibility to drive the mentoring relationship; that is, to set goals, stay in touch with their mentor, and establish milestones for themselves. It is the mentor’s responsibility to be there with advice and encouragement.

We have tremendous appreciation for our mentors who are volunteers drawn from the vast ATA membership. Translators and interpreters are artisans whose craft and business savoir-faire need to be not only honed but also shared. Like any other profession, the more accomplished members will retire sooner or later, and not necessarily because of age—and why not, since there are other things in life to explore, no matter how much we love our profession—and leave the younger members to carry on. Facilitators and transmitters of knowledge, mentors are an essential part of our profession. If you have the professional experience and the desire to be part of this heroic group, we will be delighted to hear from you.

During this year’s ATA Annual Conference in Chicago, the Mentoring Committee will present a session entitled “How to Be a Happy and Prosperous Translator or Interpreter.” We will discuss the Mentoring Program in more detail, as we have done at past conferences, but we will also try something new: committee members will discuss their own experiences in some of the topics which should interest newcomers, such as getting a good and fair price for your work and keeping their passion for their careers alive in spite of circumstances which may spoil it.

We hope to see you there!

Learn more:

ATA Mentoring Program
Free webinar: The ATA Mentoring Program explained
Questions and answers from the ATA Mentoring Program Webinar
ATA Annual Conference mentoring session: Becoming a Happy and Prosperous Translator/Interpreter
ATA Mentee Statement Worksheet
ATA Mentor Statement Worksheet

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About the author: Eric Chiang likes to translate legal and religious texts in English and Chinese and is a perennial student of the French culture.