Mentoring: Get As Much As You Give
From the Next Level team: Do you remember the first few years of your career in the language industry? Was it smooth sailing, or did you sometimes wish for someone who could give you advice and point you in a new direction? If you’ve ever wanted or had someone to help you find your footing, consider doing the same for someone else.
ATA’s Mentoring Program creates peer-to-peer relationships in which an experienced language professional offers counsel and support to another who requests help with a specific area of their business. This relationship does not include tutoring in translation skills; it is strictly for discussing business topics. Those topics can include finding agency work, finding and keeping direct clients, marketing through a website or social media, transitioning from an employed position to a freelance career, using a newly-gained certification to land more work, or any other non-linguistic area a mentee wishes to focus on.
Both mentees and mentors benefit from the pairing. Mentees receive valuable business advice for which they would otherwise pay handsomely. They also gain understanding and support from a close contact in the T&I world. Professionals who volunteer to mentor are not guaranteed a match with a mentee every year, but those mentors who are matched earn Continuing Education (CE) points toward ATA Certification. They also gain other benefits, which Deborah Wexler describes in this article.
This post is a reblog, originally published in Deep Focus, newsletter of the ATA Audiovisual Division. It is reposted with permission from the author.
During the 59th ATA Conference in New Orleans, a colleague asked me, “What was the motivation that drove a group of translators to create an audiovisual division in the ATA?”
I sat for a minute, pondering. “Many different factors motivated each of us,” I said.
He then asked, “Well, what do you think was the single most important thing?”
I replied without hesitation, “We want to help the next generation of audiovisual translators succeed.”
And I think the most effective tool to achieve this goal is through mentoring. In this maiden edition of our newsletter, I wanted to briefly explore the meaning of the term “mentor,” as well as the benefits and responsibilities of being one.
In the epic poem The Odyssey, by Homer, Mentor was a friend of Odysseus who stayed in Ithaca in charge of Odysseus’ son, Telemachus. Athena appears to Telemachus disguised as Mentor, and acts as his adviser. The common noun meaning “wise adviser” was first recorded in English in 1750, going back through Latin to the Greek character name.
The benefits for the mentees are evident: It empowers them with essential information, feedback and support, and helps them build confidence and grow, both personally and professionally.
But are there any benefits for the mentor? Yes. There are benefits beyond “it looks really good on your résumé.” It improves your leadership and communication skills. You gain a renewed sense of pride in your profession. You get to share your experiences with a kindred spirit, somebody hungry to hear them, which is very satisfying. Most gratifying of all is to help a colleague succeed.
It will also teach you a few things. When your mentee says, “We do that differently now,” and shows you a more efficient route to doing the same task, you will be amazed. When you are explaining things to a novice, it makes you stop and take a look at how and why you do things, and helps you see everything through fresh eyes and revitalized interest. You will learn while you teach!
While the mentee has responsibilities―to be open to constructive criticism, to learn and to do homework, to be willing to correct course, etc.―the mentor has greater responsibilities. Our mentee will adopt our way of doing things, both the good and the bad, so we have to be careful when we teach and never lose sight of ethics and values. We must set a higher standard for ourselves because we will be leading by example. We must remember our mentee looks up to us and our opinions and advice will carry a heavier weight than normal.
For me, as a mentor, the task is not to carry anyone up the mountain. It’s not even to hold their hand during the climb. For me, it’s preparing them for the climb: letting them know what kind of gear they will need, what kind of terrain lies ahead, if they will find inclement weather, what type of obstacles will be waiting for them, and teaching them how to sort them.
You can be a mentor
But who has time nowadays, with the pressures of work, family and daily life in general, you say? We all do. We all have to. In most cases, this commitment will only require a handful of hours a month from the mentor, but it will have a great impact on the mentee’s life.
All of us could spare that kind of time to give back, right?
That’s why mentoring programs are so important. Nevertheless, the need for mentors is great. And the new generation needs you.
Yes, you, the language professional who is reading this letter. It so happens that the ATA has a mentoring program! You can look at the guidelines on the ATA website and watch the free webinar here: https://www.atanet.org/careers/mentoring.php
1. “Etymology of ‘Mentor.’” English 591, Doctoral Colloquium, University of California, Santa Barbara. (October 8, 2004).
2. Hart, E. Wayne. “Seven Ways to Be an Effective Mentor.” Forbes (June 30, 2010). https://www.forbes.com/2010/06/30/mentor-coach-executivetraining-leadership-managing-ccl.html#174fa4603fd3
About the Author
Deborah Wexler is an ATA-certified English>Spanish translator and editor with more than 20 years of experience, specializing in audiovisual translation and Spanish orthography. She has translated and reviewed over 6,000 program hours for television, VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, streaming media, and the big screen. Deborah is a frequent speaker at international conferences and an educator who has mentored and trained many translators wanting to get into the audiovisual field. She is the Director of Localization of the Americas at Pixelogic Media as well as the co-founder and Administrator of ATA’s Audiovisual Division.
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