David Hensley wrote:
I am trying to get started as a Spanish to English translator. I have a master's degree in accounting and over 5 years of experience as a CPA in the US. My plan is to use my background in accounting to specialize in translation of business and financial documents. I've been applying to jobs and agencies for about a month now without getting many responses, and I thought it was time to ask the community if I'm on the right track. Basically, I'm stuck in the "can't get a job without experience and can't get experience without a job" trap, and I'm interested in any advice about how to break out of it. I have the below list of specific questions and am also open to anything you'd like to add.
- Is there anything I can do with my degrees in accounting in my Proz profile? It seems the Credentials section is strictly for translation credentials.
- Any advice on my resume? Given that I haven't been able to get translation work yet, I'm still using basically the same resume that I've used to apply to accounting
- I've just heard about possible volunteer opportunities with groups like Translation Commons and Translators Without Borders. Do you recommend pursuing these?
- Is offering to work for free a good idea? I have mentioned in some of my pitches that, as a new translator, I'd be open to doing a small job or a certain number or
words for free, but this has yet to make a difference.
- If an agency doesn't have an official application section on their website, is it a good idea to "cold email" them with an inquiry anyway?
Thank you for any input and advice you may have.
In light of your experience as a CPA and lack of experience as a translator, my suggestion is to target accounting firms with Spanish and Latin American subsidiaries (the big boys like KPMG, Deloitte, etc.). These are the companies that still have in-house translation staff and can offer you a work environment where you can learn from in-house mentors. You are less likely to do freelancing work directly for them though, as they tend to use translation agencies. The Websites of these sorts of firms can be labyrinthine, but hunt through them looking for key personnel and job postings pages. Also, if you are not on it already, get on LinkedIn and start making friends with people in the sector. LinkedIn allows you to see peoples' roles and connections within large corporates and enables you to establish direct contacts with people in their hierarchies behind the anonymising wall often set up by corporate websites.
Most translation agencies won't be interested in you because of your lack of experience, and often they want translators with broad experience. General translation agencies tend to get accounting work only on an erratic and periodic basis (annual accounts for that corporate customer, for example) - this is a reason why finding direct accountancy translation clients can be difficult btw. You might get more traction with specialist financial/legal translation agencies, but be aware that your 5 years as a CPA do not necessarily make you able to fathom the vagaries of Spanish language corporate accounts from country to country, sector to sector or even from company to company and they will be aware of the learning curve involved in taking you on. Above and beyond that, these sorts of agencies tend to do a mix of financial, corporate management, legal and accounting work, so you need to have the ability to translate in all of those areas to be of real use to them.
As a final note, a month may seem long, but you have not actually been applying for jobs that long, and we are in the midst of a major global economic recession, so be prepared for a long slog. Avoid any form of working for free - it's not necessarily going to do anything much for your CV or your chances of becoming a paid professional further down the track.
Good luck with your endeavours.