When you hire someone to perform an important function for your organization, the qualifications you need are far more than a list of skills and experiences that “check all the boxes.” Less tangible aspects such as personality, drive, and cultural and emotional knowledge can make the difference between a star and a dud.
One of the reasons we’re so passionate about providing language services is because interpreters and translators have life experience and passion that goes far beyond the resume.
Most Interpreters Are Nontraditional Students
College student. Those words make many people think of a teen arriving on campus in the autumn after high school graduation. But today, they are in the minority: 71% of college students are “nontraditional” students who don’t fit this typical mold. Nearly half of college students are over 25; a quarter are over 30.
Most interpreters and translators working today have been nontraditional students. Many are immigrants or first generation Americans, and as a result, are an expert in English and a second language. Often, they realize later in life that their language skills can be put to work to help them and their community. They then seek out a college education that makes their skills more marketable, such as a Master’s degree in Translation Studies.
The Nontraditional Student Experience Is Excellent Preparation
Most members of the interpreter workforce are Millennials or members of Generation X. While we might expect a certain amount of maturity from these individuals (the oldest millennials turn 40 this year!), the fact that many were nontraditional students gives them life experience and discipline that sets them apart from other specialists.
For example, most nontraditional students have a spouse and/or child dependents, and a job where they work at least 35 hours per week. Juggling these personal and work concerns while also earning a degree leads to improved organization and project management skills, and shows they have a strong passion for their new field.
Other qualities we see in our interpreters and translators due to their adult education experience include:
- Workplace experience
Having entered the workforce in a previous career, even new interpreters understand the workplace. This makes them effective team members.
- Life experience
Many interpreters and translators work in their adopted country. This gives them an insight to consider the bigger picture because they know two worlds.
- Goal-oriented and focused
Because they have decided to continue their education while dealing with a wide range of obligations, they tend to be excellent at identifying and focusing on the most important tasks.
That same family/career/school dynamic also instills important balancing skills. They understand exactly what’s needed to keep a project on track and are excellent at preserving work-life balance.
- Fresh perspectives
Interpreters and translators who were nontraditional students are not just ethnically diverse, but have diverse experience. This helps them give you fresh perspectives that have experience and wisdom behind them, and in some cases a more advanced knowledge of the cultures and experience of those they are interpreting for.
- Technology education
Technological assistance plays a larger role than ever before for interpreters and translators, and nontraditional students are more likely to have had these technologies integrated into their education.
- A strong sense of purpose
These interpreters have identified an area of study and work that they truly value and excel at. About 54% of nontraditional students returned to school to secure a better job; among interpreters and translators we find this number approaches 100%.
Interpreters Bring a Special Passion to Their Calling
Becoming a professional interpreter or translator is difficult under the best of circumstances, but these specialists continue to pursue excellence in their field because they love their work and their communities. To continue to be the best possible asset to that community, they pursue difficult continuing education and work to keep up with language technology that is rapidly changing. They’ve also dedicated themselves to thoroughly knowing and understanding at least two distinct cultures, and helping them know and work with each other. There’s no substitute for this kind of passionate dedication to a craft.
If you’re considering additional onsite language services, keep these advantages—and the importance of the right qualifications—in mind.