Even though mentoring has been a well-known concept since ancient Greek times, mentoring practices have been gaining popularity in the last few decades thanks to the development of effective on-line communication systems. This has had a direct impact on the translation market, favoring the creation of a good number of mentor-apprentice pairings by freelance professionals in need of assistance with getting started or improving their business.
As a practice that has the purpose of helping less experienced professionals to gain knowledge in a given area, the benefits of mentoring for apprentices are more or less known. However, while guiding and supporting a less experienced professional should be the main purpose of mentoring activities, the apprentice's professional development does not have to be the only benefit deriving from a mentor-apprentice relationship. Mentors too can benefit themselves from assisting colleagues with their professional development. Professionals who act as mentors, teaching apprentices techniques to improve their skills, supporting them in their decisions, showing them around the industry, can also be considered experts and promote themselves as such.
Mentoring and professional development
Clearly, the main benefit of taking part in a mentor-apprentice pairing as an apprentice is the possibility to develop professionally in a given field. However, there may be other benefits involved for apprentices, especially to those getting started in the translation industry:
Skill testing: by entering a mentor-apprentice pairing, apprentices have the chance to test their skills and spot the weak points they need to work on and improve.Mentoring and business promotion
Confidence: by having their activities monitored by a mentor and receiving feedback from them, apprentices gain confidence as the pairing moves forward.
Support: most mentors not only train their apprentices to perform better, but they also support them in their decision-making processes. For instance, mentors may guide apprentices with choosing a field of expertise, with selecting effective strategies to market themselves, or with preparing themselves for the demands of the market.
Networking: by meeting a mentor and working together with him/her, apprentices may have the chance of networking with other experienced professionals.
Payment: some apprentices may be given the chance to work on real projects with their mentors and receive payment for their work.
References: after working with a mentor for some time, apprentices may list them as references in their resumes or in on-line professional websites.
Inclusion: eventually, apprentices may be invited by mentors to be part of a regular working team.
Business or name promotion is probably one of the main benefits of participating in mentoring as a mentor. However, besides being able to promote themselves as experts in a given field and hence stand out from the crowd, mentoring also gives mentors the chance to:
gain personal satisfaction and self-confidence through the reaffirmation of their professional competenceGetting started with mentoring
improve their communication, management and leadership skills
learn about recent trends in a less experienced part of the industry and exchange ideas
spot possible partners for growing translation teams
Since the need for guidance and assistance exists in most markets --and the translation market is no exception-- getting started with entering a mentor-apprentice pairing only requires decision making. In other words, if you are getting started and you could use some assistance, or if you are are an experienced professional with willingness to help others and to promote your business, you simply need to state so in relevant forums, blogs, or in social and professional networks.
In the case of apprentices, it is recommended that they have a clear idea of what they need help with (at least to get started) before searching for a mentor. Hence, if you are looking to get started as a translator, you may probably need help with testing and improving your translation skills, or with learning how to meet clients or invoice them in your country, or with deciding upon a suitable CAT tool, or with all these! What is important is that you state so in your request for a mentor so that only suitable mentors respond to your needs (i.e. those mentors that have specialist knowledge in the areas in which you need mentoring).
For mentors, it is important that they identify their areas of expertise before promoting their mentor services. While some professionals may be good at training apprentices on improving their translation skills, others may be more well-versed on industry-related issues. In any case, most professionals, even those with just a few years in the industry, may be in a position to promote themselves through mentoring. In the end, mentoring entails the transmission of knowledge, any knowledge, that may be helpful to an apprentice and relevant to his/her professional development.