26 Jan 2024
by Alicja Tokarska

Student networking

Calling all Student members. Make the most of the ITI Networks.

Alicja Tokarska explains why joining an ITI Network as a student member can be extremely helpful, useful and supportive.

Although this may seem unusual, I started working as a freelance translator and began my master’s studies at the same time. As a newcomer to the profession, I lacked experience, but I was bursting with enthusiasm and eagerness to learn. After going through a list of agencies and sending out close to 200 CVs, I landed my first client, with whom  I continued to work on a regular basis for years. However, what really pushed my career forward was joining  my local ITI network, the Scottish Network – or ScotNet  for short.

At the time, I wasn’t yet an ITI member, so I felt completely unqualified to join such an esteemed and experienced, group of colleagues. Still, I forced myself to go to the Christmas AGM. Everyone was extremely friendly and helpful – so five years on, I’m still a member.

Apart from making connections on a personal level, joining an ITI network also gave me the confidence to pursue my translation career, and led to gaining actual work. Soon enough, my colleagues were happy to recommend me to clients who needed my language pair or were looking for someone working in my areas of expertise.

From Scottish Network to Polish Network

However, I still felt somewhat lonely. I didn’t know any Polish translators I could ask about problematic terms, refer to clients, or speak my mother tongue with, until a few years after I’d finished my master’s, the Polish Network was set up. At that stage of my career, I thought I had nothing much to offer my local network or the industry at large. However, my colleagues in the new network noticed I was interested in inclusive language and asked me to present a webinar to our group. I worried I wasn’t experienced enough but agreed anyway. I was amazed to see that strategies completely natural to me were a revelation to some of my more experienced colleagues.

This just shows that students, recent graduates and people at early stages of their career can all teach us something – after all, new ideas and fresh points of view are crucial for all of us to remain relevant. Presenting the webinar for the Polish Network gave me a confidence boost and led to my speaking on the subject at the Polish KTLC conference (and winning Best Presentation Award for the Polish-language part of the event). After that, ScotNet asked me to deliver a one-day workshop on the subject.
It would be a shame if worries about lack of experience meant that students aren't benefiting from all that ITI has to offer.

Alicja Tokarska

I am now planning to branch out to become an inclusive language educator and speaker. If it weren’t for the Polish Network taking a chance on a recent graduate, either it would have taken me much longer or I’d never have considered it at all.

Students need networks – and vice versa

Yet for some reason, the Polish Network doesn’t seem to have many student members, which got me thinking. I know that joining ScotNet as a student benefited me greatly, and I’d have gained similar benefits from being a member of a language network too at that stage. Every issue of the Bulletin features a long list of new ITI student members. It would be a shame if worries about lack of experience meant that they aren’t benefiting from all that ITI has to offer.

If you’re a student, don’t feel you need to wait to join your regional, language or subject network. For the translation industry to flourish, we need input from people at all stages of their career. Being a part of the network will help you make friends, gain new knowledge and perhaps even push your career forward. My advice would be to make a list of networks you’d like to join and take a moment to think about which one(s) would be most important for you at this time – which will also help you cut down costs on membership fees. 

As a Polish Network committee member, I’d like to invite all ITI student members with this language to get in touch with us to see how we can help you. Our network, just like many others, has a helpful mentoring scheme, perfect for both students and more seasoned translators alike. I can’t speak for other networks, but I can only imagine they’d be over the moon to have more students in their ranks, too!

This article first appeared in the July-August 2023 edition of ITI Bulletin.

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ITI has 42 different geographical, language, subject and support networks, so there is something for everyone.

Remember, membership of an ITI network does not constitute membership of ITI.