06 Jan 2020

Why Mentor of the year?

Written by Catherine Park

ITI introduced a Mentor of the year category to its awards last year, and it has certainly struck a chord with members.

We had an excellent response to the Mentor of the year Award on its first outing in 2019, and we are looking forward to hearing about more great mentors this year. But why is this such an important part of ITI's awards programme?

Well, it’s because the right person giving the right advice and assistance at the right time can have a huge impact on the mentee’s skills, knowledge, and ability to cope with and thrive in their chosen job.

The typical image of the mentor/mentee relationship is someone with considerable experience helping an individual who is relatively new to the profession and ‘learning the ropes’.

But mentoring can be useful in all kinds of situations. It can help someone get back on track when they’re feeling a bit stuck or after a career break. It can give confidence when trying to move to the next level in your career or business. It can help you gain knowledge in an area in which you feel you are weak, for example translation technology or any technology tools that will help you in your work.

Mentoring can take all kinds of forms. It can be quite structured, like the schemes run by some of ITI’s regional groups and networks.

For example, in this Spanish Network scheme for mentoring new translators, mentors provide six one-hour feedback sessions on translations over a six-month period. The mentor receives a fee, with both the mentee and the Network making a financial contribution. This mitigates against potential mentor fatigue and means the work is dealt with in a business-like way.

Some training courses have a major mentoring element. For example, in ITI’s Setting up as a Freelance Translator programme, participants have direct access to eight practising translators who have successfully launched their own freelance careers.

Alternatively, you may meet someone in a networking group or via social media who is willing to provide advice on an ‘as and when basis’. Or you may have several different people you would go to, dependent on what the issue is. Being part of a co-working group could be a useful route to finding one or more mentors.

It’s important to remember that mentoring isn’t just about taking, it’s a two-way transaction. You may need to commit something back. This could be financial or giving some advice or help in return. And, of course, the mentor is learning from the experience too.

One of the key considerations is that you find ‘the right fit.’ I remember a time when I was just a couple of years out of university and had not been working for that long. My employer decided to commission a senior-level consultant to undertake one or two high-level projects and to give me some advice and support. So, it had been deemed elsewhere that I needed a mentor without involving me in the decision.

This could have been rather irritating – I was convinced I had been doing a brilliant job all on my own! However, he never really gave the impression that he thought he knew more than me or required me to do something in a particular way – and his wealth of knowledge and experience was self-evident. Very quickly, I felt he was taking a weight off my shoulders by giving me a useful sounding board and helping me to avoid mistakes.

Of course, he was getting paid. But, to be honest he could have chosen to do less for me as this aspect of the job was not really quantifiable. Luckily for me he didn’t take that option.

Yes, that really inspirational person comes along from time to time – but it doesn’t happen all that often and we need to celebrate it when it does.

And it’s important that we do recognise those who are helping others in the profession to develop their career, make their mark and deal with the challenges of an evolving sector.

Do you know someone who has been a brilliant mentor for one or more people? Do you think they deserve recognition? Tell us about it. Find out more about this and other ITI Awards.

The closing date for the 2020 Awards is 10 February.