METM15 presentation

Versatile expert or a jack-of-all-trades?

Jackie Senior, Groningen, the Netherlands

Although many editors/translators may often feel that they are ‘jack-of-all-trades, master of none’, developing expert knowledge in a few fields can be highly rewarding. You will be able to add greater value to your clients’ texts and, just as relevant, have a better understanding of what you’re reading, which will increase your job satisfaction. This does not necessarily mean working in one field all your life. Switching fields, expanding into allied fields, or grabbing opportunities that present themselves – these can add variety and interest to your work and, importantly, ensure that your clients are not all affected by the same economic swings.

My editing and translating career of over 40 years has covered positions at a general translation bureau and in a professional journal’s publishing office, in oil and gas exploration research, investment banking, medical science, and teaching an ‘Editing in English’ course to mature translation students at a Dutch higher education college. I have, however, always maintained a freelance component to my salaried work.

In this presentation I will look back at what I had to do to master this range of subjects and extract ideas for younger editors/translators to consider while building up their careers and clientele. Possibly the most important aspects are to concentrate on providing a high-quality service and to be prepared to accept a new challenge once in a while. Career development need not be linear and changes may be driven by personal circumstances, financial opportunities or lucky encounters. In retrospect, being willing to try something new, being eager to learn, and having a plan B (however vague) have also proved to be positive factors.
Jackie Senior works as an editor and webmaster for an ambitious research department in the Netherlands (Dept of Genetics, University of Groningen/UMCG, the Netherlands). Nowadays she works mostly on biomedical texts but she started as a geologist working for Shell. After a varied period, she joined the genetics group in 1995. She has been editing/translating for 40 years but, with the Dutch retirement age becoming a moveable feast, is exploring options for later. She was a founder member of SENSE (Society of English-Native-Speaking Editors, NL) in 1990, served twice on its executive committee and is now an honorary member.