How to make a CV stand out when you’re fresh out of school is always a challenge, but education, part-time job experience, and references are the answer.
As often happens, when I think about and write about a subject connected to translation or the odd life of the translation freelancer, that subject begins to come up in my conversations.
It’s an odd phenomenon that surely has some mundane mental or physical explanation, but it certainly does often feel like the universe reads this blog. At any rate, after mentioning CVs for translators recently I’ve had the same conversation several times, all about how a neophyte translation professional should handle their experience on their freshly-minted curriculum vitae. It’s the chicken-and-the-egg problem: How do you handle ‘experience’ when you are fresh out of school and actually have no experience to speak of?
One approach that can work is to list your educational and certification achievements. While in a more experienced translation pro’s CV I would prefer their education be very concise – one or two lines at most, just giving the true highlights – when applying for entry-level positions right out of school it’s appropriate – even necessary – to go into painful detail about your achievements.
While listing every single course taken is perhaps overkill, certainly all relevant experience and activity should be included. If you earned a piece of paper with your name on it, no matter how minor or unofficial, I would advise listing it at this stage. Certainly a degree or certification should be listed, as well as any applicable clubs or other activities. If it has something to do with translation, I would include it.
Part of planning your career begins while still in school: You need to take on activities and programs that will plump your CV a bit. That means not only clubs and other credit-earning activities while in school, but also pursuing internships and summer jobs in the translation field. These are usually not the sort of programs you simply decide to become involved with on a whim, and require a bit of planning, but they look wonderful on a CV. Best of all, there is no grade or certificate involved, so simply participating looks good – although if you’re able to list references from a job or internship, all the better, as a job without a contact can look a bit like you had perhaps a poor experience.
That last bit brings me to the final part of any neophyte CV: References. Grades and jobs are great, but at a certain point your glowing CV will be in with a stack of other glowing CVs when the rubbish ones have been removed. The easiest way for yours to stand out is to have an impressive list of people who stand ready and willing to sing your praises. Teachers and other school officials, former bosses, or well-established translation professionals with some public weight are the ideal. Having a solid list of references makes any CV that much more impressive, and gives the hiring manager a chance to hear first-hand about your skills.
Image courtesy independent.co.uk