How to Get an Internship in a Translation Company

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With thousands of people graduating from universities, colleges and other educational institution, without solid work experience, you may find yourself in a catch 22 situation: no one wants to hire you without experience but how do you get the experience if no one wants to hire you?

Working as an intern will often give you a great advantage of experiencing the real world and being able to include it on your CV. Our company has been offering international work placements in Melbourne, Australia, for the past 2 years and we since have hosted interns from Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Indonesia, Japan, China, France, Lebanon and Poland. It’s a great way for us to learn about the new generation of professional linguists and contribute to the translating and interpreting industry by letting some new blood in.

I receive dozens of new applications per month and including people in our well structured internship program has become a privilege. We give people real work, with real clients but of course we do a lot of hand holding before we allow our interns to spread their wings. Most interns start by assisting our Multimedia Projects Officer or Business Development Coordinator in managing projects, checking of translations, collating databases or answering the phone. We take our interns to court to watch our interpreters at work, we also get them to review previous translations, collate glossaries and format translations. In other words, our interns do get exposed to how a translation bureau works, a rare opportunity indeed!

Given the advantages and the interest our internship program attracts, I thought I’d share with you some dos and don’ts on how to go about applying for internship. I have seen some shocking applications in my time, and whilst I always respond to prospective interns’ inquiries, it would be very hard for me to be convinced to take them on. We are one of the few companies in Australia that take intern applications seriously but I sometimes doubt that the interns take us seriously!

So here go the tips:

1. Email the translation company finding out who is in charge of recruiting. Emailing your application to the general email will rarely be met with interest, as it is usually checked by a non-decision maker, or a person who just can’t be bothered.

2. Check the spelling and grammar of your email and don’t forget to attach your CV. Don’t ever use the SMS shorthand for writing emails. It looks very unprofessional.

3. Do some research on the company in question so that your email doesn’t sound generic or disinterested. Explain in your email why you’d want to become an intern for them.

4. Be prepared for the internship to be unpaid: after all the company will invest a lot of money in training and supporting you, and you will get a reference at the end of it. So do make sure you can afford to be an intern for several months, especially if you are going to be based in another country or even continent.

5. Check the company out. Ask about working conditions, location, insurances and working hours. See if you could be put in touch with previous interns who could tell you more not only about the company, but local attractions, accommodation and customs.

6. Follow up with a phone call and arrange for a telephone interview. It is important that you clarify any issues of concerns before you commit yourself to the internship. Ask the company about the internship program: they should be able to email you a questionnaire or a work plan, to help you in making sure you are making the right decision.

7. Check whether your training institution will endorse the internship and if so, how will they liaise with your employer. Do they have any specific requirements?

8. Follow up with an email thanking the company for their time and keep in touch regularly. Ask about a duty statement, internship plan or position description. Who will you be reporting to? How often? What happens in case of problems?

Best of luck with your internships and don’t forget to contact me if you have any questions!

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