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Not just a one-trick pony – How job crafting works

When you say that you are an in-house translator, it seems like a conversation stopper. Seemingly, everyone assumes they know exactly what you do for your entire working week. People’s perception of your activities are that you are a “one-trick pony”. However, the fact is that many in-house translator jobs are not full-time translation positions. Fortuitously, this provides such translators with a possibility for “job crafting” a blend of translation-based and non-translation-based activities into their working hours.

To the uninitiated, an in-house translator sits or stands at their desk (hurray for the modern workplace!) and translates documents all day/week/year long, with revision and terminology tasks along the way. But even for someone with a job title as simple as “translator”, there are other tasks to perform, and a degree of wiggle room for “job crafting”, even as a SPLSU.

From my in-house experience, demand for translation has always depended on proximity and visibility to colleagues in active supervision. Whereas freelancers market themselves and dedicate time to marketing (as shown frequently in the #litranslators community on LinkedIn), physical presence has been an essential factor for me – the need to be seen.

With the disruption from the pandemic and the advent of “new work” with versatile and flexible working arrangements, the tasks picked up through job crafting have helped to reinforce my presence. This has proven particularly important as I don’t necessarily see my colleagues in person, even though I share an open plan shared office. And “cold calling” colleagues over MS Teams is not an option for translation marketing in the in-house setting.

Seize the day! Subconscious marketing works.

Fortunately, there are a lot of “recurring” jobs that allow a gentle trickle of osmosis marketing opportunities to colleagues. Intriguingly, the example below proves how the actual translation job that triggers the marketing doesn’t need to be massive. Take a recent case in hand. There was a micro-sized amendment to the Austrian Banking Act (BWG; Bankwesengesetz). We’re talking about a law that affects everyone in Banking Supervision at my employer.

The amendment in question in translation terms was at most a 10-15 minute job (with most of that time spent generating the 250 page accessible PDF file in Word4Axes), and consisted of:

  • the appending of a single point/subparagraph at the end of a single Article in the BWG,
  • an inserted reference to the transposition of a single point in an EU Regulation into Austrian law, and
  • the insertion of a single sentence stating when this amendment would enter into force.

Of course, I didn’t draw attention to the size of the amendment addressed, or that it only becomes relevant from the start of 2024. The mail that went out told a story that I could use to connect with colleagues, and I told them:

The English translation of the Austrian Banking Act has been updated to include the latest amendments. The full translation can be downloaded directly at …

All English language versions of supervisory laws, as available, can be downloaded from the website from the page …

Extract of a mail to colleagues

Tell me you are looking for translation work, without saying you are looking for translation work.

That simple two sentence mail connected me with 100+ colleagues. It reminded them that I was potentially available for their translation needs, without saying I am looking for work. The mail flicked the thought switch about translation needs: two pages for one colleague here, one from another there. Checking presentation slides from a third, gist translation of a draft amendment to another law for a fourth. It also planted seeds in colleagues’ minds. Do I translate secondary legislation? Is there a working translation of some frequently cited provisions of the Commercial Code (GewO; Gewerbeordnung)? The list goes on.

This is what a simple e-mail in the depths of the traditional “Sommerloch” can achieve. Its impact means that I am aware that I have to be careful not to get the timing “too right”. Especially as the mail also triggered some enquiries about whether I have time next month for a couple of jobs.

Seeing the bigger picture: job crafting

two women in front of dry erase board
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My job crafting also focuses on “seeing the bigger picture”. Part of this revolves around ensuring that translation is not only an afterthought in colleagues’ perceptions. By teasing out a number of non-translation tasks over the years, I have found ways to ensure a steady interaction with colleagues. In turn, this also helps to ensure a constant flow of translation work.

Leveraging a few (relatively) small, but nevertheless important, non-translation-based tasks ensures a strong flow of translation. These tasks include:

  • Content and document management for our website and departmental Intranet.
  • Accessibility (Barrierefreiheit) for web content and publications in both German and English
  • Handling the public consultation of national soft law instruments
  • Handling the comply/explain process for EBA soft law instruments
  • Coordinating periodic reviews of internal banking supervision processes
  • Monitoring of covered bond issuances under the new Pfandbrief Act
  • Member of the Sounding Board of a subproject in my employer’s digital transformation programme.

Tranlation expertise regarding workflows and processes flows into many of these tasks. A number of them also have synergy effects in relation to my translation work. By handling monitoring tasks, it gives me access to policy experts, who provide me with follow-up translation work. Other monitoring activities allow me to talk to colleagues, in particular recent arrivals, who become translation customers. In turn, I can approach them about meanings and interpretations of tricky concepts.

Keeping a watchful eye over a list of standardised processes provides me with an opportunity to contact colleagues. In turn it helps to ensure a steady flow of translation work, Experience from translation workflows proves useful in understanding the interfaces between banking supervision processes. Similarly, it also helps in understanding how they shape content updates to our website.

So how does job crafting work in practice?

brown fedora hat in selective focus photography - illustration of multi-hatting which is part of job crafting
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Much of the synergies revolve around multi-hatting – dealing with colleagues in a number of capacities.

Take this anonymised example about how I multi-hat, The points below are not in strict chronological order (e.g. Guidelines may already have entered into force, while the national transposition is still delayed…)

  1. A proposal from the European Commission focussing on an amendment to a Regulation of relevance for a specific topic within banking supervision pops up. The policy expert has a couple of days to respond with comments and suggestions in English. They request that I carry out a quick language check for their submission about the proposal. (translator/reviewer hat).
  2. After many rounds the proposal eventually clears Parliament and is duly published in the Official Journal of the European Union. Member States start transposition into national law. Once the national legislation is enacted, I translate the amendment (translator hat)
  3. EBA draws up Guidelines about a specific aspect of the Regulation (and by extension its transposition into national law). I check the German translator with the policy experts (reviewer and national editor hat). Once the Guidelines are published into all languages, I set up the comply/explain process for the policy expert to then appraise. (compliance monitoring hat)
  4. New Guidelines often require updates to our national soft law publications, including a public consultation and/or changes to our banking supervision processes (process management/reviewer hat/consultation hat).
  5. Publication and translation of published soft law instrument and assorted changes needed to our website (web editor and translator hat) as well as for accessibility (accessibility hat).

Three out of the five tasks come about from job crafting, although three tasks also involve me directly based on my “original” role as a translator. In the long-term, it is also possible to ensure that job crafting elements are included in goals and performance metrics for appraisal/review cycles.

In a larger, i.e. non-SPLSU in-house setting, job crafting can allow team members to focus on the areas they prefer, and to collectively cover more bases. While onlookers continue to see a certain number of full-time equivalent translators, within the team there are a far greater array of specialists.

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