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The Importance of Specializing

Let's talk about choosing a specialization at work:

  • Did you choose your specialization? Or did it choose you?

  • How much do you like your specialization?

  • Do you have yet to find your specialization?

When I relocated to the United States in 2016, one of my first clients was a translation agency whose main clients were clinics and hospitals. At that time, I had my eyes set on the audiovisual field, but I agreed to give that agency a try. And, although I took to medical translation and chose to focus on it, I only began identifying myself as a medical translator in 2020. Therefore, I could say that my specialization found me first, but it was ultimately my choice to stick with it.

I wanted to be a physician when I was a kid. Yet, I ended up favoring a career in humanities, where communication and languages would become my main interest. Still, it took me a while to realize I could work with medical texts without having a career in medicine. That is, I could combine two of my passions: communication and medicine. That "aha moment" is what gave me the confidence I needed to embrace medical translation, even if I did not have a background in life sciences.

Until then, however, I had impostor syndrome visit me often. How could I take on medical translation projects if I did not have a degree in medicine? I must have been doing it right because most of the feedback I received from my clients has been positive. I became increasingly confident over time, but something was missing. If I wanted to call myself a specialist, I realized I had to do more than just learning while working because the trial-error method would not make me a subject matter expert.

Just like I had invested time and money to study for a licentiate (= master's degree) in Translation and Interpreting, it was time to take additional training and learn from experts. As the pandemic loomed over, I began getting less work, which I used to my advantage. If I wanted to take on more technical, complex projects that paid better, now I had more time than ever to take continuing education — and it worked!

I always believed that, by choosing a specialization, I would be limiting myself. The truth is that it turned out to be the opposite. Learning about medicine and other life sciences has opened up more doors for me. Thanks to that, I learned about medical writing. That, in turn, has led me to discover regulatory writing about biologics, devices, and pharmaceuticals. By finding your niche, you will stand out among other professionals. That is why I encourage others to specialize.

If you have yet to find your specialization, do not rush it. You can try different options and see what works for you. It took me more than ten years to find my specialization. Aside from audiovisual, which did not turn out to be what I expected, I also worked on financial and marketing translation projects. If you do not know where to start, I recommend watching Mati Ortiz's presentation at this year's Innovation in Translation Summit.

Tell me about your experience in the comments below or, if you prefer, write me an email!


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