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The Perks and Pitfalls of LinkedIn Profiles for Translators

I’ve been perusing LinkedIn a lot lately, connecting with colleagues and finding new clients around the world. In the U.S., I trained in writing resumes and LinkedIn profiles. It is striking how many translators could do so much more with the free chance to succinctly and convincingly tell their stories and expand their clientele and network of colleagues.

LinkedIn Headlines — The 2-second test

Your job title headline is prime real estate on LinkedIn, the first thing after your name, and the only other thing appearing on a list of searched profiles. So many translators simply write “Translator,” as if they could translate all languages back and forth. Not enough info.  Others offer a bit more and write: “Freelance translator.” LinkedIn allows you a generous 120 characters. You can use all sorts of punctuation (, — | \ * &), bullets, and emoticons to keep on going, add specializations, even a nifty little slogan. Among the many reasons to take advantage of this is what I talk about in the next section: your dual audience of non-sentient computer algorithms and the snap judgments of clever, but fallible humans in a hurry. We want to know the essentials in two seconds. Here’s an example of an effective headline from my colleague, Melissa Ratti.

Speak simultaneously to computer algorithms and human readers

Keeping these two audiences in mind when writing LinkedIn profiles and resumes is as fundamental as it is under-appreciated. Most resumes go through applicant-tracking software before meeting human eyes. ALL LinkedIn searches are, by definition, based on algorithms. We can all agree that computers are pretty smart and that we humans are, too, in our own right, though our strengths differ. Where computers rule when it comes to speed of calculation and quantity of information, we humans are the champions of contextualization and filling in missing information with “common sense.” Human eyes may be charmed by, and will certainly understand, a job title of “Translator” followed by flags representing the countries speaking the relevant languages, but it’d have to be one meticulously-developed algorithm to include the profile in search results. [Go ahead and put both if you like your flag icons!] One client, a legal translator from German, French, and English to Italian whose profile spoke of “translating documents written in a language different from Italian” agreed that a human reader would think her unrealistically multilingual. No one searches for an “any language to Italian” translator. Both humans and computers like specificity. LinkedIn already gives you a leg-up by letting you list your skills and specializations (something you should mirror on your resume to help it talk to the computers).

Watch your language

A translator who starts off her profile with a grammar mistake like “I work in translation since 2011” is undercutting her message. Even for professionals not in the language services industry, mistakes and unnatural language are no-nos. Don’t just cut and paste from your resume or a cover letter. Hitting the right tone for a LinkedIn profile — personal (it should be in the first person) yet professional and persuasive — is tricky even in one’s native language. If you need a LinkedIn profile written, corrected, rewritten, or translated from Italian, I’m here to help.

I can only say “wow!” I really like the way you improved my profile! Your incredible job made me realise how difficult it is to use the right words when it comes to marketing our services.

Valentina Giagnorio, EN, FR, DE > IT legal translator. LinkedIn profile.

Watch your language(s) II

Your profile should be as multilingual as you are, at least for your working languages. Fortunately, LinkedIn lets you easily create different versions of your profile. If you have a version in the language matching the viewers’ language settings, it will automatically show them that version. Translators, more than anyone, should make sure the language is perfect, natural, and effective, having it translated or revised by a native speaker. This is no time for do-it-yourself. If you need an English revision or translation from Italian to English, contact me.

Don’t be cryptic

When communicating amongst colleagues, our shorthand (IT<>EN, SK, DE>EL, etc.) and professional lingo (source/target language, CAT tools, etc.) are just dandy, but on LinkedIn, our main audiences are the prospective client and the algorithm. Such talk could all be Greek to them. Stick with regular, spelled-out words. If you use jargon, explain in parenthesis, e.g. “I love my CAT tools (computer-aided translation software) to ensure consistency.”    

Less about you, more about me (prospective client/employer)

In LinkedIn profiles, resumes, and maybe life in general, people easily lose sight of their audience in their eagerness to talk about themselves. LinkedIn profiles are, of course, about you, but what the prospective clients want to know is what’s in it for them. Translators often tell the tale of how they pursued their passion for languages. Clients might care about that only as far as your dedication to the profession will get them a prompt, quality translation. Explicitly draw the line from your talents, experience, and studies to the outcomes that matter to them, e.g. persuasive marketing copy, legal documents that stand up in court, publication-worthy academic articles.

Make yourself easy to find

I am often asked to suggest translators who work in other combinations and specializations than my own. In IT>EN and EN>IT, I already have multi-talented contacts, but for others, I turn to LinkedIn. I am usually searching as a favor to a client and want to spend ten minutes max. I want to be able to send my client a quick list of three or four promising LinkedIn profiles and call it a day. But many translators hide themselves in a forest of vague job titles, incomplete profiles, and irrelevant fluff.

LinkedIn is free, convenient, and pretty simple to use. Stand up and show yourself.

Find out here about the three levels of LinkedIn help I offer

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