Lesson 119: Does your personality impact your translation career? Introverts and extroverts.

Lesson 119: Does your personality impact your translation career? Introverts and extroverts.

I like taking online personality tests, from the really silly ones on Buzzfeed (e.g. what house should you live in or what’s your hidden nationality), to a bit more serious ones, like http://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test. Most of the time it’s just pure fun and distraction from work, but the more I work, the more I’m convinced that our personalities do have an impact on how we work and our translation career.

In this article, I wanted to look at differences between introverts and extroverts, to a certain extent sparked by an article I saw by a translation agency where they suggested translators are mostly introverted and interpreters – extroverted. Now, believe it or not, I’m an introvert. How does that impact my translation career? Am I loosing out on extroverts? Let’s find out.

Translation

Being an introvert, I pride myself in great attention to detail and unparalleled abilities to focus on the task at hand. I don’t mind locking myself up for six hours without any human contact to get the job done, and I have absolutely no problems with logging off Facebook and Twitter for that time. Yes, most likely I do finish the job quicker and maybe I make fewer mistakes, so there is some impact on my translation career.

But I need your inputs here, extroverts! How do you translate? Are you able to concentrate on one task? Do you work better if you are on Facebook and can shift focus to a different task for a few seconds only to get back to translating with a new bout of energy?

On a more general note, would you agree that translators tend to be introverted? And is that reflected in the end product? The impact of personality on translation is open to a debate.

Interpreting

Once more often, now I only occasionally do interpreting. When I do, I feel the pressure the evening before, I feel even more pressure on my way there, and also a bit of disorientation when I finally get to the place. I know I’m prepared, but I also know I’m going to meet strangers, I don’t know how they’re going to react and whether everything is going to go smoothly. I also feel I’m not in my own environment so I can’t control it, but this may have nothing to do with introversion, this may be just my control issue.

In turn, when I asked my good colleague who’s interpreting much more often than I do (one of those born interpreters, you see), she doesn’t feel any of this. Stage fright doesn’t exist, she’s used to hearing her own voice and she doesn’t mind, she enjoys the thrill of travelling and staying at a different hotel every time.

Do you think that this is the case and extroverts are simply better suited to do interpreting?

Customer service

I’m very bad at phone calls and I’d never do any cold calling unless I absolutely had to. My aversion to telephone calls used to be so big that I’d rather go and visit my relatives to pass a message on from my parents than actually make a phone call. Of course, this got better over the years, but I still can’t imagine calling strangers. Sometimes I also write abrupt emails that may come across cold or rude. I attribute this to my introversion. I also find it hard to be nice or friendly on demand.

Do extroverts do any better? I think they may be in a winning position here. Extroverts I know like talking to others, don’t mind strangers, and often are open in their approach. They tend to be friendly and seen as easy-going. Would you agree? And would that impact their translation career?

Marketing

Inbound marketing, or attracting visitors to my website using content, is what I do best. I’d much rather write three articles in a night than send out offers to potential clients, even though I know I have to reach out to prospects to see some results. I feel I’m better at creating useful content than promoting it all over the place.

Extroverts I came across, to a large extent, are the opposite. They’re great at promoting, sharing, publicising, inviting, reaching out, but can’t really sit down to write this short article they promised themselves to publish last month. Would you say this is the case? And if it is, what’s ‘better’?

Networking

If you’re an introvert like me, you probably have a weird relationship with the word ‘networking’. This is definitely something I had to learn and I still remember the first professional networking event I went to (an innocent Tweetup!), where I was feeling so awkward that I almost never made it. It’s not like I’m avoiding social situations, but they just drain my energy levels to zero. Every event, every conference, every workshop, I go back home exhausted and need at least two days to regain my balance.

Extroverts seem to be the opposite. They thrive during translation conferences and events, and feel great when they go to network with potential clients. They feel even more energised after such a social event. In there, I think they’re definitely in a better situation then introverts and their translation career may benefit.

Where do you fit? Would you say you’re an introvert or extrovert? And do you think it impacts your translation career?

32 Comments

  1. Kaori myatt , on Feb 3, 2015 at 08:41 Reply

    Quite surprised to see you saying about networking. I thought you are a born networker…I feel the same. It tires me out and need time to regain balances. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Raluca Topala , on Feb 3, 2015 at 09:27 Reply

    Dear Marta,
    this is one of my favourite topics – psychology & business.
    I’m an extrovert (around 70%, I think), and I am convinced one’s personality impacts everything one does – business included, of course. I’ll try to take your sub-topics one by one:
    – Translation: I believe that, irrespective of the type of personality, one works better (and faster) when focusing on one task at a time. So when I have to, I just do that. Set fixed hours/intervals for anything else, turn the Pomodoro on and start working. But it’s a learned discipline. And it’s probably easier for an introvert to do it.
    – Interpreting: I’m not sure extroverts are necessarily better interpreters. At least in consec/liaison, being an introvert might actually help. I have colleague interpreters in both categories, and those who are really good are good for reasons that have little to do with being an introvert or an extrovert. As for stage fright – in time, you learn to manage it, I guess.
    – Cold calls – Made some, back in the days. I don’t dread them but I’m still not very fond of them. But in general, it’s a bit easier to extroverts to talk to strangers. As for written messages, mines tend to be rather short as well (except for those to some really close friends). Also, I’m not fond of reading messages that say, in 10 lines, something that can be said in 4 (except for literature, of course).
    – Marketing. Can’t speak about blogs, as I don’t have any (yet). As for your description of extroverts – that’s so…me:) In my particular case, I simply believe that it has to do with the fact that I like talking more more than I like writing. Plus – with speaking, it’s much harder to get back and rephrase.
    – Networking: I hope it’s alright to post this article here: https://www.themuse.com/advice/why-i-stopped-networking. It sums up quite well how I feel about networking (and about the way it should be done, in order to work – for me, at least). This being said, I don’t mind talking to strangers, as long as they make the first step (might be my 30% introvert here).

    So, in brief, I believe that yes, being an introvert or an extrovert influences the way you do business. But there are also so many other things that have to factored in: the type of culture one comes from; one’s upbringing, background etc.

    Thanks for another great post, Marta, and I wish you a fabulous February.

    • Marta Stelmaszak , on Feb 6, 2015 at 21:13 Reply

      Thank you, Raluca, and you’re right – being an introvert/extrovert is only one facet of being a person, but an important one, don’t you think?

  3. Sara Muiño Carro , on Feb 3, 2015 at 13:14 Reply

    Great article, Marta. As an introvert (80% according to the test you linked), I completely relate to you on the “networking” point, I get really anxious and tired if I have to go to an event, and I would much rather spend the whole day translating. However, I do believe my shyness could hinder my career, so I just suck it up and make an effort to meet people anyway!

  4. Allison Wright , on Feb 3, 2015 at 14:21 Reply

    I think we introverts are very good at hiding the fact when in public. Your comment about being exhausted after being in the midst of the madding crowd resonates with me.

  5. Paul Kearns , on Feb 3, 2015 at 16:28 Reply

    I think it helps to look at the introvert / extrovert issue in terms of preferences that describe how we react to different experiences rather than view introversion / extroversion as a set-in-stone principle that defines us. No-one is 100% introverted or extroverted, rather we operate within a range of behaviours and with time and effort we can learn to be more introverted / extroverted under certain circumstances. That is why a person who has a preference for introverted behaviour can act in an introverted manner under certain circumstances.

    • Marta Stelmaszak , on Feb 6, 2015 at 21:15 Reply

      You are right, Paul. I, for example, had to learn how to interact with a lot of people at the same time, but that actually is quite exhausting for my introverted soul 😉

  6. David Miralles Pérez , on Feb 3, 2015 at 23:55 Reply

    Very interest topic, Marta.

    Personally, I also think that our personality has an effect on our business and the way that we approach every daily task.

    I don’t know if I should consider myself and introvert or an extrovert (probably it depends on the situation), but when I am working on a translation assignment, I normally use the method “Focus Booster”. Have you ever heard of it? It basically consist on working without any type of distractions during 25 min and rest for 5 min and so on.

    Here you can fin a link just in case you didn’t know it and want to know more: https://www.focusboosterapp.com/

    Great post as usually, Marta!

    • Marta Stelmaszak , on Feb 6, 2015 at 21:15 Reply

      Thank you so much for the link, David. I think it’s an interesting strategy 🙂

  7. Robert Dunn , on Feb 4, 2015 at 13:18 Reply

    Interesting article. I don’t have to take this test to know that I am very introverted, although l don’t mind meeting new people and networking.

    But being alone with my translations is my Nirvana.

  8. Luigi Suppo , on Feb 4, 2015 at 15:26 Reply

    Great post indeed, Marta … clearly explaining why I will never do interpreting 🙂

  9. Laeticia , on Feb 4, 2015 at 21:13 Reply

    My PhD is about Psychology and Translation so I’ll tell you the results in a few years! By the way, even if your article is not “purely scientific”, your point of view is quite interesting. Thanks for sharing!

    • Marta Stelmaszak , on Feb 6, 2015 at 21:16 Reply

      Thank you, Laeticia, and do let me know how you get on with your research!

  10. Alina Cincan , on Feb 5, 2015 at 10:49 Reply

    Fabulous article, Marta. It made me think. I have always considered myself an extrovert (and that’s how others perceive me too), but I am probably a mixture. I did the test and it seems I am more of an introvert, though one who is naturally social. Hmmm….

    Regarding the points you raised:
    – Translation: I like to focus on the task at hand
    – Interpreting: I can’t remember being particularly nervous (except maybe for the first couple of times)
    – I don’t really like talking on the phone (here’s the introvert in me talking)
    – As far as writing goes, it depends: when inspiration strikes, I can sit down and write like there’s not tomorrow; but if I have to write something without being particularly inspired, it can take ages

    Like most of the others said, one’s personality definitely influences their way of doing business, as well as maybe their career choice.

    Thank you for such an inspiring post.

  11. Alicia Casal , on Feb 27, 2015 at 19:19 Reply

    Dear Marta,

    There are times when I feel bipolar in this respect. I do believe that you can train your brain and so you can do what the market requires to be successful.

    On the other hand, during the camp and after many years in industry, I decided that I will translate the specialties I like most.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Alicia

  12. Al Gainey , on Mar 2, 2015 at 07:33 Reply

    Do you think there’s a danger of introverts being drawn to freelance translation because they think ‘I’m not a people person; I’m better working on my own’, but not doing as well as they might because in reality freelancers need in many ways to be more extroverted/self-confident/assertive (in matters of self-promotion, price negotiation, etc.) than in-house translators?

    • Marta Stelmaszak , on Mar 13, 2015 at 15:59 Reply

      I do think so, Al, but as I am more of an introvert myself, I also think we can bring a lot to the profession 🙂

  13. CLARA GIEURE SASTRE , on Mar 4, 2015 at 12:47 Reply

    Interesting article Marta.

    I do agree with some of our colleagues here that claim personality traits affect the way we run our business. In fact, I agree on what Marta said, introverts do more translation and extroverts do more interpreting.

    However there are and have always been successful introvert entrepreneurs. For example the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg or co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, who are known to be introverts but ended up as well-established entrepreneurs.
    Here is a nice read. It’s an article about some well-known introvert personalities:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/13/famous-introverts_n_3733400.html

    These are just some but there are many more hidden somewhere behind a computer.

    As an extrovert and outgoing person, the truth is that I enjoy interpreting and teaching more than any other linguistic jobs. However, as a linguist I also love creative writing and translation, which consequently I do less. And considering your question, yes, I like to take breaks and shift my attention to a different task for a few moments when translating or reading for other purposes. I’m good at customer service and have developed great skills in my previous jobs. Also, I love using social networks and getting to know new people. So, yes, extroverts can handle customer service situations easier than extroverts. In a way, extroverts are better dealers and business owners but I have seen many introvert translators succeed, therefore, translators don’t need these skills to make a living.

    I believe curiosity, one of the most common traits among translators, which entrepreneurs also have, is a key personality trait. Or even determination and passion. These three are way more important than being an extrovert or introvert, don’t you think?

    • Marta Stelmaszak , on May 14, 2015 at 15:37 Reply

      I think it’s good to know yourself and your limits (if only to bypass them creatively), but in the end both introverts and extroverts can achieve success 🙂

  14. Jose Jóvena Casañ , on Sep 1, 2015 at 10:00 Reply

    Hi Marta,

    Loved this article. I took the 16 personalities test some months ago and found the results were quite accurate and self-reflecting. I think that, while I may not seem so at first glance, I’m definitely the introvert kind. I really relate to the Translation and Marketing sections!

  15. Petê Rissatti , on Nov 26, 2015 at 20:10 Reply

    First of all: great text, Marta. Congrats.

    My final test result is Campaigner – a 70% extrovert, 51% intuitive and 57% turbulent! And I’ve been working as literary translator since 2009 and coping with it very well. I think it’s a matter of energy channelling when it’s needed to focus, on the one hand, and letting it run free (and wild sometimes) when creativity is more necessary on the other hand. Balance is a concept I try to apply to all my activities and it works very well.
    Besides my translator activity, I also write posts for a blog for Brazilian translators, act as camera man to my partner for his vlog and write my fictional things… and also take care of my home and my dog, and go out with friends, etc. Of course, always trying to channel my energy when it is required to.

  16. zobeideh moslehi , on Dec 7, 2015 at 09:56 Reply

    i think im introvert in the case of translation but in overall i am an extrovert. but my problem right now is that i should write a proposal and it takes me more than a month to choose a topic and finally i chose introvert and extrovert effects on translation. i hope you would give me some good advice. thnks.

    • Marta Stelmaszak , on Aug 30, 2016 at 14:52 Reply

      I think that if you plan the work carefully, you can’t go wrong. Feel free to write me if you need advice 🙂

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