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You Have Your Master’s Degree – What Now? Finding a Job After Graduate School

Silvia Pinheiro

The Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) in Monterey, California, is one of the few schools around the world with a Localization-focused program for graduate students. It is therefore no wonder that students from all over the world come to Monterey to get their master’s degree in Translation and Localization Management at MIIS. According to Max Troyer, the Program Chair of the Translation and Localization Management (TLM) degree program at MIIS, the institute is “training students to be the localization project managers of the future”.[1]    

Mirroring industry trends, the program has been very successful and it’s growing. In a few weeks, yet another class will be graduating and looking for jobs. According to MIIS’s own website, most graduates won’t have a problem finding a job. Data collected by the institute shows that 98% of graduates are employed after graduation. Another good indicator of this program’s success is that many Women in Localization members and directors are MIIS alumni!

Considering the current COVID-19 crisis and the worldwide chaos that led to many companies to establish a hiring freeze, things might not look as promising as before this crisis. However, even in uncertain times there are things we can do to stay positive, relevant and hirable. Winnie Heh, a career advisor at MIIS and associate chapter manager for Women in Localization in Silicon Valley, has a series of interesting podcasts with specific advice on “How to navigate job search amid uncertainty”. I highly recommend them.

I interviewed a couple of TLM alumni who tell us about their professional experience, the challenges they’ve encountered and provide their insights and advice for future graduates. The two interviewees are Wei Wu and Carolyn Whittingham. They are both Women in Localization members since 2018 and they graduated from MIIS in 2019. Wei is originally from China. She interned at a local LSP and is now a Localization Project Manager at Bureau Works. Carolyn is originally from Kingston, Jamaica. She secured an internship at a Japanese-owned LSP after her first year at MIIS. Upon graduation she joined ITP Strategic, a multidisciplinary Japanese media company as a Localization Project Manager.

Without further ado, here are their answers to our questions. Enjoy!

Wei, how did you find your first job after graduating? What resources did you find most useful when looking for a job?

Through the Career Fair, technically. I applied after the CF [career fair] and then got an on-site [interview]. Then there was “chemistry” between me, my boss and another interviewee and I was offered the job right away. The resource that I find most useful is my network. By network I don’t mean the number of people you connect with online; it’s not about the width, it’s about the depth. When you talk with people who really know you well and are willing to help and exchange ideas, you will definitely learn tons from them.

Is working in the US what you thought it would be? (Does it meet your expectations, is it how you thought it might be, what is completely different, what is challenging?)

Not really. I thought it would be easier, but obviously it’s not, at least not on the vendor side. The challenging part is: 1. Your client doesn’t necessarily know l10n & i18n, which is actually more important for software and website localization, as we were taught in school, due to code complexity and language, etc. 2. Working with people in different time zones basically means you don’t have a fixed schedule. 3. The general situation of people working in entry-level positions on the vendor side, from what I know, are not fairly treated compensation-wise.

What advice would you give and what lessons have you learned while job searching that you would like to share with future grads?

Be specific about what you want/like, and have a long-term plan if you can, then really prepare for it, besides trying to “customize” your resume. When you do know things, you sometimes don’t need to have a “shining” resume, the interviewees can tell from your convo. Good luck 😉

Carolyn, how did you find your first job after graduating? What resources did you find most useful when looking for a job?

I used job boards, particularly LinkedIn, Indeed and to a lesser extent, Anzu Global and Zocalo, to search for Localization Project Manager jobs that were seeking a candidate with Japanese language skills. I applied through a recruiting agency for a job in Texas, but it turns out that the company that the agency was trying to pair me with was already in contact with MIIS. MIIS facilitated an open info session, and I was in direct contact with the company thereafter.

Is working in the US what you thought it would be? (Does it meet your expectations, is it how you thought it might be, what is completely different, what is challenging?)

Not at all. I am constantly surprised at how much company policies, especially in terms of wages and benefits, differ from state-to-state or even just by the whim of a particular company’s management. In order to earn the salary I felt I deserved/was comfortable with, I had to move to a state that I had no desire to live in and agree to a contract with benefits that were less than ideal. In addition, US media made it seem as though it was easy and common to build meaningful relationships in one’s workplace (The Office, Parks and Recreation etc.), but the reality is quite the opposite. I have found it exceedingly difficult to make meaningful friendships with my coworkers from different cultures, and I have found that many of my (non-American) peers feel the same way.

What advice would you give and what lessons have you learned while job searching that you would like to share with future grads?

Don’t pigeonhole yourself into seeking a specific role! If you’re having trouble finding a position that meets all of your desired criteria, try re-organizing your priorities to find companies/positions that tick only the more important boxes (and if that also fails, then finds companies/positions that tick the less important ones). However, I don’t recommend blindly applying to every job that seems marginally in line with your skill set. If you’re thoughtful about your application, the recruiter whose desk it lands on (assuming it gets that far…) will recognize it. Finally, do not feel like it’s imperative to get your “dream job” right after graduation. At least in the US, it sometimes takes hopping around a few jobs and spending years building the network that will help you eventually land that dream job.

That is great advice, ladies! Entering the workforce has its challenges and it requires flexibility and an open mind. Kudos to both Wei and Carolyn for staying strong and adapting to the circumstances. Everyone has to start somewhere, and every job allows us to develop different skills. The salaries might not be great at first, but within a year or two, they could be much higher, especially on the client side. Grab the opportunities when they knock on your door and move on when you are ready.

As I mentioned above, the industry is growing and there are new opportunities every day. Keep an eye out for those opportunities – reach out to your network, subscribe to notifications from job boards and, if you can, be flexible. Congratulations and good luck to the 2020 graduates!


[1] https://www.rws.com/insights/rws-moravia-blog/max-troyer-at-miis-training-localizers-of-the-future/

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