Career Management is a Process of Self-Discovery – Three Takeaways from My First Semester at MIIS

Blog 7 Gayane Saghatelyan

My first semester at MIIS has been one of the most rewarding experiences both professionally and personally. Alongside rigorous professional training, I was fortunate enough to have worked closely with Career and Academic Advisor, Winnie Heh. I learned a great deal through her Career Management classes and the projects we worked on together, while working at the Center for Advising and Career Services.

I would like to share with you the 3 major takeaways that inspired me to redefine how I approach my career path.

1.Know yourself.

Start with the basics. Discover what matters to you, what you enjoy doing and be open to new possibilities. There are so many places your language skills can take you; it may seem overwhelming at first, but the key to career success is in knowing yourself and what you want to be doing. Keep in mind that your career is not static; it’s going to constantly change in ways you would have never imagined.

Here is an example from my personal experience. I came to MIIS thinking I wanted to work as an interpreter for the EU or the UN. What I didn’t realize at the time was that Localization was such a promising field and could truly help me leverage both my language skills and management experience. As I got involved in various projects, I realized that the TLM profession is a window into the larger picture. This program may not be for everyone, but it is merely an example of how your career goals can change and why you should be open to new ideas.

2. Be intentional.

Whatever journey you embark on, always have a goal and build you decisions around it. Ask yourself: Where do I want to be in 5 years? This isn’t just a question someone asks you at an interview. It really matters that you know this for yourself.

Think about the following things when looking for a job or internship:

  1. What am I good at? What do I like doing?
  2. What are companies looking for? It is useful to look at job descriptions for the field you’d like to work in.
  3. What company would I want to work for? Come up with a hit list!

This all ties into knowing yourself. By answering these questions, you will identify your marketable skills and be able to position yourself by articulating what value you are bringing to the team.

3. Create long-lasting relationships.

Try to take advantage of every opportunity while you’re at MIIS (and after you graduate) to create long-lasting relationships with alumni, students, faculty, etc. They will be your windows into new opportunities. Most importantly, keep your LinkedIn profile up to date and be active!

These 3 major lessons have helped me shape a “career-driven employment” mentality that goes way beyond finding a simple job after you graduate. Every resource you are given here at MIIS will go toward your long-term career goals. Take advantage of it!


Gayané ‘Gaya’ Saghatelyan

MA Translation & Localization Management – French, 2017

Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey





Working as a U.N. Translator – an Interview of Sabela Avion-Martinez

Sabela Avion-Martinez (MATI ‘01) is currently a Spanish Translator at the United Nations based in New York City. She came back to MIIS during an Alumni Reunion in October, 2015 and made a presentation to current students on career opportunities at the UN.  I was impressed by her warmth, openness and her commitment to the growth of our future colleagues.  I made a mental note that she is someone I want to interview when my blog is up.  Here is our conversation.


Blog 6 Sabela2 Photo

1. What aspects of your work experience prior to joining the UN do you feel prepared you well for your current work?

I had always wanted to work at the United Nations, but I also knew I had to get experience in other fields. After graduating from MIIS, I worked for a large localization company between 2002 and 2006. I learned about translation processes, tools, budgeting and scheduling, client-provider relations… I’ve found myself applying all these skills at the UN at different stages.

Meanwhile, I kept an eye on any developments regarding careers at the United Nations. This has become increasingly easier over the years, as interested candidates have now access to a great deal of information on working at the UN in different language positions (editors, verbatim reporters, interpreters…), and exams or working opportunities.


2. What does your typical day look like at the UN?

If I don’t have an assignment to finish, I let the Programming Officer know I’m available. As soon as a document comes in, she’ll evaluate it and assign it.

We have our own CAT tool, called eLUNa – a translation interface specifically developed for the translation of United Nations documents. It provides access to previously translated documents (bitexts), terminology records and machine translations. As a longtime user of CAT tools, I’ve run the gamut from traditional to proprietary. This new system is web-based, and it’s been developed and adapted according to the specifications and requests of UN translators from all duty stations.

During the translation process, sometimes we find new terms without a set equivalent in Spanish. In those cases, we work together with our terminologists to improve our UNTERM Portal.

We also perform QC tasks on translations done externally. We provide them with an evaluation of their translation. Both internally and externally, translators are expected to have excellent translation skills, a perfect command of Spanish and a wide knowledge of the topics at hand.

The Spanish Translation Service has a strong online presence, and our blog and our Twitter account have hundreds of visits every day.


3.  What aspects of your education at MIIS do you feel prepared you well for your current work?

Language awareness. It’s an odd thing to say to speakers of other languages, but Spanish is the official language in 21 countries, and has a large number of speakers in many others. At MIIS, I learned Spanish from my Mexican, Colombian and Argentinean classmates.


4. What are the things that you know now that you wish you had known when you were a student at MIIS?

Try to make room for classes in other programs.

Find a language partner in your foreign language.

Don’t forget about your mother tongue.

Live in a foreign country!


Winnie Heh
Career & Academic Advisor