An Undecided Jobseeker

While reading back my old post written in 2006, I saw this and had a great laugh at myself because I have been working as an English tutor for nearly 4 years and so far, I haven’t gotten into any fights with any students yet 😀

My father said why you are going to still attend classes at this age while others who don’t even know half of what you know are making money teaching English. I can’t teach kids. I don’t know how to and I’m pretty impatient with kids. I can even imagine myself getting into fights with them.

I’ve been searching for a job after finishing my MA course and I’ve received a phone call from a school this morning. I’ve already sat for the interview and they told me that I will be informed if I get hired. I think it’s a nice school but the problem is that I only asked 1 lakh for the salary. I’ve been cursing myself ever since I said that ‘cuz at the time, I was desperate for a job. Now I want better salary. My previous salaries (aside from that part-time job) was around 1 lakh so I should be getting more now, even if I’m new to this job. Since I have only myself to blame, I will have to call them back and let them know that I’m not coming tomorrow.

Ever since I started working as an assistant teacher 4 years ago, I told myself that teaching will be my profession from now on. So, my first choice after finishing the MA course was to apply for teaching jobs. Now I’m not so sure anymore. A week ago, my father told me to consider translation field as my profession. Of course, I can still work as a teacher if I want to, but he rather wants me to work as a translator because it is a well-paid job in most cases unlike teaching jobs which are mostly not well-paid. Ever since the conversation with him, I started wondering whether I should work as a teacher or a translator. I like teaching but I’m not really much of an outgoing person.

There’s also another reason. I know some of you may laugh at this and think I’m being silly, but I want to do something that will benefit the country. I know I sound like one of those people from political videos. I don’t mean to offend anyone, but I start to doubt whether teaching privileged children at international schools will actually benefit the country or the people. There was this time when a teacher ask her students what they will do in the future in a school I worked 6 years ago. You can pretty much guess what they answered – go abroad to study or work. I’m not saying that everyone from international schools live abroad, but so far, most of the people I know are abroad. I know I’m not really a very patriotic person, but I want to do something that will benefit the people, not a selected few, without having to work for the government while at the same time get a nice salary. Most importantly, I just want to make a difference.

Whereas, I can be something if I work as a translator. It’s not actually a new field for me. I don’t know if I have mentioned before but I did some freelance translating for some international news journals 10 years ago, using this penname ‘madyjune’. At that time, I knew nothing about translating, but I only did it because of my father’s encouragements and also because of the extra money. I stopped translating after he got busy with other works since he was the only who brings the jobs to me and my sister. After I started participating in forum discussions, I started translating Korean drama summaries, purely out of interest, but I never considered translation to be my profession. I always told myself I’m bad in Myanmar so I will never become a good translator instead of working hard to become one due to laziness.

I saw this job vacancy for a news journal with a well-paid salary for translators. I’m going to apply for it this week and I’ve been practicing some translation whenever I’m in the mood. I thought that I would be better in translating from Myanmar to English since I feel confident about my English skills but so far, it’s not going too well. There are still many things I lack knowledge of. Just a couple of nights ago I had to translate some last-minute documents for my father but I only managed to translate a single page while my sister finished ahead of me after translating 2 pages. It is quite depressing that my translation skill is still poor. On a happier thought, my father only had to edit some words before he hands over the translated documents, which btw is a free job. My sister and I translated the 3 pages with LED lamps and I had to stay up until 1 PM last night to type them as the electricity only came back before 11 PM.  This is the second time we have to translate with LED lamps. Lousy people, they kept asking for help at the last minute without paying us. Why is it that governmental offices don’t hire any translators? One certain ministry always have the teachers from the English department of a certain university to translate for them and I doubt that they get paid although they get scolded if they don’t like the translation. Sometimes, my father is asked to translate the documents and speeches. Usually, my father takes care of unpaid translation at his work, but when the job comes late at nights, he often ask us to help him. I used to stay out of the business, but I’m gonna start helping him from now on, even if it’s a unpaid job because I need experience.

Maybe I will get this job or maybe I won’t. Then, I will have to seek somewhere else. Since I’m still undecided about choosing my profession, I might also work as a language teacher. I don’t think I’ll want to work for international schools anymore. Maybe for a language academy, teaching 4 skills is my best option. After I gained enough experience, I want to teach at monasteries and language classes for free if I have some time. It’s only a wish, but I want do something for the poor students.

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15 thoughts on “An Undecided Jobseeker

  1. I have been considering getting accredited by NAATI (National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters) which is an Australian accreditation authority for translators and interpreters. They have an English-to-Burmese translator/interpreter accreditation exam, which IMO counts as solid evidence of bilingual ability and would look very good on a resume. There are two ways you could get accredited: the first way is by passing an exam, which consists of written and oral tests concerning translation and professional ethics). The second way is by submitting proof that you have a university qualification in which the primary language of instruction was Burmese. (But I think you majored in English, which might make this requirement a little harder to satisfy.) They also take into account your work experience as a translator.

    Of course there are upfront costs and effort involved, but having credentials makes it easier for you to ask for a larger salary in job interviews. And I suspect the majority of translators working in Burma are not accredited by a similar authority, so if you’re serious about working as a translator, being accredited might give you a serious competitive edge.

    A cheaper alternative might be the IELTS, which is also locally offered in Burma. I’d say a solid 9 on the IELTS makes a strong statement about your English skills. Or heck, take the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency of English (CPE) test. It’s the most advanced English exam offered by University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, and it’s far more difficult than anything on the IELTS.

    As for making a difference in the country, I think there are plenty of ways if you’re fine with not earning sufficient income.

  2. How about TOEFL? I have many TOEFL books at home since my sister used to teach TOEFL. I’ve been thinking of doing some practice in my spare time. I’ve got an interview this Friday. I think I’ll be asked to translate an article in English and then sit for the interview.

  3. TOEFL should be fine. One of the reasons I prefer the IELTS is because in my opinion, a score of 1 to 9 is more meaningful indicator than a score in the hundreds. Can you be certain that a candidate who scored 620 on the TOEFL has superior English skills compared to another who scored 611? With the IELTS, there is a distinct difference in skill between a band 8 scorer and a band 9 scorer.

    • Thanks for explaining. I was asked whether I have sat for IELTS or TOEFL at the job interview today. Maybe I should try to sit for one of the exams.

  4. I will advice you as my real sister
    Take TOEFL , will be a piece of cake for you
    honestly, you will score highest easily, no sweat
    just give yourself a month or two to study the books or study materials you have

    • I’m too busy with work now. I think my office will ask me to sit for IELTS some day. I saw a notice warning asking the staffs to get 5.5 IELTS score. Since I’m on probation period, I’m not asked now.

  5. Very interesting, I did not know that you have probationary period in Burma!
    For how long you will be on trial period?
    Do they call it a limited term for now?
    What are they going to look for? Punctuality, attendance, quality of work, productivity, personality…?
    What are the labor laws in Burma now? Is there such a thing like Equal Employment Opportunity?

    • It is standard to have a 3 month probation period in here. I guess the company will look at my performance and decide whether to promote me as a permanent staff. At my previous jobs, they don’t normally fire someone after the probation period. At one school, I’ve only seen a teacher who got fired after one month because he didn’t concentrate on his teaching and do preparation beforehand.

      I don’t know much about the labor law, but one thing for sure, not everyone respects the law. Four years ago, I joined this private school which has long working hours but no overtime fees. I usually left for work before 7pm and only arrived home after 7pm, except on the weekends where I can leave after 4pm. In Myanmar, company staffs are expected to work 5 and a half day or 6 days a week. Some work allows their staffs to leave at noon on Saturday, but my first job had me working until 2pm. I didn’t really mind about it back then, because there were hardly any work to do on Saturdays and I could surf the net while working. Now at my job, I have to work 5 and a half day. I get a half day on Fridays and a full day on Sundays. I’m really happy about getting Sunday off because some of my co-worker have to work on Sundays.

  6. Thanks for the info. US companies are coming to Burma soon. General Electric and Caterpillar have signaled that they will make investments. Coke also said that its charitable arm would make a $3-million investment to promote employment among women across Myanmar.
    When they come, I hope these companies will abide US labor laws in Burma as well. Means paid vacations, sick leaves, FMLA leaves and etc. should be made entitled for all the employees. Annual pay raise and Retirement plans should be also part of the job agreement. Any overtime should be paid one and a half times of regular pay. Health insurance and workers compensation insurance should be bought for all the employees. Safety work environment and hassle free work place are essential and should be enforced. Discrimination at work is against the law. Once these big companies stated to practice Labor Laws it will open up eyes of Burmese people.
    People like you who are highly educated with bilingual language ability should seek jobs in these companies and can get managing or supervising posts. You can be a CEO between these big companies’ subdivisions and the Burmese work force.
    Is there a Master in Business Administration MBA course you can attend in Burma?
    I am positive you will find a good opportunity one day. Cheers Mady.

    • At Yangon University of Economics, MBA program can either be attended during the day or the evenings. Those attending the evening classes have to be over 30 yrs and at least be in the position of a manager. Others who do not meet the requirement has to attend during the day from around 9 am to 3:30 pm. (I’m not sure about the time). The evening class is difficult to get in and also cost a lot of many. I heard that one has to spend around 70 lakhs (both officially and unofficially like homage paying programs, etc)

      But I’m not interested in MBA or economic subject to be exact. I like my job here as a translator. When I have enough experience working here, I can join other companies or NGOs if I want to.

  7. What an antiquated or hackneyed situation in Burma that people cannot even get into MBA program without wasting money. I am glad that you do not like it any way. Yes, try to join NGO and get a better future. Do not waste your talent just working for Joe Blow the Burmese employer. Bless you.

  8. Wow! I really enjoyed reading this post! I could relate to some of your struggles. And by the way, I think your English is very good! It is nice to read your post. Good job!=)

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