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I didn't expect to be "starting again" in my early 30s


Written by
Hayley Carter-Smith

Hayley Carter-Smith graduated from the University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP) in 2007 with a BA in French Studies. In this Q&A, she talks about the impact of her degree, and shares her career journey as a translator and philanthropy consultant.

Hayley Carter-Smith

Could you tell us a bit about what your current role involves?

I am a self-employed translator (French/Spanish into English) and Philanthropy Consultant.

The translating part of my job speaks for itself, but as a Philanthropy Consultant, I help charities and NGOs maximise their fundraising income from high net worth individuals and from trusts & foundations. I'm also a Director on the Board of the UK's Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).

How did you end up in your current position?

After graduating, I wasn't sure where to go next! I knew I wanted to study for an MA in Translation, but I needed to save up some money first. However, one year turned into two, which turned into five, which turned into 10. I fell into fundraising almost by accident, but it is a very special career. I've worked with some amazing household name charities (and for some smaller, no less incredible ones), and with some fantastic, inspirational people. 

At first, I was surprised to find so many linguists working in philanthropy fundraising - but the key to being a great fundraiser is having excellent communication skills, something we language graduates certainly possess! In 2018, I decided to finally go back to university, finish my Masters, and have a complete career change! I've now managed to build a business – Hayley Smith Language Services – where I can provide both language services and fundraising consultancy, and I absolutely love what I do.

Has your career taken any unexpected twists or turns?

Having a career change when you have previously been quite senior in another profession can be really daunting. I didn't expect to be “starting again” in my early 30s; however good or skilled you might be, there's always someone more experienced than you. You have to start from the very bottom of the ladder all over again. My previous work experience meant that I was quite good at networking, though, which is something I struggled with after I first graduated. So there are ups and downs to changing your career!    

Where would you like to be professionally in 5-10 years time?

I'd like to have just completed my PhD in Translation - aside from that, I find life is better when you go with the flow, which is how I ended up in Paris for my undergrad degree in the first place!

What has been the highlight of your career so far? 

After winning a faculty award for my MA dissertation, I was put forward for a European Commission award and was given a fully-funded place at the Translating Europe Forum in Brussels. At that early stage in my new career, it was amazing to be truly surrounded by languages, and in a setting where languages, translators and interpreters are truly valued. I had never been on the receiving end of simultaneous interpreting before, and the skills and talent of the Commission’s interpreters blew me away. It was also a great networking opportunity, and I got to meet some future clients – although I didn’t realise it at the time.

How did your degree prepare you for life in the workplace?

The variety of module topics available to me at ULIP, and the fact that most of the course was taught in French, meant that I had to get used to communicating flexibly and knowledgably in another language other than English. That kind of mental agility is good for the brain! I believe it strengthened my communication skills, helped me to perform well at interviews, and led to me building great working relationships.

Do you use your language skills regularly?

Between the time I graduated and just before starting my MA in 2018, I used them very rarely, which was a shame. I did, however, continue to read in French, and so my comprehension was still top notch. I now use them every single day, and I don't know how I coped for ten years with the bare minimum of French in my life!

What advice or tips would you give to current ULIP students thinking about their future careers?

In this day and age, don't worry too much about your “lifelong career”, as there's no such thing any more. I changed a lot in my 20s, and it took me until my early 30s to really know what I wanted to do with my working life. And that's totally fine! As long as you can do something that you enjoy and find meaning in, whatever that might be, you're doing fine. There are plenty of careers out there that aren't your typical jobs for language graduates, but the skills you've developed over your time at ULIP will have set you up for greatness.