Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Just Be Honest

As a brief follow-up to the recent post about writing letters of inquiry, I have to add one more piece of advice. I didn’t mention it before because it seems so obvious, but then I received yet another such letter from a freelancer and his letter made me realize that sometimes the obvious is, well, not quite so obvious.

Here it is: you can, and should, proudly mention your education, your work experience, your skills, and anything else related to the prospective job that sets you apart from all other applicants, but please, do not pretend to be, do, or know more than is actually true. In other words, do not exaggerate or lie in any way.

If a potential employer believes that you are not being completely honest, she or he will not feel enthused or confident about hiring you. And if someone does ask for more information or even hires you, but later discovers you were not telling the truth – perhaps by the low quality of your work or by you being unable to do something you claimed you were proficient at – not only will that negatively affect your working relationship with that person (as in, you probably won’t have a working relationship anymore and she or he will certainly not recommend you to others), but you may also make that employer more suspicious and less likely to employ other freelancers in the future. Even one small lie can make things difficult for yourself and for others.

If you are exaggerating because you feel you don’t have enough experience, be honest about that instead and realize that you may have to accept lower fees or less challenging work until you can build up your CV. If you are exaggerating because it is part of your culture to do so, keep in mind that this may not work in other cultures and that you might have to adjust your approach. If you are exaggerating to make yourself feel better in some way, that is something for you to think seriously about.

So, do not say you have near-native fluency in seven languages (like that “interpreter” mentioned a few posts back) or that you are equally comfortable with literary, financial, legal, technical, and academic documents, or that you regularly translate 15,000 words a day. Do not pretend to have degrees from schools you only took one or two classes at or that you are familiar with all the translation software programs when you have in fact just heard about them. Do not give as references people who wouldn’t even recognize your name, and do not lard your CV with claims of work that you did not actually do.

To summarize, be honest about who you are and what you can do. Often, that’s good enough, and there is no need to employ exaggeration or lies; doing so will probably backfire in some way, and it will likely make you disappointed in yourself as well.

4 comments:

Kristen King said...

Great advice, Brett, and very needed! Thanks for breaking it down.

Brett Jocelyn Epstein said...

Thank you, Kristen!

Best wishes,
Brett

Kristen King said...

I blogged about this post here: http://tinyurl.com/yk6txg

Brett Jocelyn Epstein said...

Thank you! I think you have a valid point about people not feeling "good enough."

Best wishes,
Brett