How to discover your unique abilities

Dare to be different!

Discovering your unique abilities is one of the most liberating experiences. It never feels like hard work and exciting opportunities of making a positive impact in society keep unfolding. Through self-awareness and introspection of who I am as a person first; l am able to apply the same intrinsic truths across every area of my life – including my career.

Now, this is not to say that I am the only skilled interpreter around – in fact, there are better interpreters out there who’ve been doing this way longer. The point I’m trying to drive home is firstly; how to identify your unique traits within a saturated industry; then using the same qualities to help you stand out from the crowd.

Here are three tips on how to identify your often overlooked unique abilities.

1) Lifelong habits and behaviours

Look for and pay attention to preferences, habits, and behaviours that have consistently shown up since childhood. These affect your outlook on life and how you engage with the people around you.

I’ve always enjoyed smaller, more intimate groups because they feel personal and loyal. When I’m not alone processing my thoughts; I often find myself with one or two trusted people in my personal space, whether friends or family. 

Looking back, this guarded introverted approach has definitely influenced how I choose my interpreting projects and clients. Today, I offer exclusive interpreting services to three individual clients, who over the years have become trusted friends. Secondly, I prefer to collaborate with smaller, independent  organisations because that encourage full participation in the decision-making process.

2) It comes so naturally, it often doesn’t feel special

We have a tendency to take our unique abilities for granted because we’ve always done things this way; it no longer feels flashy or exciting. Maybe you can solve problems easily, you have an eye for intricate detail, you’re a natural leader, or you’re an entertaining storyteller.

These clues come up in areas where your execution is effortless for you, but somehow seems difficult for others doing the same task.

I have a good memory and I can retain large volumes of information mentally for a long time. Reading, research, decoding information, and having a vivid imagination come naturally to me. I enjoy engaging with content that enhances my cognitive stimulation. 

Whether it’s interpreting a keynote address, or a training session, or even ‘reading’ the emotions in a room; interpreters use both their left and right brain for language, judgement, visualisation and creativity

3) You show up as the hero

What things do other people always count on you for?

Are you punctual? Do you always keep your word and do what you say you’ll do? Perhaps you have a positive attitude that uplifts everyone else.
The ways that you positively impact people are the things they’ll consistently come to you for; it’s also how you show up as a hero in.

I am known for making things happen – people often delegate me a leadership role that requires planning, effective communication and assertiveness.

Having established your unique traits across different areas of your life; here are three more reasons why interpreters should dare to be different.

1) It’s noisy and everyone is shouting

Although the interpreting industry is fairly unknown to most; my observation is that the opportunities and platforms that do already exist follow traditional ways of communicating information created by somebody else. Whether it’s interpreting on settings such as TV, training or even social circles – everyone seems to blend in and follow what’s been done before.

2) You can’t be a distinguished leader by following others

I’ve always had a deep desire to be at the forefront of change; I always look around and ask myself ‘How can things be done better?’ Interpreting enables me to offer solutions to societal challenges that focus mainly on bridging communication, empowering people, and using technology to innovate exciting ways remove barriers.

Being an entrepreneur and exploring opportunities of collaboration through digital platforms is one way I intend to forge my own path and leave a long-lasting mark in the industry.

3) Great people make things happen – they don’t ask for permission

I honestly don’t think I’d be at this very moment in my life had I waited for someone or something to validate my purpose. My experiences so far have taught me that I am responsible for the way other people treat me – If I value, believe, and trust in myself, then like-minded people often show up in my life at the right time.

As an interpreter, I see many gaps that need to be filled in the way content and information is delivered. We have a long way to go! I have decided to be bold, take charge, and continue to align my daily actions to my bigger vision of driving positive change in our communities through creativity, collaboration, and mastery.


Decide who you want to be and what you want to be remembered for; and often those around adjust. Standing out from the crowd begins with acceptance of the mission laid out in front of you – something that only you can do. Once you discover your unique offering to the world; it’s easier to celebrate people’s successes because you understand there are plenty of opportunities for us all.

By Yellow Owl

Welcome to Interpreter Insider, so glad you could join us! As an Insider you’ll be a member of this limited group of like-minded thinkers with exclusive knowledge about the ins and outs of the interpreting industry – and other related topics. You will have access to insights, experiences, tips and Yellow Owl's personal take on what the future of SASL interpreting may look like. Thuli Zikalala is the founder of Yellow Owl. This blog is a reflection of her bold decisions made about a year ago that led her to this very moment. It is a collection of the lessons learnt along her journey. Enjoy!

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