TradnCreateThis week at the MCI, we were in touch with a number of our recent graduates. Now that their training is behind them, they’re trying to map out a strategy for their entry into the profession. They came to us for a bit of advice.

If I had to summarize these recent discussions for you, I would say that they largely revolved around three general themes. I’d like to now share these themes with you here.

WeiYuk1. The usual suspects

There are certain steps that conference interpreters have always taken at the start of their careers. And it still makes sense to continue to cover these bases.

First and foremost, it’s important to reach out to your professional associations. Chief among these is no doubt the Association internationale des interprètes de conférence (AIIC). Becoming a member of AIIC is a bit of a process, but it is all mapped out in detail on the association’s website. Don’t fret if you don’t yet have the 150 of working experience that AIIC requires. It’s possible to become a “pre-candidate” for membership while you establish your practice. The expectation is that you will earn your 150 days and apply to become a candidate for active membership within three years. You should also know that AIIC’s VEGA Network has a lot of great online resources (and sometimes local regional events) for new interpreters.

Depending on where you live, there may also be other associations of note. In the Canadian province of Ontario, we have the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario (ATIO). It is the only body here that is legally entitled to confer the designation “certified conference interpreter“. There may be other similarly important bodies where you are located.

Of course, professional associations don’t always generate freelance work for you directly, and it takes a while to become a member listed in their directories. So you will want to reach out to consultant interpreters. These are the people who sell their services, not just as interpreters, but as interpreter organizers. In other words, when clients know they need interpretation for an event, they contact a consultant interpreter, and the consultant interpreter does the rest. “The rest” includes generating contracts for the individual interpreters who will work the event. So you will definitely want to network with consultant interpreters! One way to locate these valuable people is through the Calliope group.

Finally, you may also have your sights set on working as a freelancer for an international organization, or perhaps even on becoming a staff interpreter at such an institution. I’ve written before about getting your foot in the door with international organizations, so have a look at that blog post.

RebEri2. Networking online

Nowadays, thanks largely to social media, there is a wealth of information — and inspiration! — about interpreting at our fingertips. In a previous post, I listed some of my favourite tweeters and bloggers. (Missing from that list are the AIIC Facebook page, the AIIC Twitter account, and the “Interpreting.Info” Q&A community.) If you follow them, you will stay in the know about some of the issues that are having the biggest impact on our profession. This is vital for a new interpreter.

Also vital is establishing a social media presence for yourself as a new interpreter. People can’t give you work if they can’t find you. But how do you go about creating that presence?

For an overall social media strategy, I like what Michael Hyatt has to say in his book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. I think the book is worth the $10 it will cost you to download the e-version. But in a nutshell, Hyatt suggests that you should have

  • a blog or website where you feature your content, because this will always be under your control; and
  • some “embassies”, such as LinkedIn, a professional page on Facebook (save your personal profile for family and friends), and Twitter, where you direct followers back to your home base.

That said, this strategy does beg the question: what sort of content do you feature? In my view, you want to build a connection with your future clients. So try to imagine the problems they are trying to solve, and address them with what you post.

RebAlone3. Talking to more than just ourselves

Here is where interpreters traditionally have done a very poor job. Our associations and social media outlets have allowed us to do a masterful job of connecting with one another. But in my view we have generally been unsuccessful in establishing a dialogue with our clients.

In large part, this is because the general public has a poor understanding of what conference interpreting is, and of what it takes to perform it well. How often are we called “translators”? It’s a little slip of the tongue. But like the tip of an iceberg sticking out of the water. It serves as a warning about the mountain of trouble the lies hidden beneath the surface.

We need to market ourselves better to the public, in general, and to potential clients, in particular. We need to practice our “elevator speech”, our 30-second blurb that tells a client how we can make life easier for them (“I’m a communication professional who can help you ensure that your message has its full impact on your entire target audience”).

Then we need to find those potential clients and get talking to them. How exactly? I’m not sure, but here are a few rough ideas.

  • Associations of event planners have regular conferences that bring their members — people who organize other conferences — under one roof (CanSPEP, the Canadian Society of Professional Event Planners will hold its 2016 conference next March in Windsor Ontario) — surely it would not take much for a group of interpreters to purchase an exhibitors’ table at such an event?
  • Audio-Visual companies are a key partner in all we do, and they hold a do in Las Vegas each June called InfoComm — how many conference interpreters have attended this event to talk to AV folks about the value we add?
  • Here in Toronto, many of our private-sector clients are in banking and financial services — but are we attending their events and letting them know how we can help them do business better?

To sum up, new interpreters looking to establish themselves on the market have a few avenues to explore. There are the tried and true ways that generations of professionals have paved before them. But because our profession is changing rapidly there are also new tools that we have to learn to use effectively. In addition, to really make the connections that matter, we need to innovate and think outside the box.

Do you have a strategy that worked for you? One that helped you get your working life started? Be sure so share your thoughts in the comments field below.

2 responses to “You’ve finished your training. So now what?”

  1. Deepti Limaye says:

    Thanks for this!

  2. Nicholas F says:

    Some great ideas here, thanks for posting, Andrew!

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