Often, I am asked by my mentees “What advice do you have for new interpreters?” It always sends me back to the days when I was still a baby ‘terp still in school and scrambling for work, volunteer hours and really ANY opportunity to get my hands up. That brings me to #7
7. Get the hands up opportunities you need, WITHOUT sacrificing your ethics. As a new interpreter we often take whatever job is tossed our direction. That is the danger zone for many interpreters. Remember that although you need to gain experience, you need to NOT work outside your scope of ability. Only take the jobs you know you can do with causing harm to the client, consumer, or other interpreters.
6. Honesty. Running along the same lines as number 7, be willing to say that you don’t know nor have the skill for an assignment. There will come a time(s) when you are offered and accept a job and receive the description. Yikes, The description is something you don’t know about or feel competent to provide good service. There is no shame in saying “I am not right for this assignment”. In fact an interpreter who is self aware enough to know their limitations will go far.
5. Once you find that part of the profession that you do not feel “ready” to accept for an assignment, find someone who has that skill and try to find a way to get some mentor/mentee time. Being a mentee is by far the very best way to gain both important connections and great wealths of information and skill sets. NEVER STOP LEARNING!
4. Present yourself in a professional and appropriate manor. You are on the job to provide a service. You are highly educated, and skilled in your field of work. Dress to match the environment. In HS, we studied the art of the interview. My favorite teacher taught me to dress like the manager of whatever job you want. I tend to use that philosophy when I am on assignment. In education, i dress like the teacher, in business I dress in business casual, like a manager. Performance interpreting is the exception, and we will tackle that issue another day.
3. Flexibility! Not like a qymnist, no splits or jaw dropping floor routines. Flexibility in your work. Often when on assignment I find I need to adjust my work to fit into the situation. My Deaf consumer is ALWAYS the reason for the work and I am wiling to do whatever I can to ensure understanding and access. Sometimes that means moving to a different space, changing the mode of communication, and often, working with and educating the Hearing clients.
2. SHARE THE WEALTH. As interpreters, I find often there are cliques. These cliques tend “own” the genre of interpreting they do. Its hard to break into different areas of interpreting without going through the groups that are there already. We need to foster an environment of cross education and inclusion. I have found that in working with new interpreters I learn new things all the time. Their fresh eyes help me to see things differently. Their hunger reminds me of the joy and invigorating job I have. In sharing my lessons i learned the hard way, I can save them from a struggle and hold them up to achieve great things.
1. HONESTY AND INTEGRITY. Your reputation is yours to loose. It is the single most important tool in your work. Your reputation will allow you to accomplish more than almost anything. Nurture it. Stay honest. If you don’t know, admit it and then find out the answer. Being willing to go the distance for your clients will be noticed, and shared. Word of mouth travels as fast as fire. Unfortunately the bad travels faster than the good. Stay humble, honest, and hungry.
** BONUS CONFIDENTIALITY I cannot stress this enough. We work in profession where we deal with very sensitive and personal information. We literally hold our consumers life in our hands sometimes. We need to be able to keep their information private, and protected. RESPECT the information as though it was your. Mums the word!