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Starting Out pt. 3

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: November 16, 2010

We’re all in this together

I want to start this article by admitting to a secret vice: I actually like the High School Musical films. And yes, I really am 26 and not 6. While the school in those films is nothing like the high school I attended (I never did see anyone dancing in the corridors) there are a few times when the writers hit the nail on the head. And there is one song which sums up perfectly the content of this post: “we’re all in this together.”

Now, those of you fortunate enough to have gained a business-based education will know that everyone starting a business should have a business plan. Part of this plan is an analysis of your competition and, hopefully, how you will get more work than them. In free-market, capitalist economics, it’s a dog-eat-dog world, only the strong survive and you have to hustle others out of the way so that you end up on top.

Thankfully, in the world of translation and interpreting, you don’t need to eat dogs. Oddly enough, in this industry, despite what you might have been told, it’s your ability to collaborate, network and relate to others that will get you on top, not your ability to kick them out of the way.

Take conference interpreting, not only do you do all your work in teams but, to join AIIC, the association for the best in the industry, you need to know people who are already members and who are happy to back your application. To get full, qualified membership of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting in the UK, not only do you need to have worked like a crazy thing but you need referees who are happy to say what a lovely, capable person you are.

What about gaining new clients, surely that’s all about standing out from the crowd. Well, yes and no. In many cases, you will still be stuck in the crowd unless you know someone who is happy to put in a good word for you and recommend your services. Sometimes to keep clients, you might have to turn the tables and know someone trustworthy to help them out when you are unavailable.

What’s the common denominator? You need to know people. It’s kind of obvious when you think about it. The business world has been trying to tell us this for years with the insistence on networking and relationship management. The problem is that we language professionals have often been too busy polishing our CVs and agonising over terminology to pay attention.

Now’s the time to change that. For those of you who are new to the profession, learning the lesson now and practising it by going to industry events, frequenting online fora and commenting on translator and interpreter blogs (hint) will pay dividends later on. For those of you who are a little further on, carving out some time to build new relationships might not only stave off the dreaded translator’s loneliness but might also provide a useful source of help and work.

It’s simple really. We are professionals dealing in communication. If we can learn to communicate effectively and readily with those around us, we can only benefit.

2 comments on “Starting Out pt. 3

  1. Couldn’t agree more Jonathan. I’m a relative newcomer to interpreting (one year and one month since graduating from my Interpreting MA). I’m also starting the ITI’s translation orientation course in January. Pretty much all of the work I’ve had so far has been via interpreters I’ve met on my course, on assignments or at events. I’ve found it helps get over the “no experience = no work / no work = no experience” conundrum. Aside from getting work it’s also reassuring to see that problems faced by newcomers are nothing new and to get some encouragement from interpreters who’ve been in the same situation. So thanks for your blog posts Jonathan, they’re very useful!

  2. Pingback: Good Things to Know Before You Go Pro « Get Downie

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