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Hello,

I recently passed the accreditation test for the English booth (FR and ES C) at the United Nations Office at Geneva. I have been working on the private market in Brussels for about two years and was given a preselection test for the EU in November - no news yet, so I'm not sure I'll be given a test. Also, I must confess to being quite excited about the prospect of the UN.

I'm thinking of spending a couple of months in Geneva to test the waters there before making any big decisions on my professional domicile. My combination is EN A, ES B and FR C, and having an active language has proven vital on the Brussels market - I imagine Geneva is much the same.

What would your next steps be? Perhaps it's a matter between the head of the EN booth at UNOG and myself, but would you enquire about the kind of workload I can expect (if any)? Is there anyone else I should be contacting in Geneva in view of a possible move?

Many thanks!

asked 20 Jan, 06:58

Louise's gravatar image

Louise
5547814

edited 20 Jan, 06:59


Félicitations !

Le nombre de gens accrédités en cabine anglaise cette session me semble important, et ça n'engage évidemment pas le service à te donner du travail régulièrement et tu as bien raison de ne pas faire tes valises immédiatement.

Des collègues qui t'ont précédé ont parfois choisi la prudence, déplaçant leur domicile à Genève pour voir quelle était la charge de travail réelle offerte aux locaux, mais continuant à vivre dans des villes moins chères. Même avec le coût de l'avion et des nuits à Genève, ils restaient gagnants. Le tout serait de savoir quand sont confirmées les options (à quatre semaines, me souffle-t-on) et si les débutants sont susceptibles d'être recrutés à très court terme (cas dans lequel, le domicile fictif devient un désavantage).

Il n'est pas non plus inutile de passer une semaine ou deux sur place pour se présenter aux différents chefs interprètes. En dehors de l'UNOG, chaque structure semble avoir son propre décisionnaire en matière de recrutement de freelances. l'UIT, l'OMS, le HCR, etc. Pour les nouveaux accrédités, il est usuel à demander à rencontrer tous ces chefs interprètes, à leur laisser un CV, et à s'enquérir des modalités de recrutement, de leurs besoins et du volume qu'ils peuvent potentiellement donner à une nouvelle arrivante.

Côté UE, jusqu'ici, il me semble qu'il y a toujours eu plus de places pour le vrai test qu'il n'y a eu de gens qui réussissaient la présélection. Connaissant ton niveau, et ta dernière réussite en date n'en est que confirmation, sauf grosse contre-performance, il n'y a pas de raison pour que tu ne sois pas invitée. Le changement démographique en cabine anglaise devrait t'être un avantage à Bruxelles, et même si les chefs d'unité ne donneront jamais de chiffres concrets, tu peux t'orienter à la charge de boulot de F.F... à qui on a dit qu'il n'aurait pas de boulot, et qui pour quelqu'un qui n'a pas beaucoup de boulot, traîne excessivement souvent dans les bâtiments, presque autant que ceux qui en ont tout plein. Certes, il a un retour français, mais il bosse majoritairement en cabine unidirectionnelle, ergo, votre combinaison est dans ce cas strictement comparable.

Si le test UE est bien fin avril, tu devrais savoir d'ici fin mars si tu es ou non convoquée. D'ici là, tu peux faire un saut à Genève pour rencontrer les chefs, et s'ils te promettent or et diamants, tu changes ton DP pour Genève au moins jusqu'en septembre pour voir ce que ça donne. Si par malheur tu ne réussis pas l'UE mais que ça marche bien à Genève, ton domicile reste à Genève. Si tu réussis l'UE et que ça marche bien à Genève, tu as l'embarras du choix. Dernier facteur dans la balance, ton amour pour l'une ville ou l'autre, et l'importance de ta clientèle déjà existante, ton envie éventuelle (ou ton besoin) de la garder le temps de faire la transition d'un marché à un autre. Et éventuellement, tes aspirations à ajouter le russe ou plutôt une langue UE. Et ta préférence pour, peut-être un jour, New-York ou Strasbourg.

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answered 20 Jan, 10:31

Gaspar's gravatar image

Gaspar ♦♦
7.2k141829

Thanks Gáspár - this all sounds very sensible. I'm planning a short stint in Geneva to meet a few heads of booth and recruiting interpreters.

(22 Jan, 03:56) Louise

Hi Louise,

Firstly, many congratulations on passing the test! We're sort of in the same boat as although I've been on the Geneva market with ES and FR since 2005, I have just added RU in the most recent UNOG tests and am waiting to see what the impact will be on my workload.

On domicile, UNOG-proper now asks freelancers to declare a professional domicile as part of the initial paperwork. With your combination, you've got to be locally domiciled. That pretty much goes for the whole Geneva UN-system market, in fact, with the only significant exception being the International Labour Conference in June, a 10-day gig where the ILO needs extra people with German, in particular.

Gáspar is absolutely right that all of the Geneva-based specialised agencies have their own chief interpreter or recruiter so although the UNOG test is definitely a seal of approval, it's entirely up to them who they hire and the criteria can be somewhat hard to fathom at times, to put it politely. You'll need to be prepared to have a lot of recruiters tell you "I have my regular team, I'm not looking for anyone else right now". That's where being able to accept work at short notice comes in handy, and by extension being locally based; say yes to work the next day when one of the regulars is ill and you may just get your foot in the door. Certain organizations also seem to like to give a chance to newcomers, partly out of a desire to boost the next generation but mostly, I suspect, because they're cheaper (UN Category 2 daily rate is payable until you notch up 200 days for the organizations).

There's no hiding the fact that moving to Geneva as a would-be UN system freelance is a real hassle admin-wise, forcing you essentially to live under the radar until you meet the income threshold to apply for a "carte de légitimation" from the Swiss Permanent Mission (which, by the way, bars you from working on the private market). That's before the battle to secure a place to rent. Before I moved to Denmark, I was over the border in France but that also has its admin headaches.

On Gáspar's point about the change of leadership in the UNOG Interpretation Service, it's really too early to tell how much, if anything, will change. Do bear in mind that UNOG has a large body of staff interpreters and moves are afoot to encourage secondment of staff interpreters from other less busy UN duty stations and this could have an impact on how much freelance work is available. In short, meet the other chief interpreters and don't put all your eggs in the UNOG basket.

Lastly, if you're serious about Geneva, think hard about signing up with OfficInter. They charge a fair bit of money (discounts for newcomers) for freelance availability management but very many recruiters use them. UNOG will soon introduce its own system, though. There's also a colleague-run online system but I'm a little unsure how well it is working.

Best of luck and maybe see you in the booth in Geneva!

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answered 29 Jan, 09:50

alex's gravatar image

alex
12515

edited 29 Jan, 13:27

Hi Alex,

Thank you very much for this very thorough answer! Congratulations to you on adding RU - how exciting.

Your answer basically fits in with what I've been expecting, as the general consensus seems to be the that breaking into the Geneva (or Paris, for that matter) market is a different animal to starting out in Brussels (no walk in the park, but relatively straightforward). I'm planning a couple of weeks in Geneva end of Feb to meet heads of booth (and on this topic, is it frowned upon to cold-email them introducing myself and maybe requesting a quick meeting or coffee when I'm in town?) and chat with some colleagues on the private market. Thank you for the OfficInter tip - other colleagues have said similar things and I will be getting in touch.

It's hard starting out as a beginner wherever you are, so I think it's just a matter of getting organized and going for it. I really appreciate all the useful advice you've given me here - thanks again and maybe see you in the booth, as you say!

(30 Jan, 03:30) Louise

Quite a long time ago in a similar situation I just moved and then announced myself as local (but that wasn't Geneva or the UN). The approach has it's advantages... when you go and see a recruiting interpreter before moving they will understand that you are not just introducing yourself but that you want to know whether or not to move to Geneva. You will be in a tricky spot if they say "don't move here" and you then turn up a few weeks later telling them "I've moved here". Ignoring people's advice is not way to get on in this world (especially if you want work from the same people)!

If you talk to Heads of Booth /recruiting interpreters (as you definitely should at some stage) take whatever you hear with a healthy pinch of realism. Even with best will in the world what Heads of Booth /recruiting interpreters tell you is at best a guesstimate and certainly not binding. They may forecast wrong and in 12 months circumstances may have changed and your conversation long forgotten. As a new local you'll be 2nd last on the list of who to recruit. (Last are the new non-locals ;) )

You can of course hedge your bets as Gaspar suggests and live in BXLs and domicile in Geneva. But beware of rubbing colleagues up the wrong way if you then also accept work as a local in BXLs. Double-domiciling is still frowned upon by many.

Also... moving your domicile is not such a big deal. You can move it every 6 months. The only problem is to make sure your clients and recruiters know where you work from (which obviously speaks against moving it too often).

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answered 21 Jan, 08:09

Andy's gravatar image

Andy
7.2k212839

As a new local you'll be 2nd last on the list of who to recruit.

Très vrai en général. Un détail que j'oubliais : dans le cas d'espèce, une nouvelle cheffe-interprète a pris ses fonctions depuis le début d'année à Genève, qui, si j'en crois les propos qui m'ont été rapportés, a annoncé d'emblée à ses effectifs, que désormais, le critère d'ancienneté deviendrait accessoire à celui de la qualité. C'est peut-être là une fenêtre d'opportunité de se faire connaître, qui s'ouvre plus grand qu'en temps normal, si l'ordre de classement des collègues à appeller vient à être remanié en profondeur.

(21 Jan, 09:25) Gaspar ♦♦
3

Thanks Andy, and thanks Gáspár for that extra piece of info. I am a bit worried about double-domiciling - but equally, I know plenty of colleagues who work on two markets (albeit more consistently on one with the odd day here or there on the other). As you say, I think it's best to introduce myself and see which way the wind blows... and domicile can be changed every 6 months so it's not as if anything is set in stone. You've both given me a clearer idea of how to move forward, so thank you both very much!

(I'll check back in when the time comes in case my experience can be of help to any other newly accredited colleagues).

(22 Jan, 04:00) Louise
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question asked: 20 Jan, 06:58

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last updated: 30 Jan, 03:30

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