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In short, how do you get started as a conference interpreter?

It's essentially a team job, and you're not going to be selling teams to clients when you're just starting in the profession.

So, what are your recommendations for young, inexperienced interpreters who've just graduated from interpreting school?

asked 16 Oct '11, 19:58

silvia-c's gravatar image


edited 16 Oct '11, 23:19

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck


Hello Silvia,

I recommend you what I did:

  • don't loose touch with your University teachers and people that studied with you
  • get in touch with the local aiic colleagues and tell them you are there
  • join a translators and interpreters' professional association you can identify with
  • participate in continuing education courses for translators and interpreters
  • attend as many translators and interpreters meetings as you can: you need to be seen!

Good luck!

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answered 03 Nov '11, 18:15

Conrado's gravatar image


edited 03 Nov '11, 21:28


Good list Conrado,

For anyone starting in Paris you could add "Join, or go and introduce yourself to, a Secretariat"*

*Interpreter groups with a joint secretarial office for coordinating and managing recruitment.

(19 May '12, 10:27) Andy

Linda makes a very important point. Pro bono work gets you rapidly seen by a lot of audiences - many of which happen to contain people who might want to use interpreters later on. I'm doing a 2-day simultaneous job at the end of this month (May 2012), hired by someone who was in the audience when I was working consecutive, pro bono, at a small literature festival here in Beijing.

As a trainer I try and funnel graduates (and sometimes more experienced colleagues) into pro bono jobs. I have a couple of regular streams of these - the literature festival, an arts centre in Beijing (which has built-in sim booths!), and an annual sustainable development / NGO meet.

When the above jobs are in sim, I can give people experience working with people they don't know - more experienced colleagues, or graduates from different schools, or even earlier graduates from the same school whom they haven't worked with yet.

Plus they're all about fun stuff. As I write these words, someone's in the arts centre doing a gig about Lady Gaga and her fashion sense.

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answered 19 May '12, 04:54

William%20White's gravatar image

William White

I'd like to recommend this article by Chris de Fortis ("our man for further training"). Thanks to Andy Gillies for posting it:

Here are some of the points covered in his article:

  • understanding the market and competition
  • administrative steps
  • remuneration
  • professional behaviour
  • volunteer jobs
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answered 08 Nov '11, 12:52

Angela's gravatar image


edited 07 Aug '14, 17:31

pour info: Chris a redigé son article en français et anglais. Alors pour ceux qui sont plus à l'aise dans langue de Molière...

(19 May '12, 10:23) Andy

The above link did not seem to work any more, but the article may be found here:

(13 Oct '12, 15:33) AlmuteL

Quite a few young interpreters start by working pro bono for charities, NGOs etc. This is often the first experience of working 'live'. And since the teams are often recruited by experienced interpreters who are themselves a part of the team, the young interpreters can learn from them and gradually become 'known' and recruited for paid work. Young interpreters should contact as many experienced interpreters, consultant interpreters, agencies or institutions as they can find in their chosen place of work. A day here, a day there is how it starts.
But depending on language combination, place of work and market openings, getting started can be a long process.

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answered 02 Nov '11, 18:57

Linda's gravatar image


How do recent graduates go about finding work right after graduation? Where do they send their resumes?

(07 Aug '14, 13:29) Myra45

Chris Guichot's article (posted above) provides answers to those questions.

(07 Aug '14, 21:28) Gaspar ♦♦

Thank you for the link. I read the article. Still, I'd like to hear from interpreters who've been working in the field for a few years about how they got started. For example, how they got their first contract, conferences they took part in, etc...

(24 Sep '14, 20:36) Myra45

Private market: I got my first contract after being recommended by one of my former trainers. My second one to replace a colleague. My third one by being recomended by a colleague who happens to teach but never taught me personnally (but she had checked what my trainers thought of me and called me rather than other graduates). My fourth from word of mouth.

The time spent doing the MA is time to be used to get to know people and get known, to attend any profession related event - because there's lot to learn and getting to know more people never hurts, not necessarily with the aim of getting hired, just knowing who is who in your region.

After graduation, joining professional associations, attending further training sessions and what not gets you to extend your circle.

I can recall sending my CV to two agencies. They never offered me work. Whereas two agencies did get in touch with me after colleagues gave them my contact details and vetted me.

Institutions: I had to send my CV pro forma, but what really matters is the accreditation test. For recruitment purposes, only the quality (professional rating) and language combination are relevant, not the personality.

Pro bono: Been there, done that. Didn't give me any paid contracts later on and my involvement probably did hurt my professional reputation at that stage. But it allowed me to understand why working conditions are important and what to watch out for.

(25 Sep '14, 03:35) Gaspar ♦♦

One interesting option is to apply for pre-candidature with AIIC:

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answered 03 Nov '11, 18:27

Sirpa's gravatar image


It is also possible to contact the regional secretary of the AIIC region you live in or visit the website of your AIIC region (in AIIC-speech a "region" is a country or group of countries!) and try to find out whether there is anyone particularly looking after junior interpreters.

In Germany we have one colleague who is actively looking after graduates and newcomers. He visits universities where CI is taught, organises special events for young interpreters and is always willing to give appropriate advice.

On November 9th, 2012 we are organising the very first Interpreters-for-Interpreters Workshop just for students in their final year, graduates and junior interpreters. On the same day there will also be an evening event where young interpreters can meet and speak to senior interpreters. It will take place in Freiburg (South of Germany, close to the French and Swiss border) and we will offer interpretation into English during the afternoon workshop. You may still apply for the workshop - however, there is a waiting list for the evening event.

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answered 13 Oct '12, 15:26

AlmuteL's gravatar image


Thanks, Manuel! (I believe that is your name :)) Good advice, as always!

(25 May '12, 10:30) Louise

Our workshop was a real success with 89 participants !!!! You can find some photographs on the AIIC Facebook website "Interpreting the world". 9 young interpreters took it in turns to provide simultaneous interpretation for two participants who could not speak German :-). We will try to organise the next workshop for budding and junior interpreters on November 8th, 2013 in Frankfurt (Germany).

(11 Nov '12, 08:25) AlmuteL

I would also advise young interpreters to sit accreditation tests with international organisations employing interpreters. For that you may need to travel to the place where the test is held - but it may turn out an excellent investment if you pass. Naturally sitting an accreditation test requires advance preparation, a suitable language combination and potentially willingness to relocate, if you pass. You need to ponder carefully whether for you it is better to wait a bit after finishing your degree, get some practical experience and only then sit an accreditation test or whether you wish to sit a test at the first possible instance after getting your interpreting diploma.

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answered 03 Nov '11, 18:24

Sirpa's gravatar image


My story is different than the one told by Gaspar. I wasn't recommended by my trainers (and, as far as I know, my fellow graduates weren't recommended either, which is actually quite sad and obviously made it harder for us to start interpreting careers).

My first contract, three months or so before the final exams, was a pure coincidence. I started doing my PhD back at that time, told a fellow PhD student about my CI studies and, some time later, was offered a job during a conference she was organizing.

Most of my contracts in the beginning were offered by agencies, though. I sent out dozens (or perhaps even hundreds) of e-mails to agencies. Obviously, most of them were never answered, but that's how I managed to get my foot in the door. I also got a couple of assignments through a local proz-like website with job offers for freelance translators and interpreters.

Admittedly, this wasn't the shortest or the most efficient way to start my professional career but it did work. Most importantly, during my interpreting assignments I've started meeting colleagues who offer me contracts and recommend me for various interpreting jobs. Now it's mostly about recommendations and word of mouth, and I don't have to spam agencies with my CV anymore.

My first contract at the private market in the neighboring country was a result of networking (and some luck). I went to a meeting organized by a professional association of translators and interpreters and left with a job offer.

As far as the EU institutions are concerned, what really matters is the accreditation test indeed (and being invited to one, which might be a tricky thing in the case of some booths). I got my (informal) invitation right after having passed the finals (that's why representatives of relevant institutions should be present at the exams).

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answered 26 Sep '14, 11:46

Joanna's gravatar image



Joanna is quite right in that last point about representatives of institutions being at final exams. If you are aiming to work in the EU, the UN or the like then you should make sure BEFORE you choose an interpreting school that they will be. In the AIIC schools Directory ( this information is listed for every school under the 'exams' tab - "Does the jury consist of representatives from international organisations?"

(26 Sep '14, 15:32) Andy

Hi Silvia,

You raise a good point. Want to join forces? :) I have another question related to this topic. Can any practising interpreters confirm that it is OK to contact them out of the blue and let them know of your existence? This piece of advice seems to abound, but it seems a bit thorny to me. The private market is notoriously competitive (if I'm not mistaken) and I'm wary of treading on people's toes.

Thanks very much!

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answered 23 May '12, 08:39

Louise's gravatar image



...I've been sent my share, I always read cover letter/email and cv's with interest, file them in a retrievable form and always acknowledge them. This being said, I would not recommend this as your only strategy - I don't think I've ever offered anyone a contract on the strenght of such contact alone.

PS: oftentimes I notice language problems in such emails/cv's: if you only ask for a native speaker's help once, do it for your cv (and if you're writing it in your mother tongue put in your very best effort) a language professional can ill afford mistakes or even unfelicitous choices when trying to make the right impression...

(23 May '12, 10:34) msr

I personally would be more inclined to agree on a telephone appointment once I receive an e-mail from a young colleague from which I get the impression it was NOT sent out as bulk mail to hundreds of colleagues. I tend not to read mails that do not even address me by name.

The best approach, I think, is to ask one's university tutors for senior colleagues in the market they know are open-minded. If university teachers contact me and announce that there will be a promising graduate who might contact me, it is even better.

(13 Oct '12, 15:08) AlmuteL

When I moved to a new continent, I asked around to find the name of a very experienced interpreter who does NOT have my language combination. I took her to lunch (and paid!) to ask her a very specific question: how do I market here? Not to whom, but how. I received some hugely valuable information, and received suggestions of to whom as well. Moreover, the group this interpreter belonged to hired me the next month for a job.

I have also been on the receiving end of requests for info, etc. and after having my brain picked for an hour, was forced to pay for my own drink. Needless to say, that interpreter never gets recommended by me.

So my best advice is to always pay for the drink, and always thank people for recommendations afterwards.

(25 Aug '14, 06:23) JuliaP
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question asked: 16 Oct '11, 19:58

question was seen: 67,155 times

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