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?
I recommend you what I did:
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.
answered 19 May '12, 04:54
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:
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.
answered 02 Nov '11, 18:57
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.
answered 13 Oct '12, 15:26
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.
answered 03 Nov '11, 18:24
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).
answered 26 Sep '14, 11:46
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!
answered 23 May '12, 08:39