I'm a 22-year-old male, and I've recently received my BA in applied linguistics. I'm soon moving to Europe to perfect my German, French, and Spanish. I want to get my MA in interpreting and work freelance.
I have tattoos on my arms and knuckles that can only be covered by long-sleeves and gloves.
I've had many professional jobs. I don't think that my tattoos will pose much issue as long as I am competent and knowledgeable, or I'm willing to wear clothing to cover them.
Still, I'm interested in what your opinions are. If you were to go get tattoos on your knuckles tomorrow, do you think that you'd never be able to work again?
Thank you in advanced,
Hello! First of all, Ow! Tattoos on knuckles must be painful...
To answer your question, as in so many other places, it all depends. In this case, it depends on your market once you get out of school with your degree.
In today's world, there will be a few venues that would not want an interpreter with either visible tattoos, or clothing out of the ordinary (gloves when no one else is wearing them, for example). Those would most likely be times when you would be visible, interpreting for two people, standing next to them, being "in the photograph," at least when involving presidents, ministers, CEOs, etc.
However, in most cases conference interpreters work in teams, and work in booths, hidden from most of the delegates. Depending on your country, you may never even mix with delegates at coffee breaks, being given separate food and drink with the technicians and the crew who set up the venue. In this case, you should have less of a disadvantage, as long as the chief interpreter of the organization or the organizing interpreter who recruits is someone who doesn't mind - or even celebrates! - your creativity.
In today's world, there is a multiplicity of markets needing interpreters: conferences, hospitals, legal institutions, businesses... As long as you act and dress professionally, and you are good at marketing as well as interpreting, then you should be able to find work. You won't be everybody's cup of tea, and you have created an extra, possibly insurmountable, hurdle for yourself when you need to pass tests for conservative organizations or colleagues who are willing to pass on work, so you won't get as much work as someone with equal abilities but no tattoos. But if you choose your markets wisely, and you are good at building and fostering loyalty among those who may hire you, there should be some work.
Most of our clients are rather conservative people wearing suits, who'll hire you for their needs in meetings and other formal settings. They might not able to assess the quality of our work nor compare it to the quality of the work provided by our competitors. So, they might judge your appearance rather than your actual performance.
Interpreters are seen as a high-segment service. Most clients expect impeccable presentation for the price, without unrequested surprises or original features.
It is common advice to check your coat and your personality before you enter the meeting room, and become the suit no one will notice.
The liberties you can take without consequences will depend on your age & experience, the demand for your language combination, your skills and competences. You probably won't go from 100 days a year to zero days a year if you decide to get a tattoo when in your fifties, known on the market for the past two decades and appreciated for the quality of your work.