At the office this morning our staff received an email that read: “The interpreter that assisted yesterday was one of the best we’ve had. He was very professional and accurate. Please make sure the interpreter knows that we are appreciative of his work!”
So was our staff! Proud of the interpreter’s work. But, what’s my point?
In a fast moving world where phone/email/skype/you-name-it communication moves even faster than the click of a mouse, someone took the time to provide feedback to someone else, who took as much time to read it and relay it to our staff.
So, why is that so important to me? Because it does not happen often enough!
On the other hand, complaints still flow abundantly! And they are all over the board from every side of the service chain: providers, users, interpreters, Language Service Providers (LSPs), trainers, associations, etc., with cost and quality topping the list.
So, again, why is that so important to me? Because I am an interpreter: I take pride in what I do, who I am and how I do it! But I work in a very fragmented and disgruntled field where the “do’s” are confused with the “don’ts” and the practitioners (interpreters) are still called translators in the press, in the streets, and at home!
In any workplace, P-R-I-D-E begins with practicing Professionalism, showing Respect, Investingin oneself, and showing it all with the appropriate Demeanor with the best Effort for oneself and the profession at large. When we positively project these elements we contribute to enhancing our image as professionals and that of the entire profession. Let’s project this image in a truthful, effective and consistent way!
In this first series of posts, let’s take a closer look at Professionalism!
I have a question for you: You, reading this blog, I have a question for you: “do you define yourself as a professional? Do you think you act, think, carry yourself and perform professionally?” Of course you do! Then let’s analyze what this well celebrated word means!
Easier said than done! Professionalism is not just one thing; it’s a combination of qualities and skills blended together that require a conscientious effort to implement along with the courage to admit when we fail. Human beings get very defensive when called unprofessional. The truth of the matter is that it’s very easy to act “unprofessionally.” We just don’t see it that way – until someone points it out.
Let’s go over the main soft skills that create the perfect package: communication, attitude, teamwork, networking, and problem solving/critical thinking.
Nowadays, the process of interacting with others takes place through a number of different channels: written, verbal, non-verbal, aural, and visual, all equally important. It is crucial to learn how to effectively communicate to others as well to correctly decipher the information we receive from others. Our communication skills enhance the profession when we competently educate our stakeholders. All interpreters should have the eloquence to competently speak about their profession. This is a critical skill for the development of self-advocacy and self-determination, important skills for lifelong success.
A positive and enthusiastic disposition is a critical component of personal and professional success. The opposite will send out negative signals that may project you as a disinterested individual, maybe disrespectful or rude, or like someone who does not put enough effort into what you do, which can ultimately harm your image as a professional. Showing a cheerful, warm attitude helps to convey a positive image for that profession. But it’s also our obligation to cheer on and foster newcomers to our profession to really want to separate themselves from the crowd of mediocre players. Peers grow together and foster each other’s growth.
Communication skills are ranked #1 according to a 2010 survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
Teamwork not only relates to how effectively an interaction plays out, but also translates into sharing knowledge with peers, referring a colleague to a client, or offering alternatives in difficult situations. When supporting each other, regardless of our differences, we can rise above our collective professional challenges.
How large is your network? Networking is generally referred to as the ability to tap into the connections you have for opportunities to land a job. Professional networking also exposes you to learn about conferences, papers, blogs, techniques that have helped other peers. Everyone has a network. You do too; but is it serving your purpose? Assess your needs and your objectives, then look into your network to reach out. The “six degrees of separation” rule applies to interpreting as well. Be proactive, create out-of-the-box relationships that enhance your knowledge and open your mind to new opportunities.
Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
The need to identify solutions to challenges may arise at any time, unexpectedly. Based on the 2010 Critical Skills Survey by the American Management Association, critical thinking and problem solving refers to the ability to use data, knowledge, facts, competencies, and experience to most effectively assess the situation and find the most appropriate solution for the challenge at hand. As interpreters, this ability translates into finding the most appropriate solutions to the unexpected within our Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice so as not to affect the overall consistency with which services should be delivered And it takes continued interaction with peers and the profession at large to appropriately exchange effective criticism, praise, and feedback.
These skills cannot be compartmentalized or artificially separated. They all contribute to reflecting the image of a professional that everyone would like to have on their team. All this would help us move one step closer to a united interpreting profession with consistent behaviors and practices and, hence, a strong professional identity.
Giovanna has been working in the language services industry for 25 years and is a graduate of the School of Translation and Interpretation in Geneva, Switzerland. Her working languages are English, Italian, French and Spanish. Before co-founding Cesco she held positions in Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Giovanna is not only a seasoned translator and interpreter herself, but she is also a nationally licensed trainer of trainers for The Community Interpreter®, an interpreting training program of 40+ hours for community interpreters, and is a co-author of the recently published international edition of the textbook and workbook for the program. As a strong proponent of professional development for interpreters and the advancement of the profession, Giovanna is also very active in the interpreting community and is involved in developing professional standards for the interpreting industry on the national level, through ASTM International, and on the international level, through the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). A strong language access advocate, Giovanna has expert understanding of Title VI and Executive Order 13166 requirements in that regard.