Regent's Park London

Joining a professional association – What’s in it for me?

Being member of a professional body is a key element of The MCL Way. I truly believe that to be a serious and successful professional interpreter (someone who treats the profession and his/her clients with the seriousness they deserve) you have to get involved, participate, and collaborate. After all, no man -or interpreter- is an island.

So, I asked interpreter Marita Propato, a colleague I respect and admire greatly and current president of the AATI (Argentine Association of Translators and Interpreters), to share with us her views on the importance and the benefits of joining a professional association.

Here is what she said:

Joining a professional association – What’s in it for me?

Professional associations build bridges and connect the dots.

Yes, professional affiliations and accreditations can help you fill in another line on your résumé- that’s granted.

Yes, volunteer work in the form of collaboration with association task forces and committees is also another sought-after addition to your professional credentials.

Yet, for those wondering how professional affiliations can translate into real-life, tangible benefits, here are some tips – or ideas to set you thinking.

  • Advocacy for the profession is a core goal of any professional association.

Not all potential stakeholders may be aware of what a T&I professional actually does. Some may have a slight idea but have not yet come to grips with the full implications of hiring a professionally trained translator or interpreter versus finding alternative –usually haphazard- ways of getting the job done. To bridge the gap, associations have developed guidelines and advocacy materials that disseminate fast facts about the profession, and regularly organize events to educate potential users of the services and the community at large, raising awareness of the importance of hiring professionals. At the end of the day, these efforts benefit not only association members by placing them under the spotlight but also prospective clients who are reassured that they are choosing from the right pool of professionals to take care of their T&I needs.

  • Becoming a member can help newly grads jump-start their professional career.

“I got my degree—so now what?” If you’re about to cross the starting line of your professional career, you may have a series of choices to make while you’re trying to get your first assignments. You may kick off by researching the market and finding areas of expertise you would like to pursue; or you may start knocking doors and filing online applications on the websites of the companies you’d like to be contacted by—or have them contact you. Yes, a professional association’s online directory is a superb showcase of T&I candidates. Leading companies and organizations regularly check online directories to find the right match for their T&I jobs. Directory entries include useful information for prospects to contact you, request quotes and potentially hire you! Please make sure your online profile is complete and up-to-date, with all your personal details, including your registered address, which matters most if you’re an interpreter and someone in your area is looking for professional assistance at an event nearby, and of course don’t forget to list your areas of expertise and certifications.

  • Professional accreditations matter.

Members have the support of a professional association. What does it actually mean? They are bound by the profession’s code of ethics, and can thus be relied on to deliver high quality, responsible and accountable performance, meet the deadlines and keeping open and frank communication channels with clients. Being listed on the association’s online directory gives visibility and backing to a professional, and the association’s advocacy efforts reflect positively on its members when it comes to selecting candidates for a job. A professional affiliation with an association of national or international renown may be the difference that tips the scale when prospective clients are looking for the T&I professional that best fits their needs. Want to take it a step further? Take a certification exam! It will qualify you to work in new fields of competence and jurisdictions.

  • Raising the bar every step of the way.

Professional associations are a valuable source of information for members and prospective clients alike. They are usually considered a key reference when it comes to inquiring about every aspect of the profession, including being contacted by government agencies that need professional advice about new regulations that are relevant for the T&I profession, and by the procurement staff of a large company looking for benchmark fees and standards to draft the terms and conditions of T&I service bidding documents. Additionally, through prizes, accolades and honorary mentions, professional associations pay tribute to professionals with outstanding careers who have made contributions to the profession.

  • Professional associations build bridges and connect the dots.

So, you’re new to the profession and you are not sure where to start? Ask an experienced colleague! You’ll surely get some useful tips. Many professional associations have mentoring and coaching programs engaging newly grads with more experienced professionals who can give a helping hand providing guidance and support on the basics to set you off on the right track. How to contact prospective clients, how to prepare quotes, how to follow-up on a quote to bring it hopefully to a done deal. Through events and social media fora, professional associations offer meeting points for networking, meeting new colleagues and exchanging experiences. We all have something to learn from each other, so usually the more experienced translators and interpreters also end up being clued in by the younger generations on the secrets of creating engagement through new technologies and the social networks.

  • So, your dream assignment is not coming your way yet?

Don’t sit and wait… Rather, get ready for when it comes! Take up online and in-person workshops and courses. There is usually something for everyone when it comes to continued training and education. Courses on new IT tools, specialized fields of T&I practice, new languages, even public speaking and breathing techniques for interpreters and time management and work-life balance lessons for translators—almost every training and education offering under the sun. Some courses are recorded and posted, or summaries in the form of professional guides are published for future reference. It all helps you stay tuned and build the key differentiator that will get you going and build your confidence for when that dream assignment actually arrives.

  • OK- I get it, I’ll become a member. So, what’s next?

Members financially support the association with their annual dues. But there are so many ways in which they can also professionally support the association. Consider joining a task force or committee, they come in all shades and flavors: academic relations committees liaise with universities to promote with students and academia the importance of a career path in T&I; publications committees work on newsletters and magazines that include articles ranging from research papers to tips and tricks for new professionals; specialized chapters or task forces may meet to improve the contracting standards of translators and interpreters in various fields or industries, including high profile areas such as sign language interpreting, interpreting in war zones, and community interpreters serving immigrants, refugees and natives speaking languages of little diffusion. Another area where your contribution and energy may be highly appreciated by association leaders is the organization of workshops and T&I events and conferences. The help that is usually needed in these events cannot be overstated enough, and while you do the job you can gain insights and organizational skills that may come in handy at later stages of your profession, when the opportunity comes to include them in a comprehensive service offering.

Remember an association can only be as thriving and relevant as its members. Join an association and experience the esprit de corps– that feeling of enthusiasm and collaboration with fellow members who are all on the same train, and heading in the same direction.

Marita Propato is an Argentinean interpreter & translator. She is a member of the ATA (Eng<>Spa), the CTPCBA, President of AATI, and Council Member of FIT Latam, with 25 years in the profession as translator, interpreter, writer, adviser, in-booth coach and trainer.

“All of us, at certain moments of our lives, need to take advice and to receive help from other people.”
~Alexis Carrel

Useful Resources

  • AATI – Argentine Association of Translators & Interpreters.
  • ITI – UK Institute of Translation & Interpreting
  • CiOL – UK Chartered Institute of Linguists
  • AIIC – International Association of Conference Interpreters

Photo by MCL – A sweet robin joined us for lunch in Regent’s Park cafe.

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