Me and my hats (there’s more to it than interpreting)

Next topic on #IntJC will be on professional identities. How do you juggle your professional hats? And can you be credible in your different identities when you have several different ones?

Since I will not be able to participate I’ll give you my own experiences here, in case you need some background reading 🙂

When I finished high school in Sweden it was important not to give future employers the impression that you were a job-hopper. Your CV needed to be consistent. If not the same student job since age 15, at least within the same sector, preferably giving you relevant work-life experience for your future training and career. Need I tell you that already here I was already heading in the wrong direction?

Some ten years later life seemed to be on the right track from a consistency perspective. I was near the end of teacher training and had had the same student job for the past four years – I could see my future the coming five years… ten years… fifteen years… and I felt… claustrophobic.

Luckily, I came across the most interesting, fascinating job where it didn’t matter that my professional background looked more like a patchwork than a tightly knit plaid. Even better, the patchwork was an advantage! So perhaps not surprisingly I’m juggling many hats with pride. However, sometimes I get the feeling that for, let’s call them, more consistent people out there my different hats sometimes raise professional suspicion. Am I really serious? Well, I hope to prove here that I am probably more serious than most – otherwise you cannot juggle.

First question to be addressed on Saturday: Tell us about your professional hats: how many do you have? What are they?

I’m a researcher in interpreting (which in a way makes me an eternal student). I’m an interpreter and my interpreting hat is split into conference interpreter and public service interpreter. I’m also a teacher, I have taught horseback riding, horse carriage driving, languages and interpreting. I also see myself as a blogger and twitterer, although, admittedly I blog and tweet about interpreting and it’s not really professional.

Second #IntJC question: Of all the hats you wear, which are the most/least loved by you? The easiest/hardest to accomplish?

I love all my hats! Maybe my love for interpreting is a little bit stronger since it has allowed me to carry on with the rest of my hats. It is a very large and flexible hat.

Third question: How do the majority of the clients see you (which hat/role)? How do you want to be seen?

Well, I cannot say that I have clients who see me as a researcher, not yet anyway. My university hat interacts with other university employees and fellow researchers – today it takes 70 to 80 percent of my time and I hope that most of them see me as researcher. My interpreting clients see me as an interpreter of course. I struggle with my students, who are in a way clients too, for my interpreting students I want them to see me as an interpreter, but I think the teacher hat imposes itself so much on them that they have difficulty seeing me in a booth.

Question four and here we come down to nitty-gritty: What are the factors behind the uneasiness some feel about defining themselves as a professional with many hats?

It is this consistency again – for me as a researcher I am sometimes viewed as less serious because I exercise the profession I am researching. This means for some that I am biased in my study of the profession, that I will let my background beliefs influence my results. It is also so very easy within humanities research, especially in a small research community, to undermine results simply by hinting that they may be biased by the researcher’s own world view.

Needless to say the sword is two edged. As an interpreter I sometimes get negative reactions from colleagues because I have “crossed the line”. I have started to research an area impossible to research. Interpreting skill is innate and there is nothing more to it. Nurture your skill instead of digging into impossible studies. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that interpreting is both researchable and even that interpreting benefit from research.

For my interpreting clients it sometimes feel as the most difficult part is to prove that I am a professional at all, that I’m not a language student, that this is what I do for a living, that I have actually gone to university to master a skill. Or, like one doctor said after I had interpreted a medical appointment: So, you are really a professional interpreter? (Me: Yes) Well, I have to admit it’s much easier when you are around.

Question five: The million dollar question. What would you suggest as tactics to stand up for your professional selves and feel confident?

This is where the seriousness comes in. I try to do the juggling with my hats with as much seriousness as possible. I cannot “ad lib”, I cannot hope for the best, I cannot “see how things go”.
As a teacher I have to be extremely good at respecting deadlines, planning classes, giving feed back – because if I’m not I will loose my confidence and the credibility from my students and colleagues eyes.
As an interpreter I strive to be a good, well prepared, pleasant co-worker and languages service provider (and always arrive well before time), because if I’m not I will loose my confidence and the credibility from my clients.
And as a researcher I try to present minutely planned and methodologically sound studies where I take great pain in testing and reporting my methods, because if I don’t I will loose confidence and my fellow researcher will so easily be able to say: “Oh, you know it’s because she’s an interpreter – she may actually have let her own opinion influence her results.”


Any comments?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s