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5 Ways Sign Language Interpreters Can Stay Inspired

Feel like your professional practice is running on empty? Brandon Arthur suggests five ways sign language interpreters can refill their tank and find renewed motivation.

How do you sustain the passion for your work as a sign language interpreter? This is a question interpreters’ and those that employ them are asking, particularly during these times of uncertainty and anxiety.

Whether you have found yourself on the receiving end of a salary reduction or are considered an artist in demand by your sign language interpreter peers, each of us experience moments in our career when we need a renewed sense of motivation.

Is the answer simply to reach inside and stir the goo that is responsible for leading us to the field of sign language interpreting? Unfortunately, the issue of reigniting passion is never simple.

How to Keep the Fire Alive

What follows are five considerations when you find yourself in need of an injection of passion for the profession we love and the important work sign language interpreters do.

Frame.  Put your “daily grind” in the right context.

When considering your daily motivation for the work, it is important to consider the context in which you evaluate your contribution. If you were to compare your 45-minute assignment at the local Post Office to working a meeting of international WASLI & WFD collaborators, you might feel as though there isn’t much to be passionate about.

Alternatively, if you put your work into the context of the person you are working with you find a different system of value. To the person at the Post Office, this 45-minute meeting may mean the difference between being able to fund their child’s college education and not. To them, your work may mean the difference. If you lack motivation, one place to find it is in the eyes of those you work with.

How do you endeavor to maintain the proper context for your work?

Create.  Develop meaningful relationships.

The sign language interpreting profession is entirely about relationships. Should you be plagued with low levels of inspiration for the work, ask yourself if you are truly connecting with your interpreter colleagues and the consumers you work in support of.

If you’re failing to consistently making these micro-investments in humanity, make it a point to do so. The time spent building relationships of trust with colleagues and consumers will not only assist you in providing better service in the moment, but will also serve to connect you to like-minded people interested in positive outcomes. Similar to iron sharpening iron, to connect is to inspire.

How do you work to create relationships of trust with your fellow sign language interpreter and the consumers you serve?

Give.  Make the time to give back.

There is tremendous power invoked by the act of giving. As sign language interpreters, the act of giving of our services is unequaled in its ability to reignite the passion we have for the work we do.

By giving, we acknowledge the karma of gratitude in bringing us to this point in our careers. This acknowledgement appropriately puts into context—at least subconsciously—the good fortune and enrichment received daily working as a sign language interpreter. When grateful for our position, we are easily able to overcome the inertia of entitlement and become the inspiration we need.

Why is giving important to you?

Teach.  Find opportunities to pay it forward.

Mentoring relationships, formal or informal, provide developing and seasoned sign language interpreters with a valuable source of support. Regardless of where we are in our professional development, taking the time to act as a mentor is a surefire way to reconnect us with our passion for the profession.

The act of mentoring elicits an awareness of the challenges and temptations we have overcome and the skill building we have invested in to get to this point in our careers. Consciously considering this iterative, transformational process reminds us that the joy is in the journey. By sharing these small victories as mentors, we lend propulsion to individual interpreters and the sign language interpreting profession as a whole. In so doing, we become a body in motion.

In what ways has your mentor, formal or informal, motivated you?

Ponder.  Take time away to gain or regain perspective.

Clearly, life and professional priorities will vary from sign language interpreter to sign language interpreter, but the result of taking time to evaluate and refocus on these priorities will reinvigorate our motivation for the work.

It shouldn’t be a secret that the sign language interpreter who has their priorities calibrated is more effective in their daily work and more adept at surviving a professional shakedown. This clarity helps them identify the symptoms of their waning motivation and quickly act to blunt its progression. The result is that these sign language interpreters maintain higher levels of motivation throughout their careers, which ultimately accounts for greater career satisfaction.

When was the last time you took time away to ponder your priorities? 

Life Manifests What We Think About

Life has a funny way of manifesting what we think about; so if you are feeling uninspired about the work you do as a sign language interpreter, I would encourage you to embrace the 5 considerations offered above. These considerations are intended to adjust our thinking in regard to the daily contributions we make by placing our work in the appropriate context. Further, they are to remind us of the importance of remaining connected to one’s true motivation for the work.

You can do a lot to stay inspired, but when finding yourself unmotivated don’t be too hard on yourself. Expecting to never feel uninspired is not realistic. When feeling uninspired pick one of the 5 considerations above and focus on it until you are comfortable taking on another one. Over time you will find the passion return for the work you love and the community that makes it possible.

What do you do to reignite your passion for the work?