Why didn’t I get those hours!?


Michelle Schoonderwoerd

“Why didn’t ‘I get those hours!?”
The attitude of entitlement in the interpreting community

by Michelle Schoonderwoerd

We’ve all been there… we have worked an ongoing gig, or got wind that we would be requested for future work. It’s a boost to the old ego for sure (and for the bank account as this is our source of income)! But have you checked yourself recently and paid attention to your response and/or body language when you realized you ‘didn’t’ get that job?

Have you found yourself blatantly asking the consumer questions you really shouldn’t, such as, “Well then, who is coming?” Or, “They found someone else?” Or maybe you looked at the deaf person and said, “I was available, remember, I checked my calendar.” Or maybe you aren’t as ballsy as that, but a simple, “Darn, I have NO work this week and that would have been nice!” Maybe you think a comment like that can be innocent, but have you considered how unprofessional it can be, or how you can make a consumer feel when pressuring them for information?

If we sit back and look at all the possible variables of the “why” the job went to someone else… we may start taking things less personally (which could do wonders for our self-esteem, relationships, and the acne that is presenting itself on our faces because of the unnecessary stress of wondering why the hours are not “ours”).

Here are just a handful of variables that come to mind when trying to create the perfect schedule… I am not listing them in order of importance, just jotting down what comes to mind. I am sure we could add to the list, but let’s start with these. 🙂

Client/Consumer Conflicts- These are the big kahunas that fall under the CPC. These are also the intuitive feelings that arise when you take a job and then immediately regret doing so. There may be no rhyme or reason for the conflict… it could be just because!

Teams Jiving or Hiving- This means the scheduling office may know of an issue or issues with specific teams working together, and maybe they are choosing to NOT put Humpty-Dumpty back together again, so you lost hours because you can’t play nice with others (or vice versa). Side note- we should have followed our mother’s advice and been nice to others.  

Subject Conflicts- Maybe math just ain’t your cup of tea… maybe you failed history yourself and you should NOT be interpreting this subject, or, maybe blood and guts gross you out so biology is not an option. We all have strengths and weaknesses and it’s great when our coordinators know this about us because it saves us a ton of embarrassment and anxiety when we struggle in such subjects (see the bright side of that one?). Subject and venue conflicts shouldn’t be taken personally.

Requests from the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and/or the Hearing Consumers- Maybe your team got requested to do another gig with that specific client, but you didn’t… stop taking it personally and instead find a way to grab some coffee and a bran muffin with an old friend. The big points here are, we need to realize that Deaf people also have freedom of choice and they DON’T have to pick you, and they also don’t have to explain their decisions or justify their reasons.

Hours of the Day and Specific Times- Maybe you’re not a night owl and getting called at 10pm to go to the hospital isn’t something you wanted to do…so don’t be offended if a follow-up appointment of some sort is given to a different interpreter on a different day. Days and times tend to get the most blame from people when they insist “but, I ‘was’ available!” As I have explained above, though, it isn’t as easy as fitting an interpreter into a time-slot with no other variables involved.

Location- If you live 20 miles away, and another person lives 5 miles away… the closer interpreter may be asked to run over and fill a last minute gig and honestly, if we step back and look at what’s “best for the consumers”, I think we can all agree that a ‘put-together and on time interpreter’ is better than a ‘frazzled and late one.’

Skill Set- There are times  when various skills are needed for certain environments. I’m talking about soft skills (the playing nice with others), talents, personality matches, etc… The examples that immediately come to mind are: the platform interpreter that doesn’t mind the audience attention; the K-12 interpreter and the patience that it requires to work in that environment all day long; the mental health interpreter that has a natural ability and niche in that venue; and others that I am not thinking of…. These variables are also considered when scheduling and querying interpreters for jobs.

Thank goodness we come in various sizes, shapes and colors… we can’t fit square pegs in round holes and scheduling offices are basically trying to figure out how to sand down the corners of the peg to make the darn thing fit in the hole! And kudos to them… let’s toast and raise a hat to the coordinators that run through a list of all these variables on a job by job basis. I challenge my fellow rock star interpreters: Instead of asking the “whys” and “whos”, let’s start focusing on the “Yay, another Deaf person got their needs met and communication was facilitated.”

In conclusion, the next time we find out we “didn’t” get that gig… let’s professionally smile, thank the entity for the work we DID get, acknowledge and thank the Deaf consumer as well, and then scoot out to our car to drive across town to the next job. Thank goodness for the snacks and jerky in that messy car to keep us company as we drive away telling ourselves “it’s not ALL about me.” And it shouldn’t be either.