Often, the more challenging parts of an interpreter’s job are duties aside from interpretation. That is certainly true for me. One area that can be both rewarding and frustrating, often both, and sometimes when working with the very same person, is using the help of a volunteer. Okay, it’s true for co-workers too. Any relationship is like that really (anyone with a spouse is likely picking up what I am putting down) but volunteer management is unique.
My facility relies heavily on volunteers for a wide range of tasks. In many instances, we couldn’t do it without them. In some cases, we can do things more efficiently without them. Naturally, maximizing the former and minimizing the latter is key to success, but it is not always easy.
I have found that looking at a volunteer as an interpretive audience of one can be quite helpful. What is that person’s motivation to show up and what preconceived notions does s/he have. Someone’s background tells a lot about two crucial traits of a volunteer- job experience and confidence. We get every combination from over-confident yet never done that kind of work before to a retired professional that feels uncertain of doing the job in a new setting, and everywhere in between.
Considering where a person falls on the experience/confidence spectrum has been invaluable to me in figuring out how to help someone meet their personal and maybe professional goals while reaching my goals for whatever work they are doing. If you get it dialed in, you can provide an amazing experience for someone to connect with your resource in a way a casual visitor cannot have and buy yourself more time to get things done. Anyone have too little to do at work?
Happy New Year!