Sunday, April 6, 2014

On Managing Work Offers

Here at Become an Interpreter! we honour our commitments (Here’s looking at you French Socialist Party!), so as promised, here is our brief on best practices for managing work offers.
First, some key terminology:
o   INQUIRY: A potential employer (brothel-like agency, behemoth organization, Ms. Havisham from your secretariat, a seasoned colleague, etc.) inquires about your potential availability for a certain date. For example, “Interpreter, would you be available to work at UNESCO during the next waning moon?” Inquiries do not imply any kind of binding commitment for either party.
o   OPTION: If you are indeed available during the next waning moon (assuming the offer is, of course, up to AIIC best practice standards), and the powers that be decide to pay for interpreting (provided there is enough budget left after ordering the catering and floral arrangements), then your potential employer might extend an option. Options are binding only for the interpreter. You read that right meine Liebe; your client may choose to call off the option at any time, and does not have to pay you a cancellation fee or reschedule the meeting. However, your client can also choose to (eventually, maybe, 12 hours before perhaps?) confirm the option, at which point it becomes a firm offer.

  • A note about Options, just in case you were thinking of getting sly:
Double-booking is a big no-no for interpreters.  Did you accept an option with the Commission next month only to get a firm offer for the private market the same day?  Sorry, no backing out. Remember what we said above. You have to profusely apologize to the private event organizer, tell them you are booked, and hope the Commission doesn’t leave you high and dry (fingers crossed!). Uncertainty is the spice of life, #AmIrightorAmIright?
o   FIRM OFFER: You’ve booked the job. The ink is dry on the contract (or PDF, figuratively speaking), and the provisional agenda has been wirelessly delivered via ICloud. If it gets cancelled, you will probably get some form of remuneration. Prépare tes valises, you’re going to Kampala!
o   RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL: We actually have no idea what this means. Sorry! We first saw the term in a strongly worded email sent by an older colleague warning us about double booking. In a fright, we perused AIIC’s website, to no avail. Our molly-fried millennial brains could not grasp this concept. To all of the AIIC elders reading this, if you know what this means and can explain it in simple English, please drop us a line in the comments section below!  

Now that you understand these important terms, you are ready to start managing your calendar and fielding offers. In France, interpreters must rely on a secrétariat to manage their calendars. Although we cannot fathom why this is necessary in the age of ubiquitous ICT, il faut respecter la procédure. We can not give you more information on secretariats because their opaque rituals are only for the initiated, and vaguely reminiscent of those secret societies they have at elite American unis. If we did know, we wouldn’t reveal it anyway, lest the grey market fools start harassing our madames.

Armed with this knowledge, go forth child, oodles and oodles of adventures and online quid pro quos await you!


  1. As I (and the Oxford Concise Dictionary of circa 1980 ;-) ) understand it, first refusal is "the right or privilege of deciding to accept or reject a thing before it is offered to others", in other words, you get offered the job first and if you can't do it they offer it to someone else.

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  4. Hi, the "option entry is not quite right". If you have an option and someone makes you a firm offer for the same day you would normally do the following. 1. Say, I'm under option let me get back to you. 2. Call the option and say, I have a firm offer could you please confirm the option or release me. 3. Call back the firm offer and either turn down or accept their offer depending on whether or not you were released or confirmed by the option.
    (Your option may be annoyed that they have to release you, but that is their problem, they can't keep you from a firm contract on the off-chance.)
    Andy Gillies