If Not You, Then Who?

Experience alone cannot be the deciding factor when one weighs the decision of volunteering. I think it is important that we encourage everyone who is passionate about our professions and who wants to see them advance, to become more involved. It was one of the themes for me as I spoke with individuals at the conference in May. Not to belabor a point for those of you who heard firsthand, but I think that the people who are passionate and really have a vision for what our professions should be, too often think that they lack sufficient experience or “clout” to be able to take a leadership role. It is worth noting that before any of us stepped into positions of leadership for the first time, we were newcomers. I think that there are different types of leaders with varying traits that are natural to some, acquired for others, but I believe that everyone has the ability to lead, since the best leadership comes from example. At the very least, we each have it within our control to be a good example. As for more overt leadership roles, there has to be a first time, not a “best” time, for there to be a next time. If you would like to see our professions go in a certain direction, if you are passionate about it, there is a role for you. If not you, then who? –Rob Cruz, Message from the Chair (NAJIT.org)

This poignant reflection in Rob Cruz’s most recent message as our top leader at NAJIT struck a chord with me, and I couldn’t agree more.

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer for a variety of roles in our profession. Sometimes, the tasks have been new to me; other times, the duties I take on are a natural progression of something I’m already doing. As Rob says, there have been many first times, and they were usually not the best times. There have been countless people along the way who have had the patience to show me the ropes and to guide me down the right path when I was lost or about to make a mistake. The journey has led me to understand more about who we are, what we do, where we’ve come from, and where we’re going. Even so, sometimes I feel like a beginner. But I stay involved, nonetheless.

My a-ha moment

Today, I had the opportunity to visit with a dear friend who I worked with as a medical interpreter many years ago. Our conversation naturally led to me describing what I do in court on a daily basis, and all that goes with it. Because of the affection I have for my friend, I felt like I wanted to help her see things just as I see them, and my description started getting very extensive. It came to a point where I realized I know so much more than I can possibly describe over lunch. Could it be that I’ve grown and changed more than I sometimes realize?

Then I saw a tweet from NAJIT to check out Rob’s message. There’s my answer! The difficulty I had at lunchtime in describing all I know was because of a long journey that included my nine-to-five routine PLUS getting involved outside the courtroom.

Unworthy?

So, why do I feel like such a newbie sometimes, even after over 16 years in the biz? Could it be that the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know? If that’s true, then Rob is right: there’s never a perfect time to step up to the plate, but our turn does eventually come if we’re truly participating on the team. What is all too common is that if we’re too new, we don’t volunteer because we’re new; then, once we have the experience, we realize that there’s so much more to know, and so we continue to feel unworthy. How silly of us!

The time to give to our profession is always. We’re growing and changing. Technology is taking us to new places. We’re more connected than ever. The possibilities are endless, right?

Too few, really

I’ve been shocked at times to discover how few people make themselves available to participate in group efforts. Even when I was raising small children, I started getting involved by merely having a membership in a couple of interpreter organizations, which allowed me to understand so much more than simply putting in my time at work. The more we are involved, even from afar, the more we discover where to position ourselves to eventually feel pulled in to take on roles that we never asked for or expected – they just happen.

Perhaps this is a pretty natural phenomenon for all professions, but I think we carry an even bigger responsibility to stay involved. It is not uncommon for interpreters and translators to struggle to be understood by the world and to be treated as the professionals we are. So it follows that a huge group of brilliant and talented individuals who are not involved would continue feeling misunderstood. How much more powerful would we be if all of us lost the fear of becoming involved, of volunteering, of participating, and simply of being willing to put in our two cents?

Rob has it right, and I think we’ve got a lot of great leaders out there who need our help. Please, consider finding your niche and becoming involved in the organizations of our profession. Whether it’s sharing helpful information with your officemates, attending a conference, or starting a movement, the time is now, and if not you, then who?

No Comments
  • Gio Lester
    Posted at 10:35h, 02 November Reply

    Great post, Jennifer! Yes, the “it will be taken care of” attitude does not solve problems, instead it helps perpetuate the status quo. We are responsible -collectively and individually – for guiding our destiny. And the time to act is always NOW.

  • Jennifer De La Cruz
    Posted at 20:15h, 04 November Reply

    Thanks, Gio! I recently read an article that talked about how striving for perfection in any task can essentially lead to paralysis of action. Oh, what a difference it makes when we just try something! 🙂

  • Laura Cahue
    Posted at 15:24h, 08 January Reply

    I am thinking of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior:
    “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

    Any member-based organization fails, not because of the actions (however imperfect they might be) of a few, but the lack of action of the majority.

    Nomination time again. New year, new faces and new leaders. Let’s Go!

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