05 Feb 2024
by Laura Bennett FITI

Stepping up and reaping the rewards

Our Networks are a much-prized benefit of ITI membership. But they can only thrive with the support of dedicated members like Laura Bennett FITI. She shares how she has benefitted from her involvement in running ITI networks.

The Institute of Translation and Interpreting has sixteen geographical networks and more than twenty-five language, subject and support networks; examples include the Media, Arts & Tourism (MAT) network, the Sports network, and the recently formed Parent & Carer network. In short, there is something for every ITI member, whatever their profile.

These sub-groups within ITI allow members in the same area or with the same languages and specialisations to network and support each other through online forums and professional and social events. In some cases, network membership requires a small fee, usually around £10 a year; others are free to join.
Over the years, I've served (and in one case still do) on the committees of a couple of these groups – including a three-year stint as editor of the French Network’s newsletter Au courant – and am a member of several more. When I first joined ITI soon after setting up my freelance business, I became a member of as many networks as I could with a view to rubbing shoulders with and learning from more experienced colleagues in my languages and subject areas.

I wasn’t disappointed. In the early days, the network forums were extremely useful in terms of raising my profile within the translation community and receiving advice. I not only found work this way, I was also pointed in the direction of useful CPD resources that helped me become a better translator. What's more, I received helpful insight and advice whenever I raised a query or asked a question about a problem or doubt related to my work in a network forum.

The benefit of membership also came from the many CPD events organised by the ITI networks, which naturally tended (and still do!) to be more specialised than ITI’s overall CPD offering, given its wider remit to cater to all members. At the start of my career, these CPD sessions were in person – particularly memorable events include the MAT workshops held at Imperial College in London, well worth it in terms of learning and networking opportunities. Network meet-ups fitted around the main programme at ITI conferences made such a large event feel less daunting, and I was able to recognise faces I had met at network events or spot names I had seen in forum interactions.

As an early career translator, I found simply being able to talk to other translators face to face extremely valuable and was reassured by knowing that other people were experiencing the same highs, lows and everyday events that I was. With the COVID pandemic, many of these meetings moved online and regular virtual network get-togethers – sometimes even just for an informal chat with colleagues – were a godsend, particularly as I spent the first spell of lockdown living alone. The importance of the ITI community is not to be underestimated!

Well over a decade after I started out, I still value the contribution that being a member of several ITI networks brings me in terms of job referrals and support. The importance of networking is often highlighted as being vital to the profession of freelance translating, and I couldn’t agree with this more.

Despite all these positives, I’ve noticed recently that some of the ITI networks have been struggling to recruit new committee members to help deliver and promote their activities. This is a real shame – this blog article started life as a LinkedIn post and, in terms of interactions, comments and views, has been one of my most successful to date. So many people were prompted to offer their own, only positive, experiences of the ITI networks, several pointing to the vital role they had played in their careers; one even described the networks as the “jewels in ITI’s crown”!

A significant number of those who commented on my LinkedIn post went one further and spoke of how much they had benefitted from getting involved with running their networks. One commenter referred to what a great experience being a network committee member had been for them, both professionally and socially; someone else talked about how it had boosted their number of logged CPD hours; while a network coordinator mentioned how rewarding their role was, highlighting that, as a collective effort, the workload is manageable and not as onerous as you might think.

I would strongly urge ITI members to consider putting themselves forward for these roles. One of the most easily quantifiable benefits ️is the fact that volunteering for a network counts towards CPD in the “contributing to the profession” category. Many of the other benefits are harder to pin down, but just as important. If your network is recruiting and you're thinking about stepping up, I have no doubt it would be a positive step for your business.