Whether you are looking to take your first step on the career ladder, excel in your current career, or start a new career later in life, a flair for languages is an invaluable skill.
Being bilingual or multilingual is a highly sought-after skill in the corporate world. The ability to speak another language can open up opportunities for employees and entrepreneurs alike. From marketing to recruitment, there are a vast number of industries in which a second language can be beneficial.
If you’ve decided to learn a language to improve your job prospects, here are 10 tips to consider as you start this rewarding journey.
A language degree on its own may not be enough on the job market. Consider courses which have other subject modules as well. For example, Languages with Business Studies, or Language and Law, or Geography with a Language, and so forth.
Unless you are looking to pursue a career that is purely language focussed (e.g. a translator), then languages should be seen as part of a wider skillset. A language-only degree may limit your career prospects. But language modules as part of another degree will be viewed very favourably by potential employers.
Try not to leave these decisions until the end of your degree when you are applying for jobs. It’s not always easy, but it’s best to think about job prospects as early as possible.
When deciding on modules throughout your course, consider the potential outcomes and skills you will gain. Ask how they may help you achieve your career goals and objectives. If you don’t yet know what career you’d like to pursue, aim to go after a diverse range of skills. If you can include a language learning module, then that will be sure to benefit almost any career.
What you do during any stint abroad can set you apart from the crowd. Be aware of the soft skills you pick up by studying or working abroad. These could include cultural awareness, problem-solving, multi-tasking, maturity, and resilience.
Be sure to market these skills when applying for jobs. Such skills are viewed as very valuable by potential employers, as they are highly transferable.
If you’re applying for a job that asks for language fluency, don’t be put off if you’re not a native speaker level – this doesn’t deter employers. They will want evidence that you know how to communicate effectively, not just come up with neatly turned sentences.
As long as you have the foundations in place, you can continue to build and improve your language skills through your job as you progress.
You don’t need to exaggerate how well you know a language. If your language prowess was once more polished but now needs fine-tuning, be upfront about it on your CV. Companies will appreciate your honesty and are more likely to provide the support you need to further build your language skills.
If you need the practice to bring your rusty Spanish up to scratch, or any other language for that matter, your best bet is a personal tutor on a one to one basis. Practice with a native on a weekly basis for a period of time. If you are living anywhere in London, Greater London or the South East, the chances are that one of Talk Languages’ team of qualified teachers can help.
Lizzie Fane, the founder of Global Graduates, which helps connect young people with international career opportunities, suggests you expand the details of your language skills:
“Your CV says you speak a language to a certain level but does it say you’ve worked in that foreign language five days a week? Or that you brought in new clients for the company because of your bilingual abilities?”
However, try to do it in as few words as possible. No-one reads a long, rambling CV.
Don’t just type in “languages” when you search for jobs. There’s more of a market for skills which might include knowledge of a language. The need for a second language is usually listed as a desired skill in job advertisements but is rarely the main focus of a job role.
Do your research and apply ‘on spec’ to companies that you’d like to work for, or where you think you might have opportunities to use your language skills.
Search for companies with offices in countries that speak your chosen language(s). For example, you probably won’t find an outlet for your language skills in a UK-based retail company, unless they have links abroad. Dasha Amrom, founder and managing director of Career Coaching Ventures suggests applying for a market research company undertaking cross-country research:
“Try companies such as WPP Group, Euromonitor, Mintel – they all need qualified language professionals for a lot of their posts,” says Dasha.
These annual three days in London are an absolute must for language learners everywhere.
Whether you’re learning a language, teaching languages, using languages professionally or simply love languages, you’ll find resources, help and advice, ways to learn, ways to teach, inspiration and entertainment.
Three days packed with exhibitors, educational seminars, language taster classes and cultural performances. There will also be seminars about career opportunities for language professionals: all free to attend.
This year: 15-17 November at Olympia.
Think about which languages are most beneficial in certain industries. This will help you match your own skills with the relevant industry and job role. For example, Japan is a key player in the fashion export market. Therefore if you have strong Japanese language skills, you’d be very well suited to a job in that sector.
As another example, German is a highly sought-after language for a whole variety of industries. From marketing through to gaming, having German language skills could improve your job prospects across many sectors. After all, it’s the fourth most popular language in the world.
If you’re ready to kickstart your career, have a browse of the latest graduate jobs available near you.
Esther Matthews from Talk Languages
Esther is the language guru at Talk Languages, a London-based company providing one-to-one language tuition. She’s on a mission to make language learning accessible to everyone!
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