How Foreign Language Skills Can Boost Your Career
Have you ever wondered whether being multilingual (speaking more than one language) would give you an advantage over other job seekers? The answer is that it does. Being able to speak a foreign language is becoming one of the most sought-after skills by employers.
Review some of the ways in which knowing a foreign language can boost your career. Also take a look at examples of jobs actively seeking those with foreign language skills, along with tips for showing employers that you have the skills they seek.
Foreign Language Skills Improve Your Employability
Speaking one or more foreign languages can make you more employable. United States-based and international companies need bilingual customer service representatives, account managers, marketing coordinators, and more. The reason for this demand for bilingual employees is simple: businesses want more customers. One of the fastest ways to increase business is to open the doors to consumers who speak other languages.
Additionally, the demand works both ways. It’s not just American companies wanting to do business in China who need bilingual English-Chinese speakers; Chinese companies wishing to do business in America need the same thing.
Multilingual Careers in Companies That Serve Customers
Here are some examples of jobs where language skills are an asset:
- Communications/Marketing/Public Relations Specialist
- Finance Director or Analyst
- Brand Specialist
- Product Localization Specialist
- Customer Service Representative
- International Banking Associate
- Flight Attendant
- Sales Representative
- Business Liaison Officer
Foreign Language Skills Are a Valuable Asset
In 2011, Newcastle University published research demonstrating that those speaking multiple languages have a greater capacity to understand people from a wider variety of backgrounds, and also have a better understanding of themselves. A year later, the University of Chicago noted that learning a foreign language reduces decision bias. In an effort to communicate in a foreign language, your brain begins to appreciate what is different rather treating different as a threat and locking itself into only what feels “normal.”
Those learning to speak a new language appreciate the unique differences that exist between different kinds of people. Additionally, those who can communicate in a foreign language feel less defensive about the idiosyncrasies of their own language and culture. The result is a greater understanding, greater self-awareness, more solutions, and, consequently, greater consensus (greater number of people working in harmony).
In the United States, a wide variety of cultures have been learning how to work together for centuries. Industries requiring more emotional intelligence to understand others—such as marketing, education, and law enforcement—are intentionally looking for those who speak more than one language. It helps their organization become more diverse and more effective at serving a greater number of people from different walks of life.
Multilingual Careers in Organizations That Effect Positive Change
For these jobs, speaking a foreign language is a valuable attribute:
- Law Enforcement Officer
- ESL Teacher/Tutor
- Consular Fellow
- Embassy Intern
- Foreign Service Specialist (FSS)
- Foreign Service Officer (FSO)
- Social Worker
Foreign Languages Boosts Your Other Skills
Returning to the University of Chicago’s study above, scientists noticed that those who had learned foreign languages were more open to more options in problem-solving. Similar studies have shown that knowing multiple languages helps your brain remain calm and better able to function optimally in chaotic situations.
In 2014, Northwestern University corroborated this evidence with a study of its own. Bilingual subjects were less frazzled by mental noise and were able to solve a wider variety of problems. Since the brain can technically only focus on one task at a time, bilinguals could do in practice what their brain does with language. They could turn the brain off to one language and work in another. Similarly, as more information came into their awareness, they could identify relevant information in an ocean of irrelevant information and remain focused on the task at hand.
Additionally, switching from one frame of mind to another is simpler with bilinguals since they frequently do this with language. They can do this at will throughout the day with more ease than those subjects who only speak one language. In the Northwestern study, results showed that bilinguals were better at multitasking and mental endurance.
Employers are often tracking these realities, whether or not they’ve read the studies in detail. They are generally more interested in potential hires who speak multiple languages, knowing that those job seekers have conditioned their brains to process more information from a variety of viewpoints, thereby allowing them to make decisions with greater creativity and confidence.
Multilingual Careers in the Service Industry
Here are some career options where language skills are beneficial in the service industry:
- Physician’s Assistant
- Home Care/Hospice Caregiver
- Hotel Clerk
- Restaurant/Hotel/Resort Manager
- Tour Guide
- Customer Service Representative
How to Incorporate a Foreign Language into Your Job Search
Include Your Foreign Language Skills on Your Resume
Fluency in foreign languages is such a desirable hard skill that it needs to be highlighted on your resume, ideally at the top of your first page in the resume profile. Here’s one way to do this in an opening statement:
“Seasoned and dedicated Teacher with 9 years’ experience teaching K-6 ESL learners within multicultural, socioeconomically-diverse urban school systems. Expert fluency in written and oral Spanish, with growing knowledge of American Sign Language.”
An alternative presentation would be to showcase your foreign language fluency in a bulleted skills list within your resume summary. Careful use of boldface font will help this information to “pop” on the page and grab a hiring manager’s attention:
- Foreign Languages: Bilingual command of Spanish and English, with proven effectiveness communicating with native Spanish speakers both orally and in writing.
If fluency in a foreign language will be a necessary skillset in your new job, you should also provide examples of how you have communicated in the language in the “Professional Experience” section of your resume. The best way to do this is to allude to your skill in a bulleted “key achievement” statement placed immediately after your brief synopsis of your work responsibilities:
- Recruited by supervisor to serve as translator during meetings with German-speaking clients.
Don’t forget to mention your command of a foreign language in your cover letter as well as in your resume. It’s one of the qualifications that will spark a hiring manager’s interest and inspire him or her to give serious consideration to your candidacy.
Target Jobs That Require the Languages You Speak
Search for open positions in which being bilingual is preferred or required. For example, when searching for the kind of position you seek, used advanced search options to add “bilingual” or the foreign language to your search (e.g., “Spanish Bilingual Customer Service Representative”).
Boost Your Language Skills
If your language skills need a boost, these tips from Language Trainers will help you get up to speed