Don’t downplay multilingual skills
Resigned to a short sentence shoved at the bottom of CVs, downplaying language skills is a common mistake.
Whether you are completely fluent or stuttering over the subjunctive, you should be shouting about it to employers, says Lizzie Fane, founder of ThirdYearAbroad.com. “It shows an eagerness to learn to your employer and may even lead to you being able to travel abroad or work with clients who speak that language.”
Emphasise transferable skills
Speaking a foreign language has been shown to improve the functionality of your brain by challenging it to recognise, negotiate meaning, and communicate in different language systems.
It’s important to highlight these benefits to your employers. “It’s not so much about knowing a particular language as being able to cope in a situation where people speak different languages,” says Mike Kelly, a professor of French at the University of Southampton.
Adrian Sewell, head of employability for modern Languages at the University of Southampton, agrees: “Learning a language requires a great deal of perseverance, memory work, analysis and attention to detail. Make recruiters aware of these skills in your applications.”
Seek out opportunities to network internationally
Taking up a language can help give you a focus and an edge over your peers if you are working in a global organisation. If your clients are from a particular country, learning their language won’t just help with understanding their emails – but will also build a personal connection.
“You will be able to hone your interests by becoming an expert in a particular country, keeping your finger on the pulse in terms of the latest releases or launches, travelling there a lot, and getting new clients on board,” adds Fane.
Vicky McNeil-Kornevall, co-founder of WorkingAbroad.com agrees: “I know how important it has been in my career to communicate with people in their own language. Especially if it comes to striking a deal, or gaining trust if you are pitching for a project.”
Ask your boss for opportunities to speak another language
Languages are a great way to become invaluable to your employer, especially as more and more businesses are being bought out by foreign companies.
Fane says: “If you’re already in a job and not using your languages, then now is your opportunity. You could speak to your boss about your languages, and talk about working to bring in new business from the country which speaks your language.”
If that’s not possible, there are other ways of showing off your skills in a useful way, she believes. “You could run a Twitter account for your company [in the language you speak], or offer to do a weekly roundup of the week’s news in that foreign country – all of these things will make you stand out, and will help you if the company goes in that direction.”
Consider working abroad
Even if you don’t want to live abroad forever, a few years living and working in a different country looks great on your CV and can help you get jobs that involve travel. “Being able to speak many languages enables you to travel and work abroad with confidence,” says McNeil-Kornevall.
“Living in the country is an excellent foundation if looking to use language skills in your future career,” adds Miranda Reid, associate director of Multilingualvacancies.com. “Not only will this assist your language learning but having cultural awareness can often be key with some companies.”
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