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How to use your language skills to get a job

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A lot of my clients are linguists and want to know what their prospects are in the current job market. Below there are some questions an my answers to them on the topic of languages and jobs.

Q: Research seems to tell a conflicting story – while employers recognise the benefits for language skills, they aren’t necessarily prioritising them at the recruitment stage. Is it true?

A: I believe a lot depends on the industry/sector in questions. For instance, if you are applying for a market research company undertaking cross-country research, then language knowledge will be fundamental. But if you are looking for a job in retail in the UK, then it is not something absolutely necessary. In other words, internationally-oriented companies recognise significant importance of language knowledge at recruitment stage and further into employment so the more languages you master the better if you wish to target these industries and companies.

Q: What are your thoughts on the career prospects of language graduates in the UK at the moment?

A: It is all about carefully selection and targeting of the companies that recognise the importance of languages in an applicant’s portfolio. Try large market research/marketing/advertising corporations, such as WPP Group, Euromonitor, Mintel – they all need qualified language professionals for a lot of their posts.

Q: I am a recent engineering graduate fluent in German and Mandarin. I am in a role where I believe they could be used well. What is a good way to explain to my employer the benefits?

A: Prepare a detailed case as to why they should expand your responsibilities to include those languages. And include the key benefit points as to why they will be beneficial for the company in terms of revenue, client base and ultimately, profit growth. Concentrate on the aforementioned metrics as they are close to executives’ hearts and it would be easier to persuade them of the value. You may also use some cases of closest competition you are aware of that have utilised these languages to their advantage.

Hope the above helps and if you have any further questions, please feel free to post them in the Comments box below and I will endevour to address them all.

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