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We live in a competitive world. During the global economic downturn a few years ago, companies were forced to lay off thousands of employees to remain afloat and competition for jobs has only increased since then. The economy has improved but jobs remain scarce.
So what can you do to increase your chances of landing a job in this new economy?
Motivation and experience certainly help but being bilingual can give you a clear advantage over other candidates. The ability to speak a second language has become a valuable asset as our society becomes increasingly diverse in the 21st century. From schools and hospitals to banks and tech companies, organizations around the world are aware of this cultural diversity and often seek out potential candidates who can meet the challenges of tomorrow.
Below are six ways bilingualism can benefit you in the professional world.
1. Increase your chances of getting hired
As the number of positions decreases and the number of applicants increases, employers are looking for additional qualifications that will make an applicant stand out from the crowd. Being bilingual is one of those qualifications. In fact, just last year, CNN Money named bilingualism as the hottest skill for job seekers.
Taking the time to learn a second language demonstrates a strong work ethic that is attractive to any employer. Businesses looking to reach customers around the globe will look favorably on an applicant who is not only culturally aware but has the requisite linguistic abilities that will benefit the company. Being able to read and write in a second language can make you even more attractive to potential employers.
2. Earn more money
Studies have shown that bilingual employees can earn between 5% and 20% more money per hour than those who speak only one language. Bilingual employees have a useful skill that can translate into increased revenue for the company, and as a result, some companies will compensate these employees accordingly. Reports have shown that pay differentials for bilingual workers can increase base hourly pay anywhere between 5-20% per hour.
3. Seek different job opportunities
Being able to speak a second language will also increase your employment options. A growing number of positions in many companies list second language abilities as a requirement. This automatically eliminates the majority of people who are not bilingual and means that there is less competition for those key jobs.
Healthcare is a growing field with excellent job prospects for the future and hospitals are constantly seeking doctors, nurses and technicians who speak a second language to meet the needs of patients of different cultures. If you work in customer service or as a sales representative, adding a second language to your list of skills will facilitate communication between you and your customers. If you are looking for a position in Public Relations, Human Resources or marketing, a second language could be very useful.
Furthermore, when you speak a second language you increase your chances of being hired by a foreign corporation. If your second language is French, imagine working for a French company looking to hire a native English speaker. International organizations like the United Nations look specifically for people who can speak several languages.
4. Bridge the cultural gap
An ability to communicate in a second language is valuable, but being able to relate to people from a different background is equally important. Being mindful and considerate of foreign customs and etiquette can go a long way to bridging the cultural gap. For example, shaking hands is a customary gesture in the western world to greet someone but if you travel to Asian countries, bowing might be more appropriate. In the United States we like to smile and make eye contact when introducing ourselves. In foreign countries, these gestures might be deemed unusual or even impolite in some circumstances. In France, it is customary to maintain a certain formality when addressing people by using “Monsieur” or “Madame” followed by the person’s last name, even those you have known for some time. Be aware of what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t and you will be more successful as a result.
Although this is not guaranteed, being bilingual increases your chances of being able to travel. This will be dependent on the company you work for and the nature of your work, but an opportunity to take a business trip to China if your second language is Chinese is one of the perks of bilingualism.
6. Take on a second job
If you’re looking to supplement your income or you want to improve your second language skills, you may consider becoming a translator, interpreter or teacher. As a certified translator, you’ll be able to translate written text into your target language and vice versa. As an interpreter, you’ll provide oral interpretation between two parties. You might find that teaching a second language is rewarding and one that gives you the chance to live in foreign countries.
What other benefits do you find bilingualism offers in the professional world? Share your comments below!