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What can you do to increase your chances of landing a job in the new, globalized 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, a few years ago CNN Money named bilingualism 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
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.
Languages are in demand in nearly every industry, from public relations and human resources to engineering and marketing. Supplementing technical skills (coding, statistics, medicine, and so on) with language skills positions job seekers to fill niche positions. One recent graduate, for example, leveraged his Spanish and Portuguese skills to land a job at Facebook—but he’s no translator. Miller is a data scientist who will combine his language skills with his math and statistics knowledge to analyze data from Facebook’s Latin American mobile phone partners.
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.
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 (or relocate) to China if your second language is Chinese is one of the perks of bilingualism.
That’s exactly the case for one Dublin native who moved to China to serve as a brand ambassador for Irish whiskey brand Jameson. She combines her experience in commerce with her Mandarin skills to develop promotion strategies and and plan events in Shanghai.
5. 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, the same Jameson brand ambassador has been able to identify and work around a very important cultural difference:
“Doing business here can also be difficult to adjust to at first. Chinese philosophy, “Confucianism”, can play major roles in doing business in China. There is a concept called guanxi, which is the relationships between people. From experience, I have found that people often say yes to things to be polite, even if they don’t want to commit there and then, and this can lead to misinterpretation.”
Linguistic and cultural knowledge helps employees be aware of what behavior is acceptable, which can result in more successful business partnerships.
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.
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