Speak up: Foreign Language Skills can Translate Into a Great Career
With the increasing diversity of the U.S. population and an ever-expanding global economy, demand for bilingual workers is strong.
The nation's economy relies heavily on different cultures interconnected by telephone, satellites and computers, so now more than ever companies are looking to add employees with foreign language skills to their ranks.
For those looking to separate themselves from the crowd of candidates in a specific field, picking up a second language can be just the thing to propel you to the front of the pack, says William Aruda, co-author of "Career Distinction: Stand Out by Building Your Brand" (Wiley, $21.95).
Set yourself apart
"Foreign language skills make you interesting and attractive, "Aruda says. "Knowing a foreign language shows that you are curious about other cultures or that you have a connection to another culture. When your credentials are identical to other candidates, having foreign language skills can help sway the hiring manager in your direction."
The need for workers who speak multiple languages is widespread and includes a variety of industries, including banking and finance, sales, customer service, travel and tourism, education, and healthcare, among others. All of the large automation companies have expanded abroad and are eager to hire those with their ideal of combined technical and language skills.
The need for bilingual real estate agents has grown substantially as more Americans become homebuyers, says Mark Scott, vice president of marketing for HomeBanc Mortgage Corp.
"While many Hispanic Americans do speak English and speak it well, for many it is not their first language, and they would prefer to undertake the complicated home-purchase process in their native language," Scott says. "Thus, I think you'll find that in real estate professions - mortgage bankers, real estate agents and brokers - those who speak Spanish can really leverage that skill."
The federal government is also a big employer of bilingual workers in areas such as the Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, armed forces and the Department of State.
According to the official Department of State Web site: "There is no foreign language requirement to join the Foreign Service. However, the State Department welcomes applicants who are proficient in one or more foreign language. Those who pass the Oral Assessment can raise their ranking on the List of Eligible Hires. They can take the test in any foreign language used by the State Department."
While highlighting your language skills on a resume is essential, don't exaggerate when describing your proficiency. Inflating your ability to speak a language could come back to haunt you during the job interview, says Anna Ivey, former dean of admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and author of "The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions" (Harvest Books, $14).
"Job seekers absolutely should show off their language skills, but they have to be brutally honest about their competency." Ivey says. "Don't call yourself fluent if you can't easily conduct an interview in that language, because some interviewers will test your skill."
Resource: News & Observer - CareerBuilder - June 3, 2007