Mar 22, 2017

The Skill You Should Acquire To Land Your Next Job

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by Kaytie Zimmerman, Contributor

Business is more globally oriented than ever and while more countries are integrating English into their education system, employees that have language skills other than English are acquired at a premium, especially millennials.

According to the Modern Language Association, only 7% of American college students are enrolled in a language course. Further, the American Community Survey released by the Census Bureau in 2013 found that one in five American residents spoke a foreign language at home.

The numbers reflect the current reality. Most Americans do not have language skills. Even worse, there is evidence to suggest that candidates exaggerate their language skills on their resume, particularly among the millennial candidates. Babbel conducted a poll of 3,000 users and found that 20% of people under 45 exaggerate their language skills, while 8% of those over 45 did the same.

“I think that we see something different at work here,” said Markus Witte, CEO and cofounder of Babbel, a language-learning app. “Millennials recognize more than other generations that language skills will help them get ahead in the modern, globalized world of work. This strong appreciation for languages seems to be characteristic of millennials and sets them apart from other generations.”

There are few language skilled workers to fill positions that work globally. It’s also unlikely that there will be any competition any time soon.

According to Pew Research, the United States does not currently have any language course mandates in public schools. Not all schools even offer foreign language options and of those that do, the choices are not always applicable.

For example, I grew up in a school that only offered German as a foreign language elective. Because I wanted to stand out to colleges, I took German for three years. Unfortunately, though I’ve spent years working for a global company, I have not had the opportunity to use my German skills at all in business.

There is a fair portion of the American population who speak a second language at home, whether it is because their family is fluent in another language or because they have immigrated to the United States. However, there could be a discrepancy between the second language spoken by many Americans and the demand for language skills in global business. For example, many Americans speak Spanish fluently, but depending upon the industry, when working with Latin America, a company could be searching for Portuguese abilities in order to work with Brazil, as opposed to Spanish for other countries.

“In today’s economy, being able to communicate in another language can get you a step ahead in the workforce,” said Samya A. France, Director of Public Relations for Ignite Visibility, an online marketing agency. “Having the ability to connect with people from multiple countries is an advantageous skill for any employee that can be very attractive for companies.”

Having language skills puts a millennial candidate ahead of others, not just because of their ability to communicate abroad, but because it often comes with deeper cultural understanding of the country in which the company is doing business.

“As the world is becoming more globalized, it is more important than ever for people to not only be bilingual, but bicultural, so that they may understand how to make genuine connections with others,” said Simon Tam, Marketing Director at Oregon Environmental Council, an environmental policy and advocacy organization. “Whether it is a customer base, potential donors, or even other staff members, it allows people to be more effective in terms of leveraging their influence.”

While researching this topic, I saw countless stories of millennials who landed jobs thanks to their language skills. Here are a couple great examples.

“I picked up Spanish in high school but really got to know the language and culture when I spent almost seven years working with at-risk communities in Mexico and along the border,” shared Tam. “Years later, when I was working at sales in a roofing company, the owner found out that I was fluent in Spanish because he overheard me speaking with the roofing crews. Because I had developed such rapport with the employees, he invited me in to run the company and I helped build it to become one of the largest roofing contractors in the Northwest.”

“From my first job out of college to my current job now, I can say that Spanish language skills have helped me land every opportunity I’ve had for more than 12 years.” Evan Berquist, Business Attorney at Cozen O’Connor, an international law firm.

If you don’t have language skills, you may be kicking yourself, wondering how to get that edge in the marketplace. The good news is that there are resources like Babbel that can help you learn the skills you need.

“Our generation has more resources, where we can start learning languages with apps or online, and millennials have potentially had the most accessibility to university study abroad programs,” said Laura Shubel, Senior Account Coordinator, Caster Communications, a public relations, marketing and social media agency. “Access to languages, world cultures and ability to speak with those in another language more easily are all advantages that millennials have, which might have given us an edge.”

Millennials that have language skills should use them to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace, while those without language skills should look to acquire them. The reasons for this are because of the number of companies that work globally that require language ability, as well as cultural awareness. Apps like Babbel make it possible for millennials to gain these skills, no longer making it necessary to get into a classroom or travel abroad to level up.

Original source: Forbes

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