Use Your Language Experiences to Land a New Job

officeYesterday I posed the challenge to think of how you could use your foreign language classes, study abroad, service learning, or volunteer work to demonstrate some of the skills’s article said employers want.  

Today, let’s consider some possible answers:’s article on Why Landing a New Job Requires More than a Good Resume doesn’t mention the importance of language study.  But you can use experiences from your language classes, study abroad, service learning, or volunteer work to be the stand out candidate who lands a new job.

For example, two of the five things the post says employers want are employees who:

Can communicate effectively and professionally.

Understand and can demonstrate appropriate behavior in a variety of situations.

Let’s think of some examples to show that you can communicate effectively and professionally:

1-Think of a time when you had to scramble in order to successfully communicate across two languages and multiple cultural contexts.

2-Now condense that into a 2-3 sentence story that illustrates effective, professional communication.

3-Then practice it so you could deliver it in an interview.

What kinds of experiences can you use for this?

It may be a time you had to act something out, re-word something, or write something down in order to successfully communicate.

It may be a time you took a phone message in Spanish so that the caller did not get passively turned away.

Or perhaps you stepped in to interpret in a medical situation.  

Maybe you prepared printed materials in another language that allowed an organization to communicate with more people in more languages.  

Any of these things can be developed into examples that demonstrate you behave resourcefully under pressure in order to effectively communicate. And the fact that they seem like small things is good–you need those small, detailed specific examples to illustrate that you actually possess those skills. It is not enough to simply state that you possess “communication skills”. But it is too much to tell a long, complicated hard-to-explain story. It has to be short & sweet, yet specific & detailed. Something seemingly “small” is perfect for that!

Now on to examples that show you understand and can demonstrate appropriate behavior in a variety of situations.

1-Think of a time in a language class or when you were abroad or simply in a cultural context outside of your comfort zone.  

2-How did you observe and synthesize the cues to received from others around you to behave appropriately?

3-Build your anecdote around this (and practice it, of course!)

It may be something as simple as noticing how to properly greet people in a professional context and then adapting: handshake? hug? wave? bow? Is it different depending on a person’s age, status, or gender?  

Maybe it’s the etiquette of using the copy machine.  

Maybe you worked in a restaurant where you had to behave one way in the front of the house with the customers, another with the English-speaking staff, and another with the Spanish-speaking staff.  

That’s adaptability!   You can behave different ways in different contexts and yet always be appropriate. Employers need to know that they can trust you and trust your judgement. And you can use your multilingual and multicultural experiences to show them that you are the person for the job!


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