It’s 8 AM.
Gone are the days of missing your 11:00 class because you overslept.
This is culture! It’s one small aspect of a workplace culture:
- Does everybody stay until 8 PM as is the case in many high-powered careers?
- Do you have to be sitting at your desk by 8 AM? Or is it a more fluid schedule?
- Can you work from home?
- Do you have to go to work, but it’s flex-time?
Career Bliss posted last week about 5 Ways to Spot Bad Company Culture During a Job Interview that goes into some detail on what we mean by “company culture.” It can be casual v. formal, horizontal v. vertical management structure, hands-on v. hands-off management styles, highly-collaborative v. individual-focused, transparency v. secrecy. And, of course, it can be the culture of working hours.
As language students, you have to be ready to convey in your job search materials and interviews that your experiences with foreign languages and cultures qualify you to:
- identify workplace cultural norms. “I see that everyone is in the office from 8 to 5 with a one-hour lunch break.“
- to adapt to workplace cultural norms. “If I were employed here, I would be at my desk by 8 and leave by 5. If I wanted (or needed) to work more, I would do so from home.“
- to analyze the quality of the fit between you and a given workplace culture. “That’s a work day schedule that would really work for me.” OR “I can do that, but I will have to really work on it at first because I’m not accustomed to being anywhere so early in the morning.” OR “That’s not for me. I’ll have to find something else.“
- to be the envoy between one workplace and another (for example, the company’s international offices, clients, employees, or managers). “When I go abroad or make service calls locally, I will quickly identify their work day norms and comply with those for the duration of my visit.“
Be prepared to present specific, concise, detailed examples from your college experiences with languages and cultures that illustrate your cultural skills–both in writing and in interviewing/networking situations.
In the case of work schedules, this could be:
- a story about learning to interpret a public transit schedule and then conforming to whatever realities it presents.
- dealing with a class that always starts late or ends late.
- learning how the daily meal schedules worked in the home of your host family.
- adapting to appointment schedules in another country or culture.
Often these are funny stories that show how you messed up at first, but then learned from your mistake in such a way that you are able to apply it to your present situation.
Applying your previous experience to the job application process means being sure to connect those specific experiences with cultures to a given job & company you are interviewing with–“this means that for your company, I will be able to…[do something you know they need or want].”
These small, detailed examples such as work schedule might seem minor or unimportant, but the specificity of your examples will resonate with employers in a way that broad, sweeping generalizations (i.e. “I’m culturally competent“) will not.
Plus, it’s all little things–one little thing added to another, added to another that form an entire complex workplace culture. And it’s always some combination of these little things causing a culture clash that gets in the way of success. In some cases, it’s the clueless employee who can’t read the workplace culture well enough to arrive on time, leave on time, and prevent disruptions to work flow & productivity. You know the guy–the one who always shows up late for meetings and simply follows his own schedule instead of conforming to the schedule of the company culture.
The schedule of working hours is just one small example of workplace culture–you have to be ready to simultaneously process many cultural aspects of a professional environment, draw conclusions, present specific examples & connect them to the organization in question. Thanks to your language studies, that won’t be hard to do with a little forethought and preparation.
Darcy Lear is a Chicago-based career coach specializing in training students to highlight their language studies so they standout in the job search and workplace. For one-on-one coaching or to set up a workshop, contact Darcy: firstname.lastname@example.org