As one small part of the course, students in the Spanish for the Professions class I taught this spring had to bring a draft of their English-language resumes to class.
Because most, if not all, students will apply for jobs in the U.S. and will therefore need English-language resumes for the search process.
BUT language and cultures skills are also very important to include on your resume. This is one of the many areas where the resume has to show, not tell. You can’t just list languages (or any other skills); instead, your resume has to show how you used your language skills, preferably in some sort of professional or quasi-professional context.
Let’s look at specific examples. A typical first draft of a resume lists skills without any explanation of the candidate’s proficiency or illustrations of how the candidate deployed those skills. This is NOT ideal:
COMPUTER: Proficient in Microsoft Office, PLEX ERP system
LANGUAGES: English, Spanish
In every case, the skills listed above should be highlighted elsewhere on the resume. Take the example of Microsoft Office: what projects were executed using Excel? What special features of Excel were used? Did you create a database, fill it in with stats acquired from a certain source and then generate a pie chart, line graph, and bar graph? Explain that in one or two lines under a subheading that provides the specific context (a course, a club, a volunteer project, a job) within a broader heading that is richer than “Skills;” for example: “Professional Experience” or “Technological Applications.” It might looks something like this:
Rowing Club of University X
Used Excel to create and maintain database of 350 members, dues paid, and events participation; presented 3 graphs that tracked growth at quarterly meetings
The same goes for languages: how did you use your language skills? Provide a specific example that illustrates what you can do with the foreign language. That will tell employers a lot about what they could expect you to do for them in that language. For my students in the spring 2018 Spanish for the Professions course, they could put something like this on their resume to illustrate how they had used their Spanish skills in real-world, quasi-professional contexts while also highlighting some of the tech skills they acquired:
- Researched, collected data on resources and needs of Hispanic community within Metro-Detroit, and created a website entirely in Spanish: https://desireersmith.weebly.com
- Read, summarized, and analyzed 25 Spanish-language articles, videos, and podcasts on law and human rights
The above entry gives a rich example that is far superior to “SKILLS: Spanish.” Anyone reading it can quickly understand that this student can do the following: design a website, conduct research, and add content all in Spanish–that’s a lot of tech and language skills to illustrate in 20 words + one URL. Any interested employer can then go to the URL and see the graphic design, the content of the research project, and the format of the blog.
The second entry speaks to the professional content the student researched: law and human rights. In a job interview, this could be the jumping off point for a conversation about legal issues in the Spanish-speaking world and what that candidate knows, both about the Spanish language and media content in the legal realm.
What technology do you use in your language courses? At a minimum, you probably use an online learning system from the textbook publisher and a campus learning management system. Can you illustrate broader tech skills on a resume using these as examples? What assignments or projects can you describe in a brief resume entry that shows or illustrates your language skills and what you can do with the language?
Darcy Lear is a career coach specializing in academic writing, job search documents, professional school applications, and interview preparation. She is the author of the forthcoming volume from Georgetown University Press, “Integrating Career Preparation into Language Courses,” which includes a chapter on digital skills building. To schedule a campus workshop or for help navigating your career transition, contact Darcy: firstname.lastname@example.org