One of the most daunting aspects of entering the job market is effectively presenting your background and skills on your resume, cover letter, and in interviews. In addition to highlighting your proficiency with specific platforms and tools, you should also think about how other experiences, even ones you may take for granted, can advance your career.
However 20% of Americans are bilingual and able to hold conversations in more than one language, they may not have access to opportunities designed to use this skill. According to Diana Sanchez-Vega, a career coach who specializes in helping multilingual candidates land jobs, companies can better reach multilingual candidates by being clearer in their job descriptions and openly designating fluency in languages other than English as a skill.
Sanchez-Vega, who also works as a consultant for organizations, compares multilingualism to a computer skill that requires specific knowledge of software, which means it must be properly compensated. “The way for organizations to reach out to these people is to say, ‘we value your language skills as much as we value other skills,’” says Sanchez-Vega.
If you are someone who speaks multiple languages, you can leverage this skill to get a remote job working in international markets or interacting with non-English speaking populations. Here are some tips for leveraging your multilingual skills in the job market or getting a promotion in your current position:
Specify your skill level
Sanchez-Vega says you should include the languages you know at the top of your resume and specify which language(s) you speak natively, as well as your varying levels of proficiency in other languages.
For areas such as Medication or in academia, you may need to pass specific exams to prove your language skills. Sanchez-Vega says that for her clients, she doesn’t focus on their exceptionally advanced level of reading comprehension, but rather prioritizes their ability to hold a conversation and build rapport. However, she says that to be a translator in more regulated areas of health and education, you would need a third-party skills assessment. For example, she says a nurse who wants to play a “dual role” with English-speaking and Spanish-speaking patients should take an exam.
When compiling your resume, you should highlight projects and instances where you have used your bilingual skills to give companies a clearer picture of how this can benefit employers. Alejandra Mielke, a career coach specializing in Latinx candidates, says someone who has been able to conduct interviews in multiple languages should clearly state this, as it’s a skill that could easily be put to use in the workplace. .
Reframe your experience
Although knowing how to speak and write in two languages is a technical skill, it can also be reframed more broadly, as it allows you to understand other cultures. “Having access to two communication systems goes beyond language; this includes culture,” says Mielke. “In addition to being able to speak, write and read two languages, you also have access to two cultures.”
In your job interview or your cover letter, you can present your multilingualism as something that can be used in practice, but also as a lived experience that has influenced your view of the world and the way you interact with people. . Mielke says bilingual or multilingual individuals should be sure to indicate whether they have worked abroad on their cover letter, as those experiences can also indicate knowledge of multiple cultures.
Sanchez-Vega also says people who have emigrated to the United States should use their resumes to share their story of integrating into American society and list previous international roles in chronological order. This could help you explain career gaps, while painting a fuller picture of who you are as a job candidate.
Dr. Sajani Barot, a pharmacist and founder of The Skin Consult, a virtual skincare platform, says she has been able to apply her knowledge of Hindi and Gujarati throughout her career. When she started out as a pharmacist, she was able to help patients who spoke these languages. And now, as an entrepreneur, she is using her skills to connect with workers in India’s growing IT outsourcing industry.
As the talent becomes more and more outsourced, knowing how to switch between cultures and languages can be useful, especially in the technology sector. Andres Garcia, co-founder and CTO of healthcare software company Florence Healthcare, is a native Spanish speaker who learned English and Portuguese. His linguistic background has helped him connect better with the teams Florence Healthcare works with who may not be fluent in English.
“I feel like being a bilingual person…I have empathy for a remote team that’s not native to English,” he says. “They do business with us in English and I am aware of the effort it takes.”
Find opportunities and leverage your skills for compensation
To find multilingual opportunities, candidates must continually network on LinkedIn across industries, Mielke says. Once you’ve found a multilingual opportunity, you need to make sure you’re getting paid properly.
By researching the value of your translation skills and backing up your claims with data, you can convincingly justify your target salary. After you get the job, you need to make sure the company sticks to the job description and sets appropriate boundaries. For example, you are not suddenly a cultural ambassador, unless it was specified before.
“Unless you were raised as an expert in marketing to multicultural or diverse markets, your job [as a culturally diverse employee] is not to explain how members of your cultural group think or act, for example,” says Mielke. “Your company should respect your job description and not assume that someone from a culturally diverse group will be the translator, interpreter, or expert on that culture just because that person is a member of that group.”
As remote work becomes the new norm for many the fields, companies need people who can communicate with others. “Now that we are working remotely, I find communication to be even more essential,” says Dr Barot, “having people who [are bilingual and] also understand [different cultures] can really make communication much easier.