How to boost your employability by learning a language

Learning a language

It’s fairly obvious that foreign language skills are a desirable feature on anyone’s CV, but do they actually make you any more employable? In an increasingly global world, where business, trade and knowledge transfer have few boundaries, the answer is an unequivocal yes.

Less than a quarter of Britons can hold a conversation in a foreign language, although even that sounds optimistic. Many of us lose our language skills after school even if we excelled on the French exchange trip. If that sounds like you then here are three reasons to claw those skills back.

Language skills will make your CV stand out

If you’re up for a job against equally qualified candidates an extra language is sure to boost your chances. Not only can it be useful for organisations to have staff with language skills but also the ability to simply change tongues indicates versatility, perseverance and cultural awareness. Whilst you’re learning a new language you can still list this on your CV as a hobby or work in progress to show that you enjoy learning and are proactive with personal development. Just be careful not to overstate your skills because you could get caught out.

You can build relationships overseas and increase business

Language skills are essential for many roles in international firms whether you work in sales or market research. Organisations appreciate any employee who can communicate with contacts and clients overseas as it opens up a whole new market. Although many of the clients you come into contact with from overseas might speak English, it’s always nice to use their native language if you can. Some basic language lessons also gives you more cultural awareness, for example, if you need to travel to China for work you might not need to speak fluent Mandarin, but by knowing it’s a tonal language you could cope by parroting a phrase book if required.

You can work abroad

Learning a language fluently opens up your options considerably because you could go and work abroad. Whether you want a fresh start or simply a year away, working abroad could change your life, offering the chance to immerse yourself in another culture. Working abroad is also a great way to improve your language skills further and particularly useful if the move is short-term and you want to boost career prospects for your return.

Learning a language or improving on skills you already have does take perseverance but doesn’t have to be a chore. Think carefully about which language is best for you and research the job opportunities available with different organisations. You could do a count of the desirable and essential language skills listed on person specifications for jobs currently advertised as a way to focus your learning. You might find that Italian comes fairly easily to you if you already know French, or basic Danish could be acquired in just a few weeks if you already know Norwegian.

Learning a language is progressive so you can build on skills at your own pace. It’s also easy to fit language learning around your own schedule with a range of daytime and evening language classes available, plus the help of websites and apps for independent learning. Most importantly, enjoy it! The brain works best when you’re relaxed so trying too hard may be counterproductive. Choose a language you find interesting, plus some great people to learn alongside you and you’ll soon be chatting to them in another tongue.

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