WES Advisor Blog

Trusted Advice for Academic and Professional Success

Leveraging Your Language Skills for Corporate Career Success

Wednesday | December 21, 2016 | by Shaunna-Marie Kerr

People practicing language skills for an interview

In a global economy, employers are increasingly looking for employees who can contribute skills that can help expand their operations to diverse audiences from around the world. With this factor in mind, make sure to market your language skills in your application before applying for a new job.

Consider Your Language Skills

While English is the main language of business in Canada and the United States (U.S.), many companies have important business exchanges with contacts from all over the world. Within Canada and the U.S., there is a constant need for multilingual employees in businesses and organizations that cater to non-English speaking clients or members. If you entered a community health centre or a supermarket located in a neighbourhood with a large population of immigrants before, then you know that English sometimes is not the only language displayed on the posters and flyers inside. This is one example of a scenario where your multilingual skills could help people. If you can show potential employers that your language skills can help achieve their goals, you will be one step closer to career success.

Increase Your Earning Power

With a growing number of international trade and free trade agreements, being able to communicate in more than one language can be extremely lucrative. Being able to understand how business is conducted in different parts of the world, in addition to having the language skills to carry out business across the globe, maximizes your earning power.

Industries In Demand

The need for multilingual employees will vary based on where a particular company operates and who their key partners are. However, there are certain industries with a higher demand for this need which include: information and communications technology, finance, and manufacturing. In Canada and the U.S., these industries have the highest need for workers who can speak Hindi, Bengali, Marathi and Urdu, as well as Cantonese and Mandarin. Because many companies in these fields have operations in India and China, they value employees who can speak these languages in addition to English.

Non-profits, community organizations, and government agencies that serve and communicate with diverse populations also place a high value on multilingual employees.

Additional Benefits

In many cases, even if you do not have to communicate in a language other than English in your professional life, there are positive associations with speaking multiple languages. In general, people who are multilingual are viewed as having greater abilities in a variety of hard and soft skills. Learning to speak a language that is different from your mother tongue can show that you are curious, ambitious and resourceful. Speaking more than one language could also show that you can bring multiple perspectives on a subject matter.

Panos Athanasopolous, a psycholinguist at Lancaster University who has been leading a recent study on bilinguals, says, “By having another language, you have an alternative vision of the world. You can listen to music from only one speaker, or you can listen in stereo … It’s the same with language.”

At the very least, it suggests that you are flexible and more able to adapt to different situations than someone who is fluent in only one language.

English language skills are essential in the Canadian and U.S. workplace, but there are significant benefits to being fluent in additional languages. The ability to read, write, and speak in multiple languages is something you should be proud of. Before you submit your next résumé to a prospective employer, highlight your language abilities and the ways they can benefit the company to make your application stand out.

Shaunna-Marie Kerr

Shaunna-Marie Kerr is a Senior Manager at WES Global Talent Bridge Canada.