Did you know that most Europeans have, at minimum, bilingual skills and can carry on a conversation or do business in at least one other language? According to the U.K. newspaper, The Guardian, “over half of Europeans (54%) are able to hold a conversation in at least one additional language, a quarter (25%) are able to speak at least two additional languages and one in ten (10%) are conversant in at least three. ” On the other hand, most Americans speak only English – and not all that well, as I observed throughout my career in HR and as an English instructor!
But if you are among the 20% of Americans who do speak a language other than English, having bilingual skills could impact your job search big time.
Data collected by Olivet Nazarene University reveals that bilingual skills in two languages are coveted by employers – Spanish and Mandarin. The University’s study utilized data from Indeed, SimplyHired and Link Up to conclude that employers seeking to fill customer service, medical, sales representative and most service jobs seek bilingual employees speaking either of those languages. The study also offers an infographic that breaks down bilingual job opportunity by state.
But there are advantages for bilingual skills in other fields and locations. Major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago, have hundreds of small businesses owned and operated by immigrants who serve their local ethnic communities; they are eager to hire employees who can help their customers in their home languages. And in a global economy, U.S-based businesses actively seek employees who can speak the native language of countries where they have a local presence.
Earlier today, I was speaking to a client from Portugal who manages a company in Angola, and who speaks Spanish, English, French and Portuguese (duh) fluently. When I mentioned that all he was missing is Mandarin, he told me he just accepted a contract role in China, where he would add Mandarin to his skill set. This is one employable person.
On the other hand, a recent client living in NYC and working in finance, speaks Macedonian. Not a huge demand for Macedonian speakers, so we left that off his resume. But here in NYC, and in Miami, there are more jobs posted where Spanish is a requirement or at least a preference than not. But other than really obscure languages, jobs that involve working with large immigrant populations, such as medicine, law, social work, or academia will value an employee who speaks the language used by most of their clientele.
Want help showcasing your bilingual skills in your resume? Let’s talk