White woman in T-shirt laying on couch with Spanish grammar book open on face

How Knowing a Foreign Language Can Help Your Career

Here are five reasons why knowing a foreign language can help your postgrad career. If you don't know a second language already, now is a great time to learn.

After a dismal few years, college grads are finally starting to see more job openings available across the country. To a bright and eager college graduate with thousands of dollars of student loan debt, a lackluster salary is less enticing. So how do show that you’re worthy of an awesome career and an awesome salary to go with it? This is when having a foreign language on your résumé can come in handy. Why? It’s a unique experience that makes you stand out. In fact, it might even indicate that you’re more prepared for a job. If you can show you have special skills or are fluent in a second (or third) language, you’re immediately more valuable than other applicants. If you don’t know a second language already, now is a great time to learn, whether by taking classes through your college or learning on your own. Here are five reasons why knowing a foreign language can help your post-college career.  

You could earn higher wages

You’re not guaranteed to earn higher wages by being bilingual; a lot of that depends on the career path you choose. However, according to The Economist, college graduates who speak a second language can expect to earn up to $128,000 more in their lifetimes than their peers who speak only one language. Depending on the rarity and demand of the language you speak, that figure may rise or fall. This is because speaking a second language allows you to work with a wider range of people. You bridge the langage gap, effectively bringing in more business for whatever company hires you. 

Related: 4 Smart Tips for Women to Negotiate Salary

You’ll demonstrate initiative

Understanding a second language is one thing—being able to give presentations and send emails in it is another. If you can speak, write, and read a foreign language fluently, it shows initiative. This is particularly true if you elected to study the language, whether in college/high school or on your own time. But it also applies to individuals who grew up in a bilingual household. Sean Hopwood, President of Day Translations, is a language lover and polyglot. He only hires people who are bilingual or multilingual to work in his firm, no matter what the role. “Learning a language, especially when you haven’t grown up in a bilingual house or live in a culture dominated by English, shows tremendous initiative. I just know that employee is going to go one step above the other applicants.”

You’ll have more career opportunities

Speaking two or three languages may not give students two or three times the opportunities in their careers, but it certainly increases their options! Some jobs are completely language orientated, like translation and interpretation. But even among those that are not, knowing a foreign language can improve your chances of being hired by multinational organizations and in different countries. So, if you’re a computer programmer and you’re fluent in German, you could be transferred to your tech company’s overseas office in Berlin. If you want to get into law or diplomacy, knowing Latin and French will boost your chances, because of the ubiquitous nature of those languages. Even if you want to stay in the United States, knowing Spanish will be incredibly helpful, with the Hispanic population set to triple in size over the coming years.

Related: Learning a Foreign Language: Top Tips for Students

You’ll be more capable

Employers are always seeking workers who can think faster and make difficult decisions. Emotional intelligence can help you make the right judgment calls, which is why it’s a critical skill that many companies and hiring managers look for. And guess what? Learning a language can help you develop it! It’s also been well documented that being bilingual is a sign of intelligence and is even good for your mental health. So, if you speak another language, your job application just went to the top of the pile.

You’ll have a unique icebreaker

We’ve all been there. That awkward moment when you walk into the job interview, sweaty palms and dry throat. But imagine your interviewer scanning your résumé and then suddenly saying, “Oh, I see you speak French! I spent a semester studying abroad in Paris in college. The Champs-Élysées was my favorite!” Of course, the level of enthusiasm will vary with your interviewer. But even if you’re not talking to someone with a penchant for overseas travel, knowing a foreign language is a unique skill that can lead to unique conversations during job interviews as a recent grad and throughout your career.

Related: Your First Job Interview: Before, During, and After

So, college students, consider trading that hour of Netflix for an hour spent learning a second language—maybe even third or fourth language. Apart from the fact that it’s just awesome to be able to speak in another tongue, adding a language to your résumé will give you an edge in your career. And when you’re just starting out, you need all the advantages you can get.

If you want a great program to study a language, check out this list of schools Where Foreign Language PhDs Received Their Undergraduate Degrees.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Tags:
career search careers foreign language job search languages transferable skills

About Tina Mulqueen

Tina Mulqueen is a public relations, social media, and influencer marketing brand strategist. She is the founder of Kindred PR, a contributor to Elite Daily, and the Producer & Co-Host of The Unicorn in the Room. She is interested in entrepreneurship, the future of digital marketing, and the crossroads of technology, media, and entertainment.

 

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo

$10,000

Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Leah Maciel

Leah Maciel

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me with all aspects of applying for college. The website is extremely easy to navigate and gives access to so many resources. I was able to research all of the colleges I was interested in, find out any information I wished to know about, and keep them organized in a list. I've also been able to research scholarships and save them as resources for later. I've used many websites in my college and scholarship search, and CollegeXpress has by far been my favorite one to use.

Yuhlani Patterson

Yuhlani Patterson

None

CollegeXpress has helped me find so many scholarships that fit me. They match me to colleges I have specific interest in to make searching for colleges way easier and more efficient. CollegeXpress refers me to schools that have my major of interest and backup schools if I want to change my mind. CollegeXpress also gives out their own scholarships, so you have even more of a chance at gaining multiple scholarships. This website has helped me de-stress from the pressure of not being able to afford college, [of finding] what schools are right for me, and how to find easy access to scholarships that most people never knew existed.

Jenna

Jenna

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me greatly during my college search. I used their college search feature often and it helped in comparing schools I was looking at. Now that I’ve found a college the scholarship search feature is helping me find a way to find my college experience. CollegeXpress has many helpful features and resources for anyones college search, it truly is a wonderful tool for anyone entering college level!

Ruth Aguilar

Ruth Aguilar

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me by providing me with many scholarship opportunities and information about universities I want to attend. What I love about CollgeXpress is how it provides a variety of information, and as the first child attending a university next year, it has been very essential and helpful. I’m so grateful for this because the information provided by CollegeXpress has also helped me see that there are so many college opportunities, and it always informs me by email. In other words, CollegeXpress has been like a guide for me as a future college student.

Mataya Mann

Mataya Mann

High School Class of 2022

To say that CollegeXpress is a helpful tool would be an understatement as it is much more than that. Before finding CollegeXpress, all I knew was that I wanted to go to college, it was going to be insanely expensive, and I felt lost. CollegeXpress has given me access to resources such as helpful tips for applications and scholarship [opportunities], and helped guide me in a direction where I feel confident moving forward and pursuing a career. CollegeXpress has helped instill a spark in me that makes me want to continue and supports me in doing so.

College Matches