Is multilingual communication the key to job search success? Embracing such changes in the job market can help you find your next career opportunity.
Searching for a new job can be challenging, especially in today’s complex job market. Companies receive dozens, hundreds, or thousands of resumes for every posting, and it’s difficult to stand out from the crowd of other applicants.
And with businesses, even small ones, able to reach multinational markets with ease thanks to the unprecedented opportunities brought about by remote work, competition for jobs is now global and fierce.
But one element is gradually emerging as a key differentiating factor for those seeking their dream job: speaking different languages. Multilingual communication in today’s job market could truly be the answer to online job search success.
How? Let’s find out.
What Does It Mean to Be Multilingual?
Someone who is multilingual can speak multiple languages other than only their native language. They either learned multiple languages throughout childhood, or they sought out education later in life.
Generally, people who speak two languages are referred to as bilingual, but multilingual can be used interchangeably in this case. Multilingualism encompasses bilingualism and the ability to speak even more than two languages.
Multilingualism doesn’t Necessarily mean perfect command of multiple languages, so don’t worry if you can’t answer a complicated question like “What is a YAML file?” in English, Spanish, and French.
Multilingualism does mean someone speaks more than one language fluently. They can speak, write, and understand each language with a high level of proficiency, well enough to communicate with native speakers.
What Are the Personal Advantages of Multilingualism?
Your job is only part of your day so before we get into job hunting, let’s look at how multilingual communication is a skill that can benefit every aspect of your life.
Language is how we perceive, analyse, and categorise the world around us. The more information we learn and process, the more our worldview expands. Knowing more than one language gives us a larger vocabulary to perceive our environment.
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For example, you might read a news article about something awful happening and feel a deep sadness for the state of the world and a sense of doom about things to come. In English, we can only describe this feeling in vague terms, but if you happened to learn German, you know you’re experiencing Weltschmerz, which combines the words “welt” (world) and “schmerz” (pain).
That’s one small example of how cross-cultural communication can help you perceive the world in new and empathetic ways.
A recent study on how bilingualism affects sustained attention found evidence that being multilingual can increase a person’s attention span.
From the study:
This study examined the effect of bilingualism on the neural correlates of sustained attention, which is necessary for learning and completing day-to-day activities. Our results provide neural evidence that speaking multiple languages shapes the way non-verbal sounds are processed.
Since most tasks require some kind of prolonged attention span, anything we can do to improve ours is a benefit in multiple areas of our lives.
In general, being multilingual helps you be a better communicator because you can converse with people in other languages.
If you travel a lot, live in a multicultural location, or work remotely with a global team, you have a huge advantage over someone who is monolingual.
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Language acquisition can improve a person’s overall cognitive functions. A 2021 paper on The Effect of Bilingualism and Multilingualism on Academic Behavior showed that being bilingual makes you a better learner.
Because holding multiple languages in the brain simultaneously can lead to confusion, a multilingual person’s brain develops control structures to improve focus and inhibition to compensate. The brain becomes better at regulation, concentration, and flexibility.
And even more exciting, this neural improvement can also slow the onset of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. From a Northwestern University interview with psycholinguist and author Viorica Marian:
One of the most striking recent discoveries in the neuroscience of multilingualism is that knowing more than one language delays Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia by four to six years. The constant juggling of two or more languages creates a more interconnected neural network that compensates functionally for anatomical deterioration.
That alone might be a good enough reason to consider learning a foreign language.
What Are the Benefits of Multilingual Communications in Business?
If you’re job hunting, it’s important to understand why businesses might be seeking multilingual communicators.
As we mentioned earlier, remote work allows companies to hire from a global talent pool. This means that many workforces consist of people from all over the world.
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Businesses want to facilitate effective communication between their remote employees. The technology is there – unified communication software, collaborative software like Frame.io competitors, and so on. But technology can only do so much when everyone communicates in their national language.
This means that the ability to communicate multilingually is a growing must-have for multinational teams.
Providing goods and services to a global audience has never been easier. The internet allows us to reach multinational customers, technology like apps and software can be uploaded and downloaded anywhere, and global shipping is simpler and more cost-effective than ever.
Businesses want access to those global markets, and that means they need to be able to communicate with global customers, in different languages.
Take customer service as an example. If an important overseas client reaches out to customer service but can’t explain their problem and get a workable solution from someone who doesn’t speak their language, that client might feel upset, frustrated, and disappointed. What is a virtual call center without staff who can help everyone?
Businesses that hire multilingual staff, therefore, are better positioned to grow and retain their global client base.
Increased Diversity Throughout Countries
Human beings have always been a wayfaring folk. Historically, we’ve traveled and settled wherever our feet take us, and that is even truer today.
Countries are filled with immigrants, expats, refugees, backpackers, and work travelers. Companies in major cities especially have a lot of diversity. People speaking different languages often become part of the same workforce, even if that workforce isn’t technically multinational.
Language barriers can impede company success and create confusion and misunderstanding between employees. To foster a better working environment, it’s easy to see why companies want to hire multilingual candidates.
Businesses also service national customers with a variety of languages. So if a company operates an inbound calling solution for customer service, it will need multilingual communicators to staff it.
The Importance of Multilingual Communication for Job Success
Standing Out in a Competitive Job Market
Multilingual communication looks great on a resume for all the reasons we’ve talked about already.
In a competitive, global job market where businesses can hire from the entire planet, knowing multiple languages can improve your odds of being noticed.
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A company might not state multilingualism as a requirement for the job, but think of it this way. Say a company is hiring for a customer communication role. Dozens or hundreds of applicants have the right skills for the role, so hiring teams are going to start looking at soft skills to tip the scales. Who amongst their applicants has the most unique and advantageous soft skills?
Being multilingual is one of the most in-demand soft skills, and could just be the one that tips the scales in your favor.
Widening Your Options
Being multilingual widens your job search considerably. After all, if you speak only one language, you can only apply for jobs in your native country amongst your native language speakers.
Being multilingual allows you to apply for jobs in other countries, whether you’re looking for remote work or planning a big move overseas. Your job market is much bigger.
And even if you’re looking for jobs closer to home, language acquisition can open up a lot of new opportunities.
Jobs like language teaching, interpretation, and translation require multilingual communication, and companies often struggle to find candidates for these roles since the language requirements are so strict. One of these jobs could be the career change you’re looking for!
Higher Earning Potential
What is a hosted call center‘s average salary for a customer service representative? What if that company wants to grow and support a global audience with multilingual staff?
Employees who speak more than one language earn between 5% and 20% more than their monolingual counterparts. Multinational organizations will invest more into multilingual employees because without them, it’s difficult to expand beyond their home borders.
How Can You Become Multilingual?
If you weren’t lucky enough to learn multiple languages during childhood, there are lots of ways you can learn a new language as an adult, such as:
- Checking your local colleges for language courses
- Looking for online colleges that offer language courses (using remote assist software, anyone can access online courses, personal tutors, and education aids)
- Using apps like Duolingo and Babbel, many of which are free
- Travelling and immersing yourself in different cultures.
Whether it takes you a few months or a few years, learning a new language is a worthy pursuit.
Multilingual communication: the key to job search success?
Multilingual communication is a facet of the changing world.
Businesses want multilingual employees, allowing them to reach, support, and retain a diverse and global audience. And that’s not to mention the personal benefits to attention span, communication, and cognitive function.
Becoming a multilingual communicator looks great on a resume and can truly improve your everyday life. So, consider learning a new language for your future job search success.