There has rarely been a harder time for recent graduates to enter the job market. Unfortunately, higher education is no longer enough to access the job of your dreams – with the astounding level of competitiveness in the current job market, you need the right combination of academic background, experience and soft skills to really set yourself apart.
In this context, it has never been more important to make your CV shine the brightest and studying a language abroad is an excellent way to do it.
Why do companies need language skills?
The European Commission’s Languages mean business website gives 10 tips for SMEs who want to make the most out of the European Union. Number five is:
Recruit staff with proven language skills
In the globalised business world, international communication skills are a real asset. Recruit people who have invested in and then updated these skills and who are not afraid to use them.
This is supported by empirical research. A study called PIMLICO that was commissioned by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Education and Culture looked at 40 selected companies around the continent and how they approached multilingualism:
“The 40 selected companies’ profile demonstrates significant advantages: 43% reported to have increased their turnover by more than 25% by introducing a strategy with new languages. An additional 30% put the increase in terms of trade at 16-25% of turnover.”
In the UK, the National Centre for Languages estimates that British industry’s lack of language skills currently costs around 5% of potential overseas trade.
So those are the cold, hard numbers behind why businesses want multilingual staff, but there are certain things that studying a language abroad demonstrates on your job application.
What else does studying abroad demonstrate on a CV?
Exploring the world on a gap year will naturally bring you confidence, but much more so if you explore in another language. The feeling of having your first conversation in another language is unique and encouraging. As your language skills develop you will become more and more comfortable in a whole range of situations, with a wide variety of people.
Studying abroad, you will use your time away for personal development, as well as all of the usual pleasures of travelling abroad. Consider the two following examples from the perspective of an employer:
Spent six months travelling around Latin America, experiencing independence and meeting people from all over the world.
Spent six months in Latin America, learning Spanish to professional fluency (with an accompanying certificate) and completing a two month internship at a local firm, while experiencing independence and working with people from all over the world.
Who sounds more employable to you?
An international outlook
Studying at a language school, not only will you meet local people, but you will make friends from all over the world. Businesses pay professionals a great deal of money for cultural awareness training, so hiring people who are familiar with different cultures is attractive.
Speaking a local language is the difference between being a tourist and a real traveller. You will only really come to understand a place when you can understand and speak its language. Do you want your gap year to be a year-long holiday or something more?
Combining language study with a project that will get you really involved with the local community can be extremely rewarding. ESL offers internship or volunteering programmes in destinations all over the world, from Panama to Sydney.
Employers value staff with diverse international experience and these programmes deliver just that. But even if you don’t have time to dedicate months to a long-term study abroad programme, language travel is a chance to develop your language skills rapidly in an international environment.
More than language skills
Studying a language in immersion demonstrates more than just the ability to speak a language fluently; having some time spent living in another culture shows that you are adaptable, pragmatic and interested in the world around you. Who wouldn’t want to employ someone like that?
Thinking of taking the leap and adding a study abroad experience to your CV? A long-term stay is the way to go!