Leveraging your Languages alongside your day-job


The previous post – Leveraging your Languages in the Workplace – was all about adding value to your current job, but if your current working situation doesn’t require a knowledge of your foreign language or doesn’t offer any scope in which to use it, this second aspect of Leveraging your Languages may be a way forward:

This type of leveraging is all about Leveraging your language skills to develop a “parallel career” in your chosen foreign language.

The type of “parallel career” meant here is a career in the very loose sense of the word. In reality, it will be a succession of professional or professionally-related activities involving languages, which runs alongside your day job.

Not only will Leveraging your parallel language career make it less likely that you will lose your ability in a foreign language if your day job doesn’t require it, but it will also give you the chance to gain experience in using your language in professional contexts and become familiar with the terminology of business and the workplace.

Maintaining a “track-record” of language-related activities and positions in your “parallel language career” will also make you more confident about taking up new professional opportunities that DO require your language and you will be in a better position to re-integrate your language into your mainstream career at some point in the future.

Continuity is what this type of Leveraging your parallel language career is all about. The activities need not be inter-related or take place at the same time.

Launching your “parallel language career” is simply a case of STARTING SOMEWHERE and taking on activities that will “stretch” your knowledge of your language and give you opportunities to keep using it.

So here is a list of things you could do to Leverage your Language as part of your “parallel language career”:

  • Join a professional social networkLinkedIn, Viadeo or Xing – and actively engage with it.
  • On your chosen network, seek out Groups related to your area of work or interest from the country concerned. Respond to posts on the group or make your own posts in the language. “Follow” companies or individuals in your target language country that post interesting content.
  • Create a profile on your professional social network in the target language – LinkedIn includes the option to have profiles in more than one language.
  • Use the social network to make professional contacts in your target-language country and message them in the language.
  • Research – actively research a topic relating to your target-language country that has fascinated you. Use websites and sources in the foreign language and actively collate the information in a Word or PowerPoint file. PowerPoint can be more flexible, as you can paste pictures and snippets of text and move them around much more easily.
  • Take an online course that is delivered in the language. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are offered by a large number of universities worldwide and are free of charge. Many are available via portals such as Coursera or FutureLearn. Courses are available in English, but also in French, Spanish, German, Dutch and other languages besides. The good thing here is that you can combine using your language and taking a course that may benefit you professionally.
  • Join an on-line forum in the foreign language about a topic that interests you and make regular contributions in the language. Try to develop your prominence and play a more active or leading role as time goes on.
  • Join a MeetUp group or similar for speakers of your target language. Most larger cities or cities of business importance in the UK will have such groups.
  • Start a blog or a website – nothing beats having an online presence – it serves as your calling card and demonstrates to future employers that you are engaged in and committed to a topic and extending and sharing knowledge. The blog could be on a topic relating to your target-language country, and some or all of the posts could be IN the language of that country or could include extracts or references in the foreign language with commentary in English. This could be a follow-on from your “Research” activities referred to above. Setting up a blog or website doesn’t have to cost anything – you can use “free of charge” services such as wix.com, www.weebly.com (websites) or www.wordpress.com or www.blogspot.com (blogs).
  • Find out if any colleagues in your company or organisation are native-speakers of your target language. Get to know them and if they are willing, meet up with them regularly for lunch or coffee as a way of practising the language.
  • Team up with a friend or colleague from your target language country and commit to having a long video call (using Skype or a similar app) as often as you like in your foreign language. Identify some of the professional or serious topics to discuss in advance and “tune in” to the language beforehand by watching relevant on-line news videos or YouTube videos in the language.
  • Do some volunteer translation from the foreign language into your native language – organisations requiring volunteer translations can be found by searching on Google.
  • Set aside some time each week or even every day for focused language-related activities and make sure that the language is always part of your weekly routine.

Your linguistic future starts now. Remember, it’s simply a case of starting somewhere and keeping going. Use it or lose it!


Leveraging your Languages in the Workplace


As explained in the previous post, Leveraging your Languages is all about adopting strategies and developing opportunities to integrate your knowledge of a foreign language into your private or professional life.

This post is all about Leveraging your Languages in the Workplace.

Maybe you’re already working in an international environment or for an employer that values or requires you to use your knowledge of another language. Or, maybe you are working in a job that doesn’t OFFICIALLY require a knowledge of a foreign language at all. Whichever of those two situations applies, you can still use any of the Leveraging strategies listed here, or in the next post entitled Leveraging your Languages alongside your Day Job.

So let’s get started.

Here are some suggestions that will enable you to leverage your foreign language to add personal and company value in your current job:

Some simple first steps:

  1. Make sure that your knowledge of your working languages is known to other people at work, especially your line manager:
  1. Integrate your language in a very simple way into your e-mail signature:

“With best regards/Meilleures salutations/Mit freundlichem Gruß/Met vriendelijke groet”

(only include the languages you already know well or the languages of your regular contacts)

  1. Make your “out-of-office” message multilingual also, but make sure the foreign-language part is flawless and doesn’t contain any mistakes.
  1. Find out if any colleagues in your company or organisation are native-speakers of your target language. Get to know them and if they are willing, meet up with them regularly for lunch or coffee as a way of practising the language.
  1. Use your foreign language sometimes when e-mailing colleagues or clients abroad. Make the first contact in the foreign language. If an existing contact, add a couple of friendly remarks or a question in the foreign language at the end of an e-mail. The last part of a message sticks in the mind and your contact may then respond in the foreign language. Using the language in this way will strengthen the connection. A positive effect resulting from this is that your contact will also be more likely to forward information or messages from other decision-makers directly to you in the foreign language. They may not have done so if they thought they had to translate the information first. Then take a look at number 3 below.
  1. If telephoning and asking to speak to your contact at the other end, introduce yourself in the language and ask to speak to your contact. Even if you continue the call in English, the colleague from the next desk who picked up the phone may let your contact know that you are a fluent speaker of their language. Greater use of the foreign language and increased access to information are the likely results.


Longer-term Leveraging strategies:

  1. Is your company or organisation involved in any projects, or does it have any subsidiary companies, partners or clients located in your target-language country? Get to know the people involved in those projects or communicating with those subsidiaries, partners or clients. Purpose – you may be called upon to make contacts, receive visitors, visit a partner organisation abroad or help develop the project.
  1. Use on-line resources in the foreign language to collect information relating to your company’s area of activity. This could be information about your organisation’s subsidiary companies, partners or competitors in other countries or information about potential sales opportunities.
  1. Translate and/or summarise the information you find under number 2 above into English and pass it onto your line manager or Managing Director, state the source and that you translated the information yourself. Leverage this as an opportunity to remind them of your language ability and familiarity with the country concerned, but it will also give you the opportunity to familiarise yourself (and become fluent) in the language and terminology of your work.
  1. Watch YouTube videos posted by your organisation’s affiliate companies, partners or clients abroad and keep revisiting those videos.

Good luck in implementing these suggestions – the next post will be about

Leveraging your Languages alongside your day-job.

Leveraging your Languages

Chances are that if you’re reading this, you have studied a foreign language, possibly at university level, but have now graduated or are about to graduate. Or maybe you’re already working in a job that doesn’t OFFICIALLY require a knowledge of a foreign language at all.

If you’ve learned a language, the old adage holds true that you must “use it, or lose it”.  Even if you studied a language to degree level, but don’t continue using it, you risk losing (some of) the fluency and confidence in the language you once had. In the future, that means that you will be less likely to apply for or look for a job that DOES require your knowledge of languages.

That’s where “Leveraging your Languages” comes in. “Leveraging your Languages” is a phrase that I coined myself. “Leveraging your Languages” consists of two main strands:

  • Using strategies to make sure that your language stays part of your everyday life, so that you don’t lose your ability to speak, write and understand the language.
  • Using your foreign language skills to add value to your current job, or to develop a separate but parallel “career” that involves using your foreign language for professional activities. Leveraging your language in this way means that you will still be able to re-integrate it into your mainstream career sometime in the future.

Leveraging your Languages in everyday life:

Successful leveraging depends on doing as many of the following things and continuing to do them!

  1. Subscribe to daily e-mail updates from a foreign-language magazine or newspaper of your choice and read them each morning on your smartphone. Simply to the website of the publication and sign up with your e-mail address.
  2. Watch news videos or YouTube videos on any topic that interests you in the foreign language. Do this whenever you have any downtime. I find that watching foreign language programmes first thing in the morning sets me up in the language for the day and helps me think in the language.
  3. Make watching or listening to the media in your target language is part of your daily news intake.
  4. Use the language to stay in contact with a friend in the target-language country via Instant Messaging.
  5. Join a Group on Facebook that relates to your target-language country, a city you lived in or one of your hobbies or interests and submit and respond to comments in the foreign language. You can also comment on posts on other people’s social networking profiles or blogs. Make this a regular thing.
  6. Team up with a friend or colleague from your target language country and commit to having a long video call (using Skype or a similar app) as often as you like in your foreign language. Identify some of the topics to discuss in advance and “tune in” to the language beforehand by watching relevant on-line news videos or YouTube videos in the language.
  7. Get involved in groups (e.g. local MeetUp groups that speak the language), committees, organisations and other bodies where you can use your languages outside of work

Next post: Leveraging your Languages in the Workplace

Your first steps on LinkedIn

LinkedIn has over 430 million members and is the most popular social networking site after Facebook and Twitter. What makes it important though is that it is the primary networking site that professionals use to keep in touch with each other and to follow companies, institutions and other professionals. Recruiters also use LinkedIn as a way of forming an important first impression of job applicants.

I’m still an undergraduate – (why) do I need a LinkedIn profile?

LinkedIn puts you on the professional map and is your way of “setting out your stall” as an educated and professional person. Being a member of LinkedIn is also a good way to get a feel for particular jobs or employment sectors and to receive e-mail updates about employers and from LinkedIn groups.

Getting started

Creating a profile on LinkedIn is very easy and the site prompts you to enter most of your basic information.

Getting started is the main thing. Remember that no-one builds a complete and perfect LinkedIn profile overnight – you can come back later and add new items, change settings and so on. Active professionals are continuously making tweaks to their profile.

Simple tweaks

  • Add a business-like photo of yourself – you might need to ask someone to take one for you – a head and shoulders shot is normally enough! Having a quality photograph will make a difference when potential employers or placement providers view your profile.
  • Search for and join some LinkedIn groups relating to interests or employment sectors you want to find out more about. You’ll then receive information and notices from those groups automatically. Another advantage of this – the icons of the Groups you are a member of will appear at the bottom of your profile. The icons therefore act as quick visual anchors that give others a quick overview of the activities you’re involved in or want to be involved in, and show that you’re a “switched-on” person who is keeping up with their field!
  • Start adding contacts – when you connect with someone on LinkedIn, the site sends a message to them asking if they want to connect to you. LinkedIn uses a standard message, but ALWAYS personalize the message, briefly explaining why you want to connect or when you worked together.
  • When you get started, only connect with people whose professional values are in synch. with your own and whom you actually know and/or have met in real life. Those could be people you’ve studied with or worked with on a project or have shared information with at some point. On LinkedIn, you don’t normally seek to connect with people you’ve never interacted with. It is legit though to respond to blogs or posts on LinkedIn, interact with someone via e-mail, LinkedIn or otherwise for a while and THEN ask to connect with them. That may happen over time.
  • If not yet a graduate, you can also get started by adding any contacts you have from your year abroad or other professionals you have come across, or any of your course tutors who are on LinkedIn and know you well, plus a small sprinkling of fellow university students, as long as their LinkedIn profiles are good! The key thing there is that they must have interacted with you personally and you must be on good terms with them.
  • Companies also have profiles on LinkedIn. You can “follow” any companies (or universities offering postgraduate courses) you’re interested in for whatever reason and receive updates whenever they post anything.
  • Change the URL (web address) of your public profile so that it contains your name and not just random letters and numbers. Your public profile is the profile that is seen by people who are not logged into LinkedIn and who find you via a search engine. The best format to select is: www.linkedin.com/in/firstnamesurname, but if you have a namesake who is already on LinkedIn, you may need to vary that a little, but having your name in recognisable form in the address of your public profile means that you will be easier to find.

These are just a few first steps to take on LinkedIn. Watch out for more tips very soon!

Welcome to Multilingual Professional

Multilingual Professional is a new blog for anyone who:

  • has studied and/or is able to speak and write ANY foreign language
  • is entering the workforce (or already part-way through their professional career)
  • wants to keep their skills in the other language active and up to date in a professional context
  • wants to familiarise themselves with the vocabulary and language of work and how professionals talk about their work
  • and wants to gain an insight into the business cultures of other countries

Visit this blog and get:

Suggestions as to how to develop a foreign language dimension to more or less any job, even if a language doesn’t form part of your job description.

Hints and tips about how to build up a parallel career in your chosen foreign language, even if your current job doesn’t provide many opportunities to use it.

Strategies to help you use and leverage your language(s) to the best effect in the workplace or in other professional contexts.

Links to videos by companies and professionals in other countries about their company or the work that they do.

Where do the ideas and information come from?

All the practical tips and ideas that you see here will either be based on my personal experience as a languages graduate (in German, Dutch and French) who has worked with, taught and translated those languages in business and industry for all of my working life so far, or on what I think are the very best examples from the UK and the rest of Europe, and occasionally the world!

If you have any comments about any topic that appears on this blog or have any useful information or weblinks to share, please submit a comment on the blog or send an e-mail to:

andrew5431 AT outlook.com

All the very best!
Viel Erfolg!
Tout le succès,
Veel succes!

Andrew Maycroft