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

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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!