Languages Can Help Graduates through Employment Slump


If you’ve been following the news about the economic pains in Europe, you have no doubt heard of the debilitating struggle of the recently-graduated sector. There is a generation of well-educated, highly marketable people who simply can not find a position that suits their fields of study, and don’t expect to soon.

What can grads do to sweeten the pot for potential employers? Learn a new language. Here, Daisy Atkinson, a recent graduate who felt these pains all too well, shares her story and how language can change the job-seeking game for the better.


by Daisy Atkinson

A major problem facing graduates today is that they are coming out of university straight into a crisis they were so completely ill prepared for. This generation didn’t see the recession coming and has thus had no time or guidance to plan for the terrible employment situation now facing thousands of graduates across Britain.

Graduates are arriving from a Labour generation that told them as children that they could be anything they wanted to be, and to reach for the stars because everyone will go to university. Now, graduates are entering a Conservative phase that has admitted the country is in for the long slow financial haul, and short-term skill specific vocational courses are now the flavour of the month, to pile school kids into lower end jobs in a shorter amount of time so less money is spent on higher education, university style.

But those graduates without the preferred vocational skills, what do they do?

You will find most of them struggling to make ends meet, while they stretch what is left of their overdrafts to cover an unacceptably long unpaid internship or ‘work experience’ for a company that has very little capability or intention of hiring them at the end.

So what on earth can they do?

There will be others with their tales of survival, which maybe weren’t as drastic as mine, but, as a graduate of the economic crisis, I will give you the benefit of my experience.

When I left university I had some pretty impressive interviews lined up, and armed with my portfolio of work I headed off with high hopes of immediate employment in the position of my dreams. Two months later I was working as a waitress in the tin pot town in which I grew up, with my father telling me how lucky I was to have found work in a ‘nice’ restaurant, and in the current job market, he had a point. Yet not even that had deterred me from continuing to apply for hundreds of jobs each week, and I hadn’t yet fully experienced the depths of unemployment, which many, who had graduated the year before, were currently facing.

But, for some reason, I just left.

I took off to the island of Sicily and remained there for two long years, where I taught English and made a meagre living at best, but in the process I learned Italian.

It sounds clichéd, but this completely changed my life. I came back to the UK, still with the dream of working in the same sort of positions I had applied for before I left, but after finding an appropriate starting point I recognized a familiar sense of stagnation. I realized it really wasn’t what I wanted. I couldn’t shake the urge to use my language skills, and before long I was applying for jobs for Italian language speakers.

In the process, I found out how useful it can be to speak another language. This is what I learned:

Knowledge of another language gives you the privilege of versatility to apply your language skills over a number of different career paths, so if like me, you have a complete change of heart, you can still apply for a different career and have something to show for it.

Languages also widen your job market. Foreign language skills give you the ability to apply for the same job in different languages, giving you access to more job opportunities in an extremely crowded market. One obvious bonus is that you have flexibility of location, so if your own country can’t give you what you want, you can always try your luck in another.

One major advantage is that unlike a degree, knowledge of a foreign language actually has the capability of increasing earning capability by at least a few thousand pounds. You also have the opportunity to get a fair bit of freelance translation and interpreting work on the side, as many language jobs are contracted. These jobs also pay up to £30 an hour.

Even if you don’t decide to pursue a career in languages,

simply having knowledge of a foreign language is invaluable to employers. Any discerning employer will appreciate a mind that has the breadth of comprehension, versatility and the velocity to operate in two or more languages. They should also recognise their candidate’s potential to improve their business internationally with not only their language but also their knowledge and sensitivity of other cultures.

Knowledge of foreign languages speaks volumes about your character. It shows a continued dedication to learning and improvement, and academic interests outside of the workplace.

Current discussions about Britain’s continued position within the EU may also bring foreign language skills to the forefront, as Britons with extra languages will become even more useful in navigating international markets which no longer place UK involvement and business ‘English’ in a position of priority.

Whatever your current employment status may be it is important to remember languages can only aid your situation. Knowledge of a foreign language will never impede your ability to apply for other jobs, and it will always perfectly compliment any other qualification you have or are working towards. Languages are, if you like, the ultimate transferable skill.


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Caucana 1About Daisy

Daisy Atkinson is an English Graduate from the University of Liverpool, and a marketing assistant for Quick Lingo Translation Services (http://www.quicklingo.com/). Daisy is passionate about languages: mainly Italian and a little Sicilian, and she loves the food they cook on that little island below the boot.