Career growth can take on many forms. It could be a promotion, a new job, or a lateral movement. Whatever it looks like, the idea is that one day you will move on to greener pastures.
Career development comes in all shapes and sizes
To make this happen, you must grow as a professional. You might consider brushing up on your interview skills, reading a book about creating a growth mindset, or working towards a new certification or degree.
These options are sure to move your career forward, but could there be a more valuable alternative?
Another option is to learn a foreign language. The ability to communicate with individuals that speak a language other than your own is becoming increasingly valuable, and decades of research have shown that learning a foreign language can offer more benefits than other traditional skills.
So if you are looking to get ahead, here are the 5 best reasons to start learning a new language today:
1. Boost Your Performance
Becoming a high performer in the office is a great way to get noticed. Knocking out assignments early, volunteering for projects, and helping coworkers are all ways to check this box; but it’s not easy.
Being productive requires serious mental bandwidth. Science has shown that learning a second language is one of the best ways to train your brain to handle such tasks.
In 2019, researchers from George Mason University and Donghua University published a paper on the benefits of being bilingual. They concluded that bilingualism was strongly correlated with increased inhibition control, attention systems, working memory, and command of language (Fox et al., 2019). These results became more prominent the longer the individual had known a second language, so start learning today to get the most out of these benefits. If you’re looking for the tools to do that, then keep reading until the end; you’re in for a treat.
They also cited research demonstrating that learning a second language induced neuroplasticity in adults, which allows the brain to form better structures in response to a stimulus. This could help you continue to master new information in the workplace.
While neuroscience is far from settled, it is hard to argue with the cognitive benefits of bilingualism. If you want to become a high performer, bring your best brain to work.
2. Build Your Résumé
A persuasive résumé requires something unique - something that sets you apart from the rest of the field. If you have the same skills and experiences as the other candidates, you cannot be sure that the hiring manager will choose you over them. Knowing a second language can be a great way to differentiate your application.
In 2014, researchers surveyed more than 2,100 U.S. employers with multilingual employees. Of the employers that responded, 93% found multilingualism to be a valuable trait. Even more interesting is that only 10% of those companies required fluency in a second language (Damari et al., 2017).
Bilingualism demonstrates two attributes to potential employers: intelligence and work ethic.
Intelligence because a second language requires you to learn vocabulary words, sentence structures, irregular verbs, and conversational skills in a language entirely different than your own. Many people find this hard enough in their native language. Employers are confident that this intelligence will transfer to the workplace.
Learning a language also shows your work ethic. Becoming fluent is not easy. You may have felt like quitting during this time-consuming process, but you stuck with it. Talent agents, hiring managers, and employers will appreciate your hard work. At a time when this generation’s work ethic is continuously questioned, you’ll be the diamond in the rough.
Demonstrating these two qualities on your résumé may be what you need to boost your career to a new level.
3. Expand Your Network
Networking is a fantastic way to get your name out in the professional space. Whether it is in the office, while you are shopping at the supermarket, or at a networking event; meeting the right person at the right time can change your life.
Networking is crucial to growing your career
If you’re new to networking, it is as simple as this: Make friends with people who may want to work with you in the future. In some ways, networking is a numbers game - the more people you meet, the more connections you make.
That being said, only 1.5 billion (Statista) people speak English worldwide, which may sound like a large number, but it’s actually less than 20% of the world population. If you were to learn Mandarin as a second language, you would add another 1.1 billion (Statista) people to your network. Spanish, while spoken less than English and Mandarin, still adds a potential 548 million (Statista) people for you to connect with professionally.
Why stop at two? Each new language you add to your repertoire will increase your ability to meet potential business partners, contacts, and friends.
4. Broaden Your Job Opportunities
Being bilingual or multilingual can open many doors for you, but maybe not how you think. A few jobs that come to mind for bilingual job seekers are
Each one of these opportunities can lead to a lucrative, exciting, and satisfying career, but there are many more jobs than this. Sectors with the highest demand for multilingual skills are government and public administration, informational services, educational services, and healthcare (Damari et al., 2017).
Additionally, multinational businesses offer every position a domestic company would, but with the added requirement of needing it in multiple languages. You may have thought that you could only find a niche position for your multilingual talents when in reality you’ve doubled the number of jobs to which you can now apply.
Blue-collar workers can reap the benefits of being bilingual too. Often, labor markets attract both citizens and immigrants from all backgrounds. Communicating with a diverse workforce is vital for management, and if you are the person to make that happen, you will be seen as an invaluable team member. With that kind of leverage, you are more likely to command better wages and benefits.
Another lucrative prospect is that of business owners. You can dramatically increase your market size by entering a foreign market. Even if the company is small, it is an option to consider in the future. Having a bilingual executive and saving costs on translators will give you an edge over all other monolingual businesses.
5. Navigate Diverse Work Environments
Work environments are becoming more global and diverse every day. Homogeneous offices are a thing of the past, and the average worker must frequently engage with other cultures. When interacting with supply chains, foreign business partners, and branches located out of the country, you must perform competently and without causing offense. Cultural awareness is the best way to do this.
Work environments are becoming more diverse every day
A new language is an excellent tool for the job. A group of researchers studied 60 Chinese undergraduate students majoring in English at a Chinese university and found that they scored higher in cultural empathy and cross-cultural communicative competence than their monolingual peers (Jiang and Wang 2018).
Their research demonstrates the powerful relationship between language and culture - you cannot have one without the other. It is impossible to learn Mandarin in isolation from the Chinese culture. The two are intertwined at their roots, and attempts to untangle them would be futile.
This phenomenon is simple: to truly learn a language, you must converse with those who speak it. So unless you are only talking about the weather, you will learn about the person you are speaking to, and through them, you will understand their culture.
Knowing the ins and outs of a colleague's culture will garner their respect, and respect is the power of the workplace. Such respect will go a long way in projecting intelligence, attracting promotions, and adding value to your team.
Adding a second language to your skillset can be great for your career. The only thing standing in your way is finding the tools to learn it. You may have asked yourself a few times while reading this article, “Yeah, these are great points, but how exactly do I learn a second or third language?” After all, we did discuss that it’s a difficult skill to acquire. To further complicate things, not all language learning tools are created equal.
Don’t worry, we have you covered.
Here at ReDefiners, we specialize in teaching language through online courses and group class conversations. You can begin growing your career immediately by meeting with a teacher for instruction twice a week and taking part in group sessions for real, practical conversation experience. We offer classes in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic. For more information, please visit our online program page or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.