Last week, we shared with you how just learning and speaking French can make you measurably smarter. But in today’s global economy, speaking French can do much more than that. American millenials are up against citizens of the world in the job market, so how can you set yourself apart? With language.
Set yourself apart
Did you know that 51% of Europeans can speak at least one foreign language? And, according to the 2014 survey « Europeans and Their Languages, » piloted by the European Commission, just about 25% can hold a conversation in two other languages, while approximately 10% say that they can speak three foreign languages!
In comparison, a 2013 Gallup poll found that just 32% of Americans can speak a second language well enough to hold a conversation. It’s not surprising that the overwhelming majority of American college students don’t even make it to an upper-level language course. If you speak French, you’re part of an employable elite.
Move up the corporate ladder
A 2011 report released by Forbes Insights surveyed senior executives at U.S companies with annual revenues of $500 million or more, with one in three companies pulling in over $10 billion annually. Over 10% reported that they screen for language skills in the recruitment process, and found that candidates with international or language experience generally outperform those without. When it comes to overseas work assignments, a whopping 93% of those surveyed responded that bilingual managers are more successful than those who just speak one language.
Then, when asked about leadership, over 70% of those surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that work experience overseas is increasingly key to attaining top leadership positions. If you’re aiming to climb the ranks and put a C in your title – your language skills will give you a big push to get there.
Add value to the company
Where do you want to work? In renewable energy? Healthcare? What about in marketing or advertising? If you’re not cut out to be a French professor, you can use your language skills to your advantage in just about any business sector. French is the official language in 29 countries – that’s a global market that’s just waiting for multilingual talent. Africa, which holds a large number of Francophone countries, is the next up-and-coming global power.
If a Francophone company that does business with yours has to make a choice between two impressive pitches, who’s going to sign the contract? Will it be Jack who delivered everything in English? Or will it be you, who stood out by showing off your newly-acquired language skills and made a personal connection with the French client by expressing an understanding of the culture after your semester abroad? We think the answer is pretty simple.
When marketing American products abroad or just doing business in today’s global economy, business leaders know that the ability to communicate with others in their own language is essential, and they’re looking for employees that can do just that.
Who would you hire?
Put yourself in an employer’s shoes. Imagine you’re reviewing two identical resumes. But one of the applicants speaks French in addition to English. The other speaks only English. Who do you think stands out more?
Good business is about people. And people enjoy it when we make an effort to speak in their language. It might just be a local greeting or a super polite thank you, but you’ll always be the foreigner who made the extra effort to speak French to an interviewer, client or business contact. You’ll stand out, and in a good way.
There you have it – speaking French CAN get you your dream job. But don’t take our word for it, see what some of our alumni have been up to since they left!
AUCP alums share their experience
I work in the Tour Operations Department of Rick Steves Europe, a European Tour company based out the Seattle area. I am responsible for researching and developing France tour itineraries. I reserve all the vendors needed to run the tours once the itinerary has been developed and sold to the customer. I’ve also spent the last 15 years learning to guide the tours we offer. I use the skills I learned from my time at the AUCP and traveling in France/Europe to become a Tour Guide leading the tours I create. I spend 2-3 months a year in France now and get paid to do it! – Michaelanne, AUCP Aix-en-Provence 1999
I was sent by an investment company, Drawbridge Investments, to manage the refurbishment of a 12th Century Chateau in central France. Drawbridge is a company that was founded to acquire, improve & operate historic castles as bed & breakfasts or hotels, and Chateau du Soudun a Neons-sur-Creuse in the Centre Region was their 1st property. I spent 4 amazing months there, hiring & managing a dozen contractors, developing relationships with the mayor & other local dignitaries, assessing local attractions to build the castle’s marketing plan, & truly enjoying life in la France profonde! – Mark, AUCP Aix-en-Provence 1999
AUCP broadened my horizons and introduced me to so many new things that I now hold dear. It got me started on the road to French fluency, which is now the principal language spoken in my home, and a language I speak fluently both in my personal life and at work. I currently live and work in Detroit, Michigan as the Bilingual Director of Golf Digest Planner and Tournament Shop at a company called J Ryder Group – I work with clients from the USA as well as Canada, so I use my French with all of my French speaking Quebec clients. – Dana, AUCP Marseille 2009
I work in the Communications Department at Sanofi Pasteur, a world leader in vaccines and the largest company in France. While most of my written work is done in English, the fact that I understand and speak French was a primary factor in my hiring. In a culture where social connections are important, not speaking French can set you apart, and not in a good way. Most of the client contacts aren’t 100% fluent in English, and I’m able to connect with them and put them at ease by speaking French with them. The cultural and linguistic learnings that I gained at the AUCP have been critical to my professional and personal success. – Nicholas, AUCP Aix-en-Provence 2010
Now you know how language skills can work for you. But did you know that speaking French pays, literally? Check back next week to learn about the language bonus, and to find out how speaking French can make you more money.