Learn a Language to Jumpstart Your Career

I came across an article in the New York times this weekend that was striking on several levels.  Anyone who reads or watches the news knows about the high percentage of young professionals in Europe that are without work.  Sadly this is not a distinctly European problem, it is also an American one, which isn’t too shocking in itself.  What is shocking is that according to the article’s writer, David Leonhardt, “Over the last 12 years, the United States has gone from having the highest share of employed 25- to 34-year-olds among large, wealthy economies to having among the lowest.”  Mr. Leonhardt goes on to say that this is due to the fact that this “recovery has been strangely light on new jobs, even after Friday’s better-than-expected unemployment report. American companies are doing more with less.”

I was also just on a university campus last week.  In the run-up to finals students are always stressed out.  What I noticed in addition to the normal stress of finals was an increased level of stress among graduating seniors about their job prospects.  Many without jobs are having to return home, those with jobs are being paid less than their predecessors.  A full 26.2% of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 are without jobs.  This compares with between 20-22% in Canada, Germany, Japan, and the UK.

There is a way however, that students can distinguish themselves from the millions of other graduates in their search for a job.  Learning a second language enhances the chance of not only landing a job, but also for increased salary.  According to the NY Times article, the only age group earning less money today than in the year 2000 are these same 25-34 year olds! While I don’t have any statistics to back this up I was speaking recently with US based manufacturing company that was trying to hire an engineer based in China.  This engineer would be paid $80-90,000 per year if they could speak only English.  That salary increased to over $120,000 if they were fluent in both languages!

The bottom line is that learning a language will enhance career opportunities.  However, in order to successfully learn a language the student must put in the time and effort required.  The student must also look at this as an investment in their future.  Free and low-end language programs don’t work.  In order to reap the benefits later in life, an investment has to be made.  Whether it’s with BRIC or any other quality language school, I strongly encourage college students to start learning a language.