Will Learning a Foreign Language Get You a Job?

I was escorted to the conference table sporting my best black blazer, pencil skirt and pallet of make-up.  The receptionist handed me an ice-cold bottle of water and nodded curtly, “the manager will be with you shortly.”  She smiled warmly before exiting the room and gently closing the door.

I planted my elbows on the table, folded my hands and took a wide, but tall and defiant posture.  I listened to a TED talk once about how body language alone can make or break your chance of getting hired.  Retreating inwards and folding your arms and legs make a candidate look timid; however,  sitting tall, lifting your neck, holding up your shoulders and puffing out your chest denotes confidence.  I was going for the latter look.

Three women strutted into the office with a polite but tired smile.  I must have been the third or fourth interview of the day.  I stood up to shake their hand firmly and make a strong impression.

This was my eighth interview in one month since returning to the United States.

“We’re extremely impressed with your resume and your,” the woman coughed before continuing, “experience abroad.”

In other words, they thought I was goofing around in Asia getting drunk and teaching English.

“Yes, your language skills are most impressive,” the woman peered at my resume before making eye contact with me again.  “But I must admit while having language skills is useful here, it’s not actually mandatory.”

Another way of putting it: we can hire someone without your language skills and get away with paying them less.

I talked up my other skills beside language.  I worked in public relations.  I had a degree in writing with experience to boot.  I was in consulting with the big dogs, and I was capable of in-depth analysis and report writing.

Yet they were not convinced, and again I was not hired.

I was fluent in Chinese and Japanese with relevant and professional experience from overseas, yet employers in America did not want me.  The only companies that appreciated my skills were Japanese (and we all know how that turned out).

Even a very famous Japanese game company (let’s just say they make Final Fantasy) offered me a job as a translator–but when I saw the pay, I was aghast.  It was almost equivalent to minimum wage.

College continually shoved the lie down my throat that a foreign language would secure me a job.  Going abroad and getting international experience, many counselors recommended, would make me a highly desirable candidate to employers.

Yet no one was hiring me.

Can Foreign Language Skills, Specifically Chinese and Japanese, Really Get You A Job?

Were all those blood, sweat and tears wasted on Chinese characters?

Were all those blood, sweat and tears wasted on Chinese characters?

According to the Joint National Committee on Foreign Languages, the language industry employs more than 200,000 Americans who earn a median salary of 80,000 USD annually.  The U.S. Department of Labor cited Translator and Interpreter to be one of the 15 fastest growing occupations in the next decade.  In fact, when I search the word ‘bilingual’ on indeed.com, almost 100,000 jobs appear up for grabs in the United States alone.

With statistics like those listed above, it seems strange that someone like myself, or many other multilingual job-seekers, are having a tough time finding employment.

However, most jobs do not require another language as a mandatory skill–rather, it’s an added bonus.  A bilingual lawyer, engineer or nurse is a hot item; but someone who can only rely on language skill is usually stuck with one career path:

Translator or Interpreter.

flpost5

Hopefully people like me can prevent signs like this

While this isn’t a terrible job, most translators work freelance without a stable paycheck or benefits to pay for healthcare (which is a big deal for those who live in the U.S., where universal health care does not exist).  Interpreting is also conducted freelance where candidates face tough competition and high turnover rates.

Finally, being an interpreter or translator is hard.  Being bilingual doesn’t mean one can automatically take up a job as an interpreter.  It’s a finely tuned skill that takes years, if not decades, to truly master and accomplish on a professional level.

While statistics may talk up the benefit of language learning by telling you that the translator/interpreter industry in the United States is expected to rise 36% from 2014 to 2019, the simple truth is: not everyone can be an interpreter/translator, and quite frankly, the majority of those that actually can perform this job will probably not enjoy it.

Foreign Languages Are a Side Dish, Not the Main Course

fljob3

So am I telling you foreign language skills are useless?  Not necessarily.

Think of your career as a nice meal at a five star restaurant.  The main course, let’s say an expensive cut of kobe beef, is your in-demand skill.  This is your technical “hard” skill.  This talent encompasses an actual job title, such as: web designer, doctor, nurse, engineer, computer programmer, lawyer, financial agent, banker, and more.  It’s a very specific career niche that will get you a job as a stand-alone skill.

Eating kobe beef by itself is kind of boring, so throwing in a kale salad, or a french onion soup, or some other side dish will spice up your dinner–in other words, “beef up” your resume.

Languages help boost your credentials as a potential candidate, but they are not the end-all-be-all.  Unless you want to be a translator or interpreter, a foreign language alone will most likely not help you find a job… that is, in the United States.

Do Language and Location Matter?

Sure wasn't easy to find a job here

Sure wasn’t easy to find a job here

In America, I had eight interviews in one month and I was still unemployed.

In Shanghai, I had three interviews in one week and I was already commuting to my new office by my second week in China–all while I was on a tourist visa! (I wasn’t illegal, my companies sponsored my visa and picked up the tab!).

I was floored at just how in-demand my Japanese skills were in Shanghai.  In China, my Japanese language skill led me to work in business consulting, advertising, and professional interpreting.

In my case, language and location was essential to my successful job search in Shanghai.  Japanese and English dual language ability is a huge asset to have in China, especially in cities like Shanghai which serve as a major import-export hub between China and Japan.

Demand for certain foreign languages vary by country, and sometimes even city.

For example, if you speak Arabic or another middle-eastern language (such as Farsi), the United States government is sure to have a job lined up for you.  If you want to work with refugees from Africa, being bilingual in French is a definite must.  Spanish speakers are also able to easily find work as an interpreter for hospitals in Southern California.  It’s all about location and demand.

Sadly, however, I feel that the United States does not welcome multilingual employment as much as other countries.  While I have no data to back it up, from my own personal experience I find that the United States does not highly value multilingualism.  87 percent of executives for firms in Britain and Germany said that knowing more than one language was an absolute must. In the United States, I don’t think many firms would say the same.  While many U.S. employers may be impressed with the fact that you’re fluent in six languages, it’s not enough to get you hired.

Please give me a job!

Please give me a job!

So to sum it up: No, a language will not land you a job (especially in the United States).

Foreign language can, however, assist you in getting a job.  It makes a strong candidate look even more powerful and allows your resume to stand out from the rest–but as a stand alone skill, it doesn’t hold up very well.

However one thing is for certain: I will never go hungry knowing Chinese or Japanese.  If I were to lose my job or be continually unemployed, the option of freelance translation is always there–and to have that safety net, that is, beg for translation work instead of on the street, is reassuring indeed.

fljob4

Do you think foreign language skills alone can get you a job?  What has your experience, or perhaps a friend’s experience been looking for a job as a bilingual?  In your country are more languages more favorable than others?

27 thoughts on “Will Learning a Foreign Language Get You a Job?

  1. The Linguist says:

    Interesting article. I agree with the overall idea and would just add a few nuances and views based on my own humble opinion.

    Firstly, in relation to your job interviews,I don’t know the details but being rejected for a job over the worry that you might need to paid more because of your language skills seems a bit odd. I don’t think you would be rejected on that basis. Except for in certain rare circumstances, language skills don’t generally command a premium over say, someone else for the same position with the same skills minus the languages (definitely not in large multinational companies). It seems more likely that there was a candidate who was simply a better fit/they had better chemistry with/had more relevant experience/is the manager’s niece, etc without it being related to the languages. (Of course, I don’t know the full details so I apologise if there are further details which changes the reading, and this also supports your more general point that that languages are no golden ticket).

    Second, I don’t believe that Arabic guarantees that the government is sure to have a job lined up for you. Again, I am not from the USA but government jobs usually have various difficult interviews and test stages and I can’t imagine that the process in the USA is any different (indeed, I would imagine it would be particularly strict). Arabic would be a necessary condition for some jobs of course, but not sufficient in itself. And again, many government jobs will train people they recruit in languages so as you have said the base skills are more important than the languages. On a broader note, there seems to be a view that languages can be learned on the job/later (and this seems to be true), whereas special skills and sector specific experience cannot be picked up so easily.

    Third, it appears that you are giving Europe more credit than it deserves 😉 I don’t think you should assume that people in Europe, especially the UK, appreciate foreign language skills more than in USA. Pure language graduates in the UK also do not have an easy time finding work in the UK (and like in the US, some of this is also due to the financial crisis, graduates not having useful real world skills etc, rather than languages per se).

    Fourth, and this links into my third point and I have touched on this before, but a non-native speaker of English gains more (from a purely financial perspective) becoming fluent in English, than vice versa. So that dynamic comes into play. From a purely financial perspective, not all languages are equal. Of course, the non-monetary gains are probably priceless 🙂

    Thanks for the interesting article which I enjoyed with my morning coffee! x

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      I wrote a big long comment and then it disappeared… bluhhh!

      Anyway, the comments I included in my faux interview were merely for snarky, sarcastic purposes. I’m sure they weren’t thinking I was a drunk English teacher that demanded higher pay, and I’m sure they wouldn’t pay me more for my language skills if they weren’t relevant (I did get a pay boost for them at my current job, but not that much more). If I’m applying for an admin job, and I’m competing with a candidate that has 10+ years of admin experience, then I’m sure I’ll lose out–even if I speak 10 languages. It’s all about what is relevant to the job.

      And it’s true, arabic isn’t a sure-fire way to get a job for the U.S. government, but it will help–a lot. The U.S. government is also very specific about background checks and your history, so if you have some sort of life-event or family member that poses a threat to the United States government, then you won’t be hired (even if you would be an extremely valuable candidate). Oil companies and other private industries are also looking for Arabic. Like Japanese, I think it’s a language where not many non-native speakers can use it fluently, so native English speakers who can speak Arabic are a “hot” item here. I’m not saying it’s a 100% guarantee for a job, but it’s definitely an extremely useful language. If one doesn’t mind living in Washington DC or working for the government, I think foreign languages will definitely get someone a job–but again, the person needs to be uber fluent, have a “clean” background and not be an idiot.

      As for giving EU more credit than it deserves, I think you’re right. I haven’t lived or looked for work there so it’s hard to say. I also know there’s more competition in EU/UK because most people grow up speaking 3-5 languages anyway. I still think that EU/UK value multilingual skills more than the USA, but because of other factors it still doesn’t guarantee you an instant job. And this touches on your fourth point, but in the statistic I cited about German and UK companies giving more credence to bilinguals, this is probably aimed at non-native English speakers in Europe being bilingual in English (for example, a German fluent in English). I think to have a successful career, knowing English is a must.

      Basically, I just want to say… NO foreign languages will not get you a job, haha (and I think you agree with me on that point, as you mentioned in your comment). Still! Thanks for the comment, it was stimulating 😀

  2. Marta says:

    When I started studying Chinese, people in Spain would tell me: “woah! Chinese! You are going to earn so much money!!”. As if money rained on you only because you can read characters or something. Anyway, when I went back to Spain in 2011 to find a job, I searched for 3 months. The ONLY type of jobs in which Chinese was required were Chinese teacher and import/export. The ads always said “Native Chinese speaker”. I applied anyway to one of the import/export, the position was assistant to the CFO. The HR girl that first interviewed me on the phone said: we are looking for a Chinese person because we don’t think any Spanish can speak good Chinese. (WTF). I got the job, only to realize later that they didn’t really need anyone who spoke Chinese. All the communications with the Chinese suppliers were done in English!!

    I completely agree that languages are not “a thing” by themselves. Companies want engineers who can speak Chinese. A non-engineer that can speak Chinese? Meh, a Chinese person will be cheaper!

    In China, knowing Spanish is not really a very sought asset either. I was so lucky to get this job. I want to work in games localization, but most other companies just hire Chinese people who studied Spanish! They do awful translations but hey, they earn less than half of what I do…

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      Hahaha Marta I got the same comments in college when I studied Japanese (and started studying Chinese)…!! Especially back in 2008-2010, the Chinese economy was BOOOOOMING so everyone thought Chinese = $$$. Imagine my surprise when I went job hunting and found out everyone wanted my Japanese skills and not the Chinese ones. Sheesh.

      I’m glad that the Spanish company hired you in the end! It’s pretty ridiculous they wanted a native speaker when the job didn’t even require Chinese to begin with! Sheesh talk about shitty HR practices, haha.

      I’m glad you were able to find a good company in China with your Spanish speaking skills! And one you enjoy! Believe it or not, when I was in Shanghai I interviewed for a game company and the two owners were from Spain. They wanted me to know Spanish for the job and I was really floored…! I guess knowing Spanish/Chinese/English is a pretty useful combo.

      I wish I knew years ago that language skill alone wouldn’t find me a job, because now I’m kind of stuck with a bunch of “soft” skills that make it so difficult to find a job. Still, I think of people with a psychology/philosophy/art history degree who don’t speak ANY foreign languages, and I wonder how they find jobs…? The competition now is just so intense, it’s unfathomable.

      Thanks for the comment Marta! I loved your story!

      • Marta says:

        I will tell you what the people with history/philosophy etc degrees do: they are teachers!! At least that is what most of my friends in Spain do!

        • rubymary says:
          Profile photo of rubymary

          Aha! That’s what they do here, but it’s getting harder and harder to find teaching jobs 🙁 (unless you want to teach middle school or something, haha).

  3. autumnashbough says:

    You know, I would have thought multiple languages would be a huge asset, too. On the other hand, Hollywood expects that all international buyers in film and television speak English — and they do. So while it’s a little helpful in international film and TV sales to know a foreign language, it’s not necessary.

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      Maybe that’s why it’s hard to get a job in the U.S. with foreign language skills… we always expect everyone to speak awesome English! In other countries they’re scrambling to find talent that can speak multiple languages well so that they can do business with monolingual America 😉 When I was working at the business consulting company in Shanghai, we were actually used as outsourcing for a lot of big U.S. firms because they didn’t want to hire Chinese-Japanese-English speaking talent. They would just sub-contract out to us instead. Hmmm.

      But yes, foreign languages won’t get me a job… 🙁 Sad!

  4. Cat (talkingofchinese) says:

    Really interesting post – the company I’m currently working for is really keen for me to use my (barely toddler level) Chinese for work but they aren’t willing to give me any time or money to study. It seems like a skill they value in theory but aren’t willing to actually invest in.

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      Yeah, same here. My current employer encourages us to learn other languages but they would never PAY us to do it. Sigh.

      Still, I think you should keep studying Chinese! You’re getting better day by day!

      • Cat (talkingofchinese) says:

        Thanks for the encouragement 🙂 I’m not going to stay at this company forever but a language skill is something for me for life so it’s not something I’m prepared to give up. I’m very inspired by your language abilities!

  5. Lani says:

    There is actually a shortage of Chinese interpreters in Thailand because of the Chinese tourist boom. And there are a lot of more Cambodians learning Chinese than I ever thought. I do think it’s a useful skill and one that might not be handy now (in the US) but in the future definitely could be. It’s funny b/c I think a lot of what you are describing has nothing to do w/ you, but with the economy. If things were like our parents’ generation/time, you’d be employed handsomely, for sure, with a great salary.

    I probably would have never left the US, too. But the American economy is not what it used to be. It’s sooo hard (almost impossible) for the younger generations to get out from student debt and make a liveable wage. I think in the 10+ years I was in office work, my salary always started out at $12 and failed to change. When I lived in Chico California, the best I could get for office work was $9 (because its a college town).

    My Canadian friend did interpreting work from English to French for an anthropology database, but was eventually laid off. Again, the economy…programs like this are being cut, you know? Insead of investing in languages, culture and the arts, we seem to be heading back into the dark ages.

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      Wow that’s amazing!! I imagine Japan and Thailand and basically most Asian countries are having a shortage of Chinese speakers because of the incoming flux of tourists. I think in America there is more competition because we have so many Chinese immigrants to begin with. Plus, a lot of Chinese are trying to immigrate here (and Canada) for better prospects. I don’t know if you remember the socal layout, but all of Arcadia, Rowland Heights, Chino Hills, even Rancho Cucamonga is FULL of Chinese people. In fact, Rowland Heights and Chino Hills probably has more signs in Chinese than English!

      Thanks for your comment about the US economy… it makes me feel better 🙁 I see young people with masters fighting over an administrative positions for meager pay (30-35k). It’s really sad. I remember my parents making that much 10+ years ago, but now the money doesn’t go as far with inflated housing costs etc.. The news touts about the US economy, but I think a lot of us here are really suffering. Unlike people in other countries, I’d say the average American has at least 50k in debt as well. Americans are forever saddled in debt.

      I think now everything is about efficiency, and it makes me really worried about the future. We don’t care about art, music, people, culture–just the dollar value of things. The world is being run by money, and pretty soon the have-nots will revolt (wow, dark topic!). Maybe it won’t happen in my lifetime but it’s coming.

      Anyway, Asia is good. I really enjoyed living in China and I probably wouldn’t have left if it wasn’t for the polluted air/water. I often think about returning to Japan where I could easily find a job, get awesome healthcare and not worry about getting shot on my walk home from work. I suggest you stay there, Lani!

      • Lani says:

        Well, if Bernie wins then there’s hope. (Sorry for getting political, just being honest) But unfortunately, I think those dark times we fear are going to be during our lifetime. I can’t see how it cannot – things are just getting exponentially harder for everyday folks and I think more and more are becoming aware of the 1%.

        I had no idea of the specific city breakdowns. I just remember areas of cities that were ‘segregated’ like North Portland (OR) is where all the Blacks were. The Vietnmese and So. Am immigrants were was past East 72 or 82nd street. That kind of thing.

        I stayed in fairly gentrified areas in California and avoided LA whenever possible. 😛

  6. seira says:

    Ohhhh yes. I had very similar experiences while interviewing in the US after college, before I moved to Japan. I put my Spanish, French, and Japanese proficiencies on my resume, but most people were just politely impressed. It didn’t affect my job chances in any real way in the majority of cases, and I think it actually just made me stand out in a bad way a lot of the time (like, “who is this girl, does she think she’s too good for us? Why Japanese, is she some sort of weirdo nerd?”). And at the time, my Japanese wasn’t good enough to get a job working with it. I ended up working as an editor/writer at a small book publisher for three years, and the managing editor who hired me was super pleased with my language experience (although the only language I used there was English). (continued in next comment, the “post comment” button disappeared when I wrote too much oops)

    • seira says:

      Then I moved to Japan, got fully fluent in Japanese, and have not had much trouble finding people who want to interview/hire me (finding a good workplace environment is another story). I currently work in games localization in Tokyo, but I want to move back to the US at some point. But I check American job websites and search “Japanese” (with no geographical filter because I’d be open to moving anywhere) and literally nothing good comes up. It’s all like “bilingual customer service” (and I’m sure they’d rather hire someone with at least Japanese descent, assuming I wanted to do that anyway, which I don’t). Then I search editing/writing, my old field, and plenty of good things pop up, although the field will be more competitive because more people can do that. I figure if I move back, I’ll try to find work at a game company, or editing/writing work, and I can always translate freelance on the side.

      BUT YEAH, while it seems wonderful to move back to the US when I’m stressed out from life here, I also worry about the difficulties of finding work and health insurance and all that… ugghhhhh!!

      I also want to say that I was definitely fed a pack of lies by my teachers and other adults (like my admittedly hopeful mother), that foreign language skills would be highly sought after. HA! Abroad maybe… not in the US.

      • rubymary says:
        Profile photo of rubymary

        YESSSSS thank you for the comment! I’m so glad I found someone that agrees with me! I kept telling people that it was extremely easy for me to get a job in Asia with my language skill set, and here it was impossible or they didn’t care about language skills–and my friends just kind of batted my story away. They told me it was hard to get a job anywhere and that maybe I was only given preference in Asia because I’m “white” and “foreign” and I was hired for the prestige of having a white person at the company (to which I got extremely upset–I KNOW I was hired for my language abilities! I was an interpreter for god’s sake). Anyway, I’m so happy to hear that you had a similar experience to me when it came to job hunting in the USA. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your prediction is correct: if you move back here, you will have a TERRIBLE time finding work. I think you’ll be able to find work at a Japanese company in the USA, but the pay is absolutely awful. I think in Tokyo making 35k annual is ok because there are trains, cheap housing options and universal health care. Here, making 35k (especially in a big city like LA, Seattle, SF, etc..) is downright poverty. Average rent in LA is 1,000 USD per month… TO SHARE A ROOM! Plus car expenses, health insurance, and getting raped by the IRS. When I was on JET I made crap salary but because my expenses were low I was able to save more money than I do now (and I make more). Ugh, America. I often wonder why I’m here.

        I do have to say, though, working at a Japanese company is pretty toxic (as I’m sure you know). I worked for the Japanese government last year and I was truly miserable. Everything they did made zero sense and I was frustrated beyond compare. Plus, the Japanese work place is an ice cold, emotionless void of despair and overtime. When I got a new job at an American university I was almost moved to tears by the frequent hugs, coffee breaks, a plant in my honor, joking around the office, not feeling guilty for asking for paid leave, etc… It was such a fresh breath of air. I know not ALL Japanese companies are evil (my company in Shanghai was good), but your whole life can depend on your manager and the mood of the office. No thanks.

        Anyhoo, yea, foreign language does not equal tons of money (sadly). Still, I got to travel the world and I do really, really love using languages for my job (which I don’t do now and really miss doing). Languages open up a whole new world of experiences!

        If you do come back to the USA, government and education sector do like to hire bilinguals (surprisingly). Japanese companies are also always on the hunt for bilinguals (but again, pay sucks). I also heard consulting companies like Deloitte highly prize multilinguals. Anyway, there is some hope if you ever do move back…! And I think you’ll be able to get a game translation job FOR SURE. Msg me if you ever move back I have a friend who is in the industry, and I’m sure they would love someone like you.

        Anyway, I read your blog and you’re extremely fascinating, I love it! Thanks for commenting!

  7. Joelle says:

    You know, that’s the problem with all these assumptions. People assume that it’s just one thing that gets you the job, but that’s usually not the case at all. It’s usually a combination of two or three things that gets people the job.

    For example, while having language skills is great, you have to have the language skills plus something else before you can get a good, decent-paying job. Good jobs (and really good almost-anythings) come at the intersection of two or more things. I got my current job because I fit three of the criteria they were looking for. My hiring manager actually told me “If I have to wait one year for you, I will, because somebody with your skill set is difficult to come by.”

    So sure, it’s true that one of the criteria is that I am fluent in both Chinese and English, but if I didn’t have gaming experience and translation & localization experience, I wouldn’t have gotten the job, because there are many people who are fluent in Chinese and English.

    Even with just language skills, I get job offers about once every couple months (I am not kidding, I really do), because I have a huge intersection of skills that people want. And now that I’m in Asia, I’ve actually gotten one job offer for every month I’ve been here, because as you have said above, language skills are more in favour in this part of the world than in America. So yes, absolutely, brush up on your Spanish/Japanese/Chinese, but don’t forget to work on all your other skillsets too, because those skills plus your other skills are what will get you the job.

  8. Todd says:

    Great insights. It’s interesting to hear that people are still more interested in Japanese proficiency than Chinese, but not surprising given the state of English proficiency in both countries.

    I’m curious if you have any thoughts on the viability of a combination of Japanese proficiency and expertise in Japanese food, especially traditional fermented foods, when searching for a career move. Would that be another case where the language ability would be mostly irrelevant?

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      I think that would be a great career track, if that is your passion. When I was job hunting with my Japanese language skills, a lot of food companies wanted to hire me (but unfortunately the pay was abysmal). I think if you work hard at it you could become wildly successful with the combo of Japanese/food industry. Japanese food is famous everywhere and I think it’s going to stay that way. Not a bad investment!

  9. Todd says:

    “College continually shoved the lie down my throat that a foreign language would secure me a job”

    It was big in the 80s and 90s for people in the U.S. to learn Japanese; it was actually promoted by the Japanese American society to influence young Americans perceptions of Japanese, part of a grand plan, according to a great vid I seen about it.

    Now Japanese arent “all that” and the fad is dead. Chinese was overrated as well

    But….you can find a recruiter for Japanese companies in the U.S., like Illinios or Ohio. There are many, and they need Japanese speakers. Some have reached out, but the pay, wasnt good or bad, typical Japanese style.

    Another job you might qualify for, a factory sales or service rep for a big MNC US company that has its offices and markets in Asia. There are legions of them, and you can bridge the language, customs barriers and rep for them. Might get an expat package and land a post in SG, China or rarely, Tokyo as there arent many in Japan

    Dont sell yourself short! Could work in industry (cosmetics, gaming, whatever,) for a gig, then target the overseas market of a big MNC.

  10. Todd says:

    If I might add;

    You got to think outside of the box, and expeirence in a field definetly helps. As you mentioned in your post about Japanese companies, sometimes soft skills are overrated. Its like its 10 to 20% of it. I mean the language and cultural experience skills.

    Just look at all the machines and products from the U.S. the next time your in Asia. That means they got an office in that country, or at minimum a distributor.

    They are sometimes hiring people with expeirence abroad, language skills (especially Mandarin) and a skill set that relates to their industry. They want to target that country for their product, and need a bilingual to bridge it for them

    J gov experience is a good start, but Id get more transferable skills, in anything; it does help.

    Some people go chasing the language teaching, PR, coding etc. Cant really say I reccomend that. If, for example you worked export/import office of some small company. Those skills can be used anywhere, or machine knowledge, etc.

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      Mmmm I’ve worked in a lot of different Asian companies. I wouldn’t say my foreign language skills are useless, because basically all of my jobs were a result of being fluent in Chinese and Japanese (as a native English speaker). I think in Asia you are a hot item, but in the United States it’s not as easy to find a job as a multilingual (surprisingly).

      Japanese/Chinese companies are more than willing to hire me, but as i wrote about in the “truth about working in Japanese companies” post, I honestly can’t deal with that. I would ideally like to work with a western company that deals with Asia. Crossin my fingers I get there.

  11. Todd says:

    Exactly, thats what I meant. Go with a U.S. MNC that has offices, distributors etc in Asia. I know this territory well, but to get in with one, you need experience in what they are selling or servicing. Bridge Engineer is big in IT and other service industries. Language and cultural awareness is half of it, the other half is the skill set. They dont want to train people anymore, or at least meet them half way. Hospitality is another good international field, but pay at the junior levels aint so good.

  12. Todd says:

    If I may ask; I saw where you posted that many towns in CA were mostly Chinese. Upon returning to the U.S., I saw the same thing in other states, and was quite shocked after having lived in a homogenus country for so long like Japan that rants forever about gaijins in their country. In Japan I might see a “halfu” or Chinese on a student visa working in a conbini, and actually feel like I was connected or something, kind of made my day due to the extreme isolation and ostracism. Like wow, I saw another forienger, and they actually smiled and said something in English to me. Many Japanese have told me they lived in the U.S., but could not stay due to extreme visa restrictions. So how do all those Chinese get into America? Are those 2nd generation, or is it a family calls, immigration connection type of thing going on? You would absolutely never see that in Japan, with the exception of maybe Ikebukuro or Shin Okubo, sometimes in Saitama. Honestly, I dont know how I feel about it, because in many of these far east Asian countries, they dont want outsiders (Japan and Korea, some parts of China) but have no problem settling in towns in the U.S. Part of me likes to see them integrate and become international, but the other part cringes when they arent doing that, and treat me as an outcast in their country, and might even be importing the same attitueds when they come to the U.S.?. any thoughts/feelings on that?

    • rubymary says:
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      First of all, I just moved to San Diego and HOLY JESUS there are so many Chinese people here. I might as well be in China since I hear Mandarin more than English around here…

      I think it’s mostly rich Chinese getting these visas. Usually Chinese people study in the U.S. (something lucrative like programming or accounting), get sponsored by a U.S. company and, if they’re lucky, apply for the H1 lottery visa. If they get that, they’re in. If they don’t, well, they can try again later. I have a Chinese friend whose dad has a friend that runs a company in the U.S., so they can sponsor her multiple times until she gets the H1 visa.

      Chinese people are moving everywhere. Canada, Australia, the UK… I think Japan is harder just because the society doesn’t necessarily fit their values? American and Chinese values are so similar it’s frightening.. basically, it’s all about the $$$$. I think Chinese people don’t understand concepts of loyalty to a company and place like the Japanese do, so Chinese people are happy to jump ship for better pay and don’t necessarily understand why they have to work overtime for so long when it’s unnecessary (and honestly, Americans think the same). Chinese people aren’t very loved in Japan (there’s huge prejudice against them there), so I think they feel more comfortable in a place like the USA where its a melting pot of cultures and there’s already a shit ton of Chinese people here to bond with. I think only huge otakus make it in the long run in Japan.. and really, that goes for anyone.

      I’m going to sound horrifically racist but I think the Chinese influx is a little too much. Most of them are going abroad for the first time and they also have a difficult time integrating into a new culture. That said, they don’t disrupt the peace or cause too many societal problems, but they are buying up property like crazy here which is causing a shortage in housing for “real” Americans (i.e. not recent immigrants but people who have lived here for 10+ years).

  13. Todd says:

    “I’m going to sound horrifically racist but I think the Chinese influx is a little too much”

    I dont understand why many from the U.S. and other places always are so careful to buffer everything they say. Im sure Ive said much worse, but only after being blatenly discriminated against. Its like you cant deal on that level with political correctness. In many Far East Asian cultures, discrimination is not even recongnized; thats something created in the West.
    There are Chinese buying up Japanese business and land also, and Japanese TVdocumentaries are dedicated to showing it. The locals dont seem very happy about it all. Some of the Chinese even go as far as to dismiss allot of the Japanese staff and hire their own. Kind of sureal to see such a thing happen in Japan, but then again, Japanese manage all their plants in the U.S. with litle U.S. management, so I cant feel much pity for them.

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