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Career options for language graduates

 

Recently graduated with a languages degree? Here's a list of career options for you and which skills and further qualifications you may need.

 

Freelance translator

What the job entails:

Working autonomously for clients translating texts within a specialist subject matter, such as engineering, legal or tourism.

Any further qualifications required:

You'll need a Masters or post-graduate qualification in translation and some experience. You can gain experience by translating voluntarily for not-for-profit organisations such as Translators without Borders.

Skills you need:

  • An in-depth understanding of target and source languages and cultures
  • Acute attention to detail
  • Excellent time management and the ability to meet deadlines
  • Self-motivation
  • The ability to work well on your own
  • To be business-minded - you're in charge of your own business and will need to promote yourself, source new clients, chase overdue accounts etc.
  • Customer service skills - it is important to establish a base of clients, so be personable and friendly
  • IT skills - you should be able to use several computer programs and translation memory software

Recommended if you like working by yourself in your own home/office, have excellent organisation skills, would prefer a flexible schedule and can afford a variable salary.

 

In-house translator

What the job entails:

Translating texts within a specialist subject area, such as engineering, legal or tourism for a company in an office environment.

Any further qualifications required:

Usually a Masters in translation, otherwise you can look for translation internships so you can receive on-the-job training.

Skills you need:

  • An in-depth understanding of target and source languages and cultures
  • Acute attention to detail
  • Excellent time management and the ability to meet deadlines
  • IT skills - you should be able to use several computer programs and translation memory software
  • Interpersonal skills - you should be able to work well with your colleagues in an office environment

Recommended if you love translating but want to work in an office environment and also if you want to gain translation experience before going freelance with a fixed, guaranteed monthly salary.

 

Court interpreter

What the job entails:

Relaying what is being said by the speaker quickly and fluently in another language.

Any further qualifications required:

You'll need a specialist qualification in interpreting such as a Masters or DPSI training, which will give you lots of hours of practice. It's also useful to shadow other court interpreters if you have the opportunity.

Skills you need:

  • A high level of concentration
  • An in-depth understanding of target and source languages and cultures
  • Excellent public speaking skills - the ability to speak confidently in a clear way
  • Flexibility - you may be called out at short notice or be asked to work overtime
  • The ability to think on your feet when speech is fast-paced
  • To be business-minded - you're in charge of your own business and will need to promote yourself, source new clients, chase overdue accounts etc.

Also, bear in mind that you should be well-presented at all times as you're representing the corporate image of your clients.

Recommended for language graduates who excel at speaking and listening in a foreign language. It is a far more intense job than being a translator and you should shadow and practise to see if it's right for you.

 

International Business Development Specialist

What the job entails:

Looking at prospects both in the UK and abroad for the company you're working for and targeting them to bring in new business.

Any further qualifications required:

Sales training would help for this role but there's the option of starting off as an International Business Development Assistant and gaining experience on the job.

Skills you need:

  • An in-depth understanding of target and source languages and cultures
  • People skills
  • Excellent communication skills - both verbal and written as you must be able to communicate with internal employees and prospects in all of your languages
  • Collaboration skills - you must be able to work effectively with others in your team
  • IT skills - such as the ability to use CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software
  • Negotiation skills - you'll need to compromise whilst still achieving targets
  • Business intelligence - you should learn and be knowledgeable about your company's products and services as well as competitors'
  • Creativity - you should seek new opportunities and new routes to market
  • Analytical skills such as the ability to analyse market research and sales data and present it to prospects

Recommended for confident, outgoing people who have excellent communication skills and can quickly establish a rapport with others

 

Teacher

What the job entails:

Planning and carrying out foreign language lessons to students or to adults at night classes.

Any further qualifications required:

PGCE

Skills you need:

  • Strong organisational and planning skills - you need to prepare engaging lessons and plan for staff meetings
  • Enthusiasm - you must be able to convey your passion and knowledge for languages to your pupils
  • Communication skills, verbal and written, and positive body language. You must also be a good listener
  • Critical thinking - you should be able to solve a variety of problems and be able to answer questions from pupils on the spot
  • IT skills such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint and the ability to pick up how to use interactive whiteboards and other classroom technology
  • Flexibility - you may have to teach after hours or stay after school hours to plan or for staff or parent meetings and you may have to accompany pupils on trips
  • Patience and tolerance - you may often need to deal with difficult classes and pupils and have to explain concepts several times

Recommended for confident graduates who can demand authority where necessary and have the ability to explain points clearly.

 

Journalist

What the job entails:

Conducting research, interviewing and writing up articles for print or online newspapers and magazines. Language graduates have an advantage as they can conduct interviews in other languages and attend press trips abroad with ease.

Any further qualifications required:

MA in journalism or a lot of experience in writing articles for blogs and student newspapers etc, which can be demonstrated in a portfolio of work.

Skills you need:

  • Good time management and the ability to adhere to strict deadlines and also to be able to juggle a busy schedule to write urgent articles
  • Acute attention to detail
  • For freelance journalists - self-management and some marketing skills for self-promotion, however there's the option of being a staff writer or editor at a magazine or newspaper
  • The ability to come up with interesting stories
  • The motivation to conduct thorough research and to check all facts very carefully
  • Communication skills with interviewees, other writers and editors
  • Empathy and sensitivity

Recommended for graduates with strong written skills and an interest in researching and for those who are not fazed by constructive criticism from editors.

 

Language Analyst - GCHQ

What the job entails:

Piecing together information to give valuable insights into intelligence all over the world.

Any further qualifications required:

See list of preferred languages below. Training is also provided on the job.

Skills you need:

  • Fluency in at least 2 foreign languages. Currently the languages desired by GCHQ are Arabic, Persian, Hindi, Mandarin Chinese, Mirpuri, Pashto, Punjabi, Russian, Urdu and West African languages but you can join with others and learn new ones
  • Being a quick learner - you need to be able to pick up new languages to fluency level within a couple of months
  • Discretion - it is an intelligence agency so discretion is important, especially in the recruitment process
  • Clear analytical and presentation skills
  • The ability to skim read and listen to a lot of information and take in the key points
  • Problem solving - you need to be able to tackle complex problems and overcome difficult challenges
  • Team work - to be able to demonstrate that you were involved in group projects growing up and were members of clubs etc
  • Determination - to overcome setbacks and deliver successful results

Recommended for graduates who are looking for an extremely demanding and challenging role and are willing to travel and have residencies abroad for months at a time. Not for the faint-hearted!

 

Tour Guide

What the job entails:

Taking foreign visitors on planned tours of attractions and providing commentary throughout, potentially in other languages.

Any further qualifications required:

Training on the job is usually provided although you may need a Blue Badge in Tourist Guiding for certain London attractions.

Skills you need:

  • Communication skills, mainly verbal to convey information to foreign tourists such as itineraries and destinations
  • Professional and specialist knowledge to inform tourists
  • Time-management - must be efficient at reaching destinations on time
  • Organisation skills - organise visits, entry to attractions, accommodation etc
  • Humorous/light-heartedness - you must be able to make your tours interesting and memorable for tourists
  • Sensitivity - you must be able to adapt to differing cultural norms of tourists

Recommended for fun and bubbly graduates who love culture and history and chatting to new people about it!

 

Air Cabin Crew

What the job entails:

Providing an excellent customer service to passengers flying to and from their destinations and ensuring their comfort and safety at all times.

Any further qualifications required:

On-the-job training

Skills you need:

  • Languages - speaking other languages can put you at an advantage against other candidates and you'll have a wider range of airlines to choose to work for.
  • Communication skills - you'll have to communicate in a clear and confident manner with a large range of people, from passengers to airport staff
  • Great teamwork skills - you may have to work with different teams every day and will work with a diverse range of people
  • Numeracy skills - you will need to work with money when selling duty free and food and drinks and will need a good understanding of currency exchange rates
  • Flexibility - you'll work very long hours with overnight stays
  • Health and fitness - some airlines want you to be able to swim up to 25m
  • Safety-conscious attitude - you are responsible for the safety of passengers, so need to work in an organised and safe manner
  • A calm approach and ability to work under pressure - the role can be extremely pressurised, e.g. dealing with difficult passengers, so it is important to deal with complaints etc effectively while focusing on the role

Recommended for well-presented, customer-friendly graduates who enjoy flying, foreign travel and can stay calm in high pressure situations

 

Project Manager

What the job entails:

Organising language projects for customers by assessing which freelancers are most suitable and handling both supplier and client queries.

Any further qualifications required:

Andiamo! requires Project Managers to have an MA in translation or to have previous experience.

Skills you need:

  • Strong communication skills - you are the 'middleman' between suppliers and clients and must be able to communicate with both effectively
  • An eye for detail - to spot mistakes in translation projects
  • Multitasking and organisation - translation project managers must often manage multiple components of a project at one time and multiple projects for different clients
  • Good at problem solving - clients may come to you with unusual requests and it's up to you to find solutions and workarounds
  • Positive attitude - you'll have demands from clients and co-workers and you should be able to stay positive at all times and not crack under pressure
  • IT skills - you should be able to use several computer programs and translation memory software
  • Negotiation skills - you must be able to negotiate the best prices and turnaround times from suppliers
  • Assertiveness - if suppliers do not deliver on time it's up to you to find out the reasons and come up with a solution as quickly as possible

Recommended for language graduates who excel at multitasking and can keep calm and prioritise under pressure.

For more information visit - What is a translation project manager?

 

International Aid Worker

What the job entails:

To provide assistance to people in less developed countries.

Any further qualifications required:

It depends on the area you want to work in, whether it is hands-on, fundraising, medical or administrative. Most specialist areas will require additional qualifications but training will be given for others.

Skills you need:

  • Communication skills - you will need to communicate with a wide range of people in your native language, the languages you've studied and other languages you pick up along the way. Spanish, French and Portuguese are commonly requested languages, however other languages such as Russian, Arabic, Chinese and Swahili may be helpful
  • Problem solving skills
  • Effective team-work - you need to be able to build relationships quickly with new people and work well alongside them
  • Organisation - you need to be able to manage your workload, prioritising and delegating work when necessary

Recommended for graduates who love to travel and want to make a difference when it comes to housing, healthcare and education in less developed countries.

 

 

 

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