In a global economy, it's not surprising that job candidates who speak more than one language are coveted.
Especially in the medical field, "the sector with the most demand for bilingual employees," according to Anita Komlos, North American director of business development for Berlitz, a firm that specializes in foreign language instruction. "Hospitals and pharmaceutical firms realize they need to gear up and expand" in a variety of positions to better serve diverse groups of patients.
Komlos says that even though a job description calls for a receptionist, most employers want bilingual employees to act as interpreters in that position.
The medical field is just the latest to get on the bilingual bandwagon. Other industries have been reaching out to different peoples for some time.
"The financial and the information technology industries have been going through the same thing (cultural outreach) over the last ten years," Komlos declares. "Both want to reach out to other markets within the US so that each company becomes more diversified and has more tools to succeed."
Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International in Menlo Park, says a growing number of businesses are expanding internationally to reach new markets and better serve the needs of clients with global operations.
"As a result, professionals who are bilingual and have experience in foreign tax law, international trade regulations and reporting procedures are highly marketable," he notes.
Messmer predicts that future generations of accountants will be communicating with colleagues around the world to analyze financial data and develop business strategies.
A New Tongue in Ten Weeks
Masa Yasudi, language consultant with Aisei Japanese Language Services in San Francisco, agrees.
"Most students sign up for the 10-12 week course to become translators or interviewers or to have that extra skill to get noticed in the job market," he points out. "I think enrolling in our program is similar to going to college. It allows for personal growth and the opportunity for a better job and better money."
Obviously, it's a great benefit if you want to be in international business, he adds.
Bilingual by The Bay
The Bay Area is rich with bilingual language opportunities for enterprising jobseekers.
"Cantonese is very important and I would like to learn to speak it so I could reach out to this untapped market," comments Cynthia Cortez, a spanish speaking sales agent with Rynda Insurance Services in San Leandro. "It's best to communicate in a language customers understand so they will know what they purchased."
Dorothy Johnson, branch manager of Diversified Personnel in Oakland, has a major social services client contract that requires bilingual people for temporary assignments.
At election time, Johnson says her staffing agency has requests from the Registrar of Voters for Cantonese or other Asian dialects.
"We pull applicants from a database for jobs that usually involve working with welfare recipients in healthcare locations such as hospital emergency wards - any place where there are diverse groups of people," she says. "We often have to recruit from Hispanic organizations, Private Industry Council, Lau Family or other ethnic groups."
"If you are a jobseeker with bilingual skills, make sure you incorporate the information on your application," Johnson advises. "Often people neglect to do this and it's an important, valuable skill that shouldn't be overlooked."
Spanish is the language in demand for Terry Kemp with Pathways Personnel in San Francisco. She says more employers are starting to request Spanish-speaking workers, and she predicts it will become more common.
"Having bilingual skills is especially important in customer service jobs and administrative assistant positions in immigration law firms," she reports. "Whatever you can do to set yourself apart from other job candidates is great."
Sales agent Cortez agrees that speaking Spanish is definitely an advantage on the job. "Especially in this market area (the East Bay)," she states. "Only two agents in this office are not bilingual, and they don't produce as much as those who speak two languages."
Prior to her present position, Cortez encountered many Spanish-speaking customers at another insurance firm in Los Angeles, where her language skills really came in handy.
The multilingual trend in that industry is expanding as well. "I notice other insurance companies are hiring bilingual staff and I think that's wonderful," she adds. "These firms recognize they have to be able to help customers with claims and policies at all hours, not just when there is a bilingual agent available."
Spanish is most requested in the Sacramento-Bakersfield corridor, according to Accountemps regional manager David Araldi. But he predicts that additional languages will become increasingly prevalent as the population diversifies. In Stockton, with its large mix of ethnic groups, those with bilingual Asian skills will be in demand.
"I would say there is a pressing need for bilingual personnel in . . . government services and the many food and agriculture distribution firms in Northern and Central California," Araldi says. "Having those skills is very beneficial for accounting and financial back-office positions."
Sacramento County confirms Araldi's assessment. The county routinely hires bilingual employees, reports personnel office manager Dee Williams-Ridley. "We test applicants for a number of bilingual positions that include collections services aide, clerical, service workers, social workers and many more. The number of the jobs and the language required to fill them depends on the need that has been identified in the community."
The Accent Advantage
While foreign language skills give candidates an edge, it may not necessarily guarantee more money.
"The winds of the economy have shifted, and having bilingual skills may not mean a pay differential, but it will expedite your ability to find a job," Araldi states. "Anyone who has something a little extra when competing for the same job is going to have an advantage. Being bilingual also expands your skill sets, people skills and makes you more marketable to a potential employer."
Or as Sacramento County's Williams-Ridley puts it, "Having bilingual county employees is great for us, but even better for the public."
For more information on bilingual opportunities, contact these organizations:
Sacramento County - saccountyjobs.org, (916) 874-6771
Robert Half International - rhi.com, (650) 234-6000
Accountemps - accountemps.com
Diversified Personnel - diversifiedpersonnel.com,
Rynda's #1 Insurance Services - (510) 297-6960
Aisei Japanese Language Services - aisei.com, (415) 296-9295
Pathways Personnel - pathwayspersonnel.com, (415) 391-2060
Berlitz - berlitz.com, (866) 773-2548
Arthur's Job Base Foreign and Bilingual - ajb.com/parts/foreign.shtml, provides a list of resources for foreign and bilingual jobseekers.
Bilingual-Jobs.com - The premier diversity job destination for bilingual career professionals. From translation and localization engineers to technology and service staff, we are the top choice of leading employers worldwide.
CVLatino.com - Job search site for Latino professionals. Job listings are in the US, Latin America and Spain.
LatPro.com - Job search engine, resume posting, and resources for Spanish and Portuguese.