Your French Major at Work
- In a ranking of the 13 most useful college majors: “common foreign languages” like French and Spanish placed #10, ahead of general business, elementary education, and economics.
- French ranks second only to Mandarin Chinese as “the most useful business language after English” according to Bloomberg Rankings, while Spanish placed fourth.
- “According to a 2011 Career Builder survey, 29 percent of companies said that if they had to decide between two equally qualified candidates, they would choose the candidate who is bilingual.”
- French is the most practical language to learn: “When employers and universities look at applicants, they do not start looking at the bottom of the list to see who has done only the minimum necessary or taken the easiest route available, they start at the top of the list and look for those students who have risen above the rest. ( . . . ) With French they have access to the most widely spoken foreign language in the world after English and they become familiar with a culture that significantly influences our own. The French economy is one of the strongest in the world and is increasingly a leader in technological innovation. In sum, French is the language of the future,” writes Richard Shryock, Professor of French at Virginia Tech, in Language Magazine.
- Thinking in a Foreign Language Helps Economic Decision-Making: people make more rational decisions when they think through a problem in a non-native tongue, according to ScienceDaily.
- “Being bilingual makes you smarter: Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age,” according to research highlighted in the New York Times.
- “The Economist and Wired highlighted a recent study from the journal Psychological Science, which found that thinking in a foreign language helps people to avoid common cognitive traps. In a series of studies, a group of psychologists found that thinking in another language reduced the misleading biases people hold that influence how we weigh the risks and benefits in a decision. Given how critical decision-making is in every leadership job, and how easy it is for anyone to fall into the trap of letting biases lead their thinking, perhaps a second language should be more of a resume booster than just the potential for an executive to win business overseas,” as reported in the Washington Post.
- "Sometimes liberal-arts majors struggle a bit more than other majors when launching their careers, but the evidence shows that they tend to advance farther and be more sought out by CEOs for high-level jobs," says Katharine Hansen, writer for the job-hunting website Quintessential Careers and author of A Foot in the door: Networking Your Way Into the Hidden Job Market.
- Michelle Marion graduated in 2009 from Georgetown Washington with a degree in French. Not the most secure degree when the economy is tanking. But Marion waited tables for a few months to pay the bills and look for an appropriate job. It turned out to be at an aerospace company. "My responsibilities, which actually had little to do with the fact that I spoke French, were vast and varied," she says. "They had more to do with skills such as researching, organization and self-motivation that I learned through the multi-disciplinary four years I spent in college."
Marion was willing to start in a junior assistant position and wound up in a senior position -- with a big pay increase in six months. She says that she knows other French majors who got good jobs at consulting firms, financial companies and government agencies.
- Students who enjoyed foreign languages in high school are natural candidates for this major. The knowledge of multiple foreign languages is helpful when students seek careers in the Foreign Service, in international companies, and in teaching. To understand a foreign language, the student must have excellent knowledge of English, as well. The study of other languages and cultures offers students communicative skills and understanding that are increasingly valuable in many fields: business, education, government, law enforcement, media, social services and the service industry, among others. Many students choose a double or secondary major and combine a foreign language with a complementary field like English, history, international studies, journalism, political science, business, international marketing or education.
- As you create your resume, here are some skills and attributes that can help you translate a liberal arts degree to a job in the business world: Defining problems and tasks. Mastery of information retrieval systems (libraries, books, periodicals, Internet, personal interviews). Planning and executing research. Organizing ideas and solutions. Writing and communicating. And perhaps most important, a well-honed ability to learn what you need to in order to accomplish a task. An open mind to new ideas and approaches. Disciplined work habits. A critical eye and ear.