Foreign language skills can be a significant asset in the commercial sector, even if they are rarely a requirement
In increasingly globalised businesses, speaking the buyer's language helps attract overseas clients. Naturally, you need to demonstrate a range of skills to suit the role and industry you're aiming for but communication, along with commercial awareness and organisational skills, will be useful everywhere.
Research companies and exploit any opportunity to use your language skills once you are employed to get noticed and progress in your career.
Look for job titles such as export sales assistant/manager or for companies with overseas clients. You may be based in the UK, but you are likely to have regular contact with overseas clients and there may be opportunities to travel abroad. Also see sales executive and marketing executive.
Bilingual administrators combine secretarial and language skills to interpret, translate or summarise information and make practical arrangements for meetings and travel. High-level secretarial skills are as important as your language ability. For more information, see secretary/administrator.
Some major banking groups have a branch network overseas and assist trade across national boundaries. Investment banks with international interests are based mainly in Britain, Europe, the USA and Japan. Specialist departments work to invest the bank's funds in international ventures. For more information, see retail banker.
While law firms consider language skills an asset they will, of course, be looking for legal skills and qualifications. Larger law firms, particularly those in the City, are international and have offices throughout the world. They employ translators and interpreters as necessary, but staff with language skills may be in a better position to deal with international cases or to get overseas postings. For more information on working in the legal profession, see the law sector.
Patent examiners need a scientific, technical or engineering background. It is sometimes useful to know European languages at a conversational level. The European Patent Office (EPO) requires a good knowledge of at least two of the official EU languages (English, French and German). Patent agents, who apply for the granting of patents, may find these useful too.
Accountants working within international businesses are responsible for financial reporting, budgeting and planning. They also play a key role in operational decision-making. Multinational communications are facilitated significantly by language skills. Increasing centralisation of core functions such as finance means accountants are highly likely to deal with colleagues, customers and suppliers overseas.
Large accountancy firms audit and advise clients with international businesses, which may require them to audit the company’s business and transactions in all its offices abroad. See chartered accountant, chartered certified accountant, chartered management accountant and chartered public finance accountant.
Many larger insurance companies have overseas departments. Initially, graduates are likely to take professional exams and gain experience but, after this, overseas postings are a realistic option.
Much overseas business is reinsurance, which spreads the risk for major insured losses such as natural or shipping disasters between two or more companies. Larger or specialist firms of insurance brokers advise on and arrange insurance worldwide. See the accountancy, banking and finance sector.
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