Skill Development for Public Service & Government Careers: Languages

Interested in a future career in public service or government? Not sure what skills to work on during your time at UVA? Our Skill Development in PSG Careers blog series highlights some of the most in-demand skill sets according to our alumni in the field. Review these posts to learn why these skills are helpful, how to develop them, and how to market them in your application materials! This installment in the series focuses on the value of language proficiency.

How is language proficiency valuable in PSG careers?

Language proficiency can be a great way to differentiate yourself throughout the hiring process in a competitive field. It can also lead to a higher salary later down the road. The New American Economy released a report in 2017 that illustrated the demand for bilingual workers had nearly doubled, and this statistic is even more pertinent in the PSG field. For instance, some intelligence agencies offer incentives for a wide range of languages, and some even reward employees for maintaining their language proficiency. Having proficiency in another language can also be valuable if you are interested in a globally minded career, such as international development!

How can you work on developing your language proficiency?

The general language requirement at UVA is a great way to get started but going beyond this requirement could pay off in the long run. Many academic programs exist at UVA to help you become multilingual. There are also language houses on Grounds (such as the Shea House) that will help you build a stronger connection to the UVA community while also gaining many valuable transferable skills!

No room in your schedule? No problem! The summer can be a great time to work on your language skills to beef up your resume by practicing a language. For example, Coursera is a free online program that can be a great tool to help create your language skills. Best thing to do is practice, practice, practice!

Want to hear more stories of how languages can propel your career?

Consider networking with UVA alumni who used their language in their career by searching on LinkedIn. Click on the University of Virginia tag and search by major or key word (ex. search the language you are learning, such as Swahili or Spanish) to find alumni. You can find even more alumni on Virginia Alumni Mentoring.

Make sure to highlight your languages in your application materials!

It is vital that your language skill is marketed effectively on your resume. If your language is related to your education, such as a major or a minor, then an appropriate place to situate it would be at the top with your school information. If you speak this language at home or learned outside of school, consider adding a “skills” section at the bottom of your resume to highlight the language. Be sure to check out the Hoos Guide, a digital resource full of sample resumes, cover letters, and interviewing advice.