Linguist Superpowers

Linguist Superpowers

A year on from our last Careers Using Languages panel, Sarah Gardiner reflects on what the panellists shared about their own journeys and the power of languages

Our 2020 BC (before Coronavirus!) Careers Using Languages panel saw six very different speakers share their advice and tips on how they use languages in their careers and the varied and interesting paths they have taken – and it further confirmed that linguists really do have superpowers.

Non-linear journeys

Career paths can look a lot like snakes and ladders. There was no linear path for any of our panellists. It’s more about developing as you go along, evaluating and questioning where you are going – it’s an ongoing process.

Don’t feel you have got to get it right now! … it’s OK not to rush…

That was the resounding message from all six of our panellists, “Don’t Rush!”  It’s OK to take time. It’s an advantage to take time off after you graduate to find out what you want to do.

One panellist recalls, “I remember feeling overwhelmed… thinking I’ve got to make the right decision and now and if I don’t get it right I have wasted everything…  Today, students say to me I don’t know what to do. I have got to get this right, I am about to graduate but I don’t know what I am supposed to do. What’s the answer?  I tell them. There is no right answer.” It’s really OK not to know. What matters is you gain experience, whether that’s volunteering, studying abroad or internships.

Another panellist wanted to be a diplomat. By doing 2 internships and meeting the person doing the job he thought he wanted was an essential element in him deciding that he didn’t want to be a diplomat after all. There are no wrong turns or wasted experiences. Panellists agreed that every part of their journey has taught them something new.

Don’t underestimate the power of volunteering, it’s a great way to gain experience and a foot in the door. It creates contacts, an opportunity to connect within a wider community, allows you to use your chosen language and provides valuable content for your CV.  It also gives employers further insight into your commitment for something you’re interested in.

Volunteering shows employers that you care enough about something to give up your time to do it.

Finding your niche

Another positive outcome – experience can help you find your niche.  The panellists agreed that this was a huge element towards creating and carving your path. If you know what your niche is then build on it now. It could be how you decide to structure your course, what options you choose, or what you write your dissertation on.

After graduation you can take time continuing to build up that niche so that by the time you apply for jobs, you’re already an expert in something.

We all have our unique stories, unique to us.

It’s important to emphasise that you all have your own unique non-linear journey, a combination of your passion, languages, year abroad, experiences and outlook.  Let your story and passion shape your career path and help you discover and develop that niche.

Nurture your network

Alongside this, nurture your network, you never know where it might lead. Panellists all had positive experiences by making use of their contacts. Talk to as many people as possible, opportunities may spring from paths crossing now or with someone you meet further down the line. So, visit careers fairs, talk to employers, alumni, professors, careers advisors – you will be sowing that seed for your future growth.

Communication is key

Don’t underestimate the value of being able to communicate with somebody. Remember, this is what you are good at. It’s not uncommon for linguists to go into communications, it ticks a lot of boxes and is a fantastic skill.

Our panellists wanted to reiterate that you already have valuable skills that your peers do not have.  You can speak languages. This is what will open doors and take you to an ‘inner circle’. “So be open to opportunities when you least expect it”.

I position myself as a linguist who happens to practise law.

Believe in yourself and your abilities and jump into a world of endless possibilities

Our panellists have all gained from whatever paths they have taken and wanted to highlight the exciting opportunities ahead for you, but most of all they wanted to remind you that you all have incredible powers. Be confident in your abilities, in your fluency, it’s hugely impressive for employers.

Don’t be afraid to believe you can apply yourself to something you’ve not done before. After all, as linguists you are daring, curious, and have transferrable skills that give you your unique superpowers.  Let’s recap: you are critical thinkers, incredibly good communicators, adaptable, excellent at forming relationships and understanding others. So, let your superpowers shine.

  • There is no rush to decide on a long-term career plan.
  • There are no wrong choices. Nothing is linear and every opportunity is new and exciting.
  • You are not alone. Everyone feels the same way and there are people to help offer advice and guidance along the way: careers advisors, mentors, coaches.
  • Your language is an asset – it forms bonds, develops relationships, and has taught you incredibly transferrable skills.
  • Your time at Cambridge is invaluable (you are good at dealing with things being thrown at you), which is good for working in business and pretty much all environments.
  • Your story is unique.
  • If you want to listen to our panel or listen to past careers using languages panels go to our podcasts here.
  • For jobs and opportunities using your languages take a look at our careers using languages pages and visit Handshake for vacancies.
  • GoinGlobal is a great resource for finding internships abroad
  • Read our blogs by MMLL students and alum.

We hope you find this useful, do let us know if you have any queries by emailing

Careers Using Languages

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