It’s hard to believe that fifteen years ago I considered my ability to speak fluent Korean a handicap in my career. Playing up my bi-lingual ability, I figured, would make me seem like a cultural misfit. And with good reason. I entered the workforce back in the bad old days when globalization and multi-culturalism were exotic concepts to most Americans.
But even today I find many bi-lingual Asian Americans worrying that they will marginalize themselves in the minds of employers if they play up their bi-cultural backgrounds and bi-lingual abilities. If you ever encounter that kind of attitude, you’re talking to the wrong employers!
Today the top companies in the fastest growing fields are making a concerted push to seek out bi-lingual Asian Americans. Among them are industry-leading companies like Bayer, GSK, Ford, State Farm, Allstate and KPMG. The choicest employers are making a special effort to attract bi-cultural workers with bi-lingual skills by offering compensations and opportunities for advancement that factor in the value of such people to corporate growth plans.
What accounts for the strong interest in bi-linguals? The most important factors include the need for businesses to outsource internationally both products and services and the evolution of increasingly sophisticated marketing strategies that target immigrant populations as keys to revenue growth.
The ongoing business booms in countries like China, India, Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines — as well as the robust Asian immigration rates — mean that opportunities for bi-lingual Asian Americans abound in every industry. What follows is a brief list of fields experiencing the highest growth in demand for bi-lingual professionals.
Nowhere is trust more important than in money matters. Nothing is more essential to building trust then the ability to communicate fluently in the client’s native language. Corporate giants that deal in insurance, investments, mortgage lending and other financial services know that in a mature economy with a low population growth like the U.S., success hinges on winning new customers among fast-growing immigrant populations. Recruiting Asian Americans fluent in both English and in their parents’ native languages are key components of the growth strategies of companies like State Farm, Prudential Securities, Allstate, Bank of America, Washington Mutual and many others. People with the skills to tap this demand can enjoy high earnings limited only by their ambition and energy.
Hospitals in today’s American cities have trouble keeping up with the demand for health-care personnel who can communicate with immigrants with limited English-language ability. Especially where precious seconds can mean the difference between life and death, the shortage of bi-lingual staff is being addressed through stop-gap measures like asking high-school volunteers or even the patient’s children to translate. As recently publicized in the media, the resulting problems in diagnosis and treatment have opened the door to needless suffering and medical malpractice suits. The demand for bi-lingual Asians in the healthcare field will remain robust for years, if not decades, to come.
National Security/Diplomatic Corps
9/11 showed the U.S. the importance of understanding the mentality and tactics of foreign powers, both hostile and friendly. The biggest weakness of U.S. intelligence has been a shortage of analysts and agents capable of monitoring and interpreting foreign-language public and private communications as well as maintaining meaningful dialogue with the governments of other nations. The big push to correct that deficiency has U.S. intelligence organizations like the NSA, CIA, FBI, DIA, Naval Intelligence, as well as the State Department, conducting ongoing recruitment efforts toward bi-lingual Americans, especially of Middle Eastern and Asian nationalities. Much of the resources and openings once directed toward Europe are being diverted toward Asia as of 2006, creating opportunities that didn’t exist in the past. Next
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