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Friday, May 24, 2013

My Spanish and My Job Search


Recently, my contract with a career development company working as a professional résumé writer ended, and I've been going on interviews for jobs where I can assist other job seekers as a counselor and/or a workshop instructor. Because I have such a passion for the Spanish language, one of my favorite job search strategies is to market my Spanish-speaking ability to companies that need Spanish speakers without saying that I'm bilingual or fluent.. Many employers confuse my ability to communicate in Spanish with fluency, and the employers who do speak Spanish often ask me questions in Spanish during interviews to get a real sense of my command of the language.

One day while working as an educational-vocational specialist at a social services agency in San Francisco, my supervisor who needed an interpreter, quickly ran over to my office for help. Several weeks later, this same supervisor remarked that I'm fluent. LOL—wrong! The Spanish-speaker whom I was able to help was simply satisfied to get the information he needed from my supervisor and could care less about my fluency and lack thereof. When I first joined this agency, another manager overheard me laughing and joking in Spanish with a Cuban immigrant, and this manager passed by looking at me and smiling seemingly pleased that the organization has one more bilingual person to work with many of their monolingual, Spanish-speaking clients. In fact, many of my colleagues to this day think I'm fluent, and there was nothing I can say to convince them otherwise.

In my most recent job interview (as of this writing), the contract manager asked me point blank if I am fluent in Spanish. Like other employers who ask this question, this is what I explained; I speak enough Spanish to have traveled to nine Spanish-speaking countries where I socialized, conducted personal business, and explored new cultures with no opportunity whatsoever to fall back on my English if I happened to get stuck in translation. Fortunately when I'm in a Spanish-speaking country, my level of fluency seemingly rises by default. On the job, however, I've conducted counseling sessions, wrote résumés in English for clients who dictated their experience and skills sets to me in Spanish, and even taught a couple of job search workshops in Spanish, which for me, was a challenge and a stretch.

You might ask, why is it that I feel that I'm not fluent in Spanish? Just ask all of the Spanish-speaking friends I made in the countries I've visited. They will all tell you, oh, Guillermo's (Bill's) Spanish is aiight (it's OK), but certainly not fluent. I'm still working on that!