Where are you now?
Equity Middle Office Analyst, Citigroup, Belfast
How did you get there?
I had applied for a few jobs after graduation and heard about my current role through the careers service at Queen’s. I applied mainly because they required someone who could speak French and was one of the few posts I had seen where I could directly use my language skills as well as take on the challenge of learning about an industry that was completely unfamiliar; I had never previously considered finance as a career path and had very little knowledge of what the role would involve until I had actually started.
Making use of Careers, Employability and Skills at Queen’s
Career guidance: I heard about the role shortly after I graduated through the Careers service, who helped me with the application and to prepare for the interview.
Study Tour: I participated in the Brussels Study Tour in my final year. Most of the prospective employers we met were interested in hiring language graduates, but I was surprised to discover that the ability to speak a foreign language was not what they valued most.
For example, they pointed out that language graduates will have lived in a foreign country so can be more mobile and adaptable during their careers and thrive in unfamiliar situations. They are better prepared for working with diverse groups of people and creatively overcoming communication problems, which is particularly essential in large international organisations. A particular feature of the degree is the focus on analysis and on oral presentation skills which are useful in any working environment.
As a result of the study tour I realised that I wouldn’t be wasting my degree if my job didn’t specifically require a foreign language, since I had developed so many equally valuable skills which I could apply to a wide range of roles and industries.
Study Abroad: In my third year I did an Erasmus exchange at Université François-Rabelais in Tours, France as the compulsory year abroad module. I also completed two summer language courses in Germany. Although these didn’t really affect my choice of career, the experience of living in a foreign country was invaluable and has given me (and my employer) the confidence to know that I could cope successfully if my work took me abroad, and since starting I have been on business trips to France and Switzerland. Additionally, the experience of being an international student has helped me enormously because I met people from many different cultures and became used to speaking to people whose first language was not English, which is a useful skill to have in a global company.
Advice for current Queen's students
I would advise any languages student not to underestimate the value of your degree – it’s often dismissed as “just another arts degree” which doesn’t really lead anywhere other than translation or teaching. In reality, the unique aspects of the course – such as the oral examinations, the year abroad, the analysis of different types of texts and the emphasis on cultural awareness – mean that there are unlimited options open, but you need to recognise that your skillset goes beyond simply being able to speak a second or third language and can be applied to any career.
In my experience, rather than looking for people who have studied a particular subject, employers are becoming more interested in graduates who are willing to develop new skills while learning on the job and who can offer something different. So an “arts degree” is definitely not a hindrance, while having a language can make you stand out, but it’s up to you to consider the additional skills gained during your studies which you mightn’t even realise set you apart.