Second language big boost to career
Nashville Tennessean
Sept. 3, 2005

Greer Johnson

For Beth Schirding, getting a job was as easy as uno, dos, tres.

In December, before graduating from Baylor University in Texas, Schirding was just a name in a pile of applications for the position of executive assistant at Nashville Bun Co. That was before her ability to speak Spanish
caught the eye of a recruiter at the company.

Schirding is part of a growing number of new hires valued by employers because of their foreign-language skills.

"She's really good," said Cordia Harrington, president and CEO of Nashville Bun Co.

Some of the other candidates had more experience, but Harrington hired Schirding because she could communicate with the company's Hispanic and Latino workers.

"I'm seeing more employers looking for students with another language, particularly in Spanish, because of the number of Hispanics," said Patricia Jacobs, director of career services at Belmont University.

Schirding majored in Spanish, which meant writing papers in Spanish and doing lots of translating. As graduation neared, the pressure to find a job increased. Schirding had doubts about her career options.

"I didn't
have experience in anything," she said. "I graduated with a degree in Spanish, and I didn't want to be a teacher. I thought I was unmarketable."

At Nashville Bun Co., her job is to make workplace communication easier on everyone. Gloria Pastrana, a Spanish-speaking worker, said that she likes the bilingual atmosphere at Nashville Bun because she can communicate better to management what she faces as a worker.

Other employees have caught on to the language trend. Plant manager Chris Corley said he has begun taking Spanish classes at a nearby library.

"Everyone here is trying to learn another language," Schirding said.

Francene Gilmer, director of the career center at Vanderbilt University, said that having a second language is a "desired skill." Gilmer said that in addition to Spanish, Mandarin Chinese and French are other languages that appeal to

"Knowing a second language offers the opportunity to progress within a company," Gilmer said.