So, what can you do for me?

Pete Tontillo is a first-year MLC student interested in exploring political communication, and the ways linguistics can be brought to bear on questions of rhetoric, messaging, and issue advocacy.

Pete Rwanda

For (aspiring) linguists, it can be discouraging to browse job postings online. Very rarely do the headlines actually say ‘Linguist,’ and when they do, it’s always the computational kind. For the rest of us who won’t be pulling down six figures at Google, we’re busy thinking of what job title to put in the search bar, and how we can angle our skills and experience to fit the listed description.

That’s why I was heartened to see this article from Quartz magazine, , which writes that many (/some/a few/maybe just like four) companies are beginning to let job applicants write their own job description. Many job postings, the author writes, ‘describe a generically perfect candidate—one that companies don’t actually expect to find.’ Instead, more and more companies are encouraging applicants to make a case for themselves, and for why the company needs them, even if they don’t know it yet.


(image via )

This article caught my eye in part because it reflected my own job-hunting experience. I got my current position, a fellowship at a strategic communications agency, through getting in touch with the firm’s president, telling him who I am and what I like to do, and asking if they needed anyone with that profile. As it turned out, they did. In the emails and phone calls and interviews that followed, I worked with the team to essentially write my own job description, based on what I could offer and what they were looking for. The agency features job listings on its website, but I couldn’t have leveraged my skills in quite this way had I applied through the conventional channels. Now I’m working with the full-time team on various projects, but also carrying out my own independent analyses that inform and offer a new perspective on what the company is doing.

Even in companies like this one that ‘do language’ professionally, we will still likely be the only ones with a formal background in linguistics. We should get used to being outsiders, if only just a little bit. But this can be a strength. We offer new ways of seeing and thinking. That’s valuable. We just have to get a little more comfortable with answering, ‘So, what can you do for me?’