Aisulu Raspayeva is a second-year PhD student in Sociolinguistics with an interest in intercultural communication.
This post was motivated by a short article that I saw in the booklet of the Psi Chi Society (an organization of students and professionals majoring in psychology), Eye on Psi Chi. What attracted me is the concept of transferable skills and explicitly mapping them to real-world examples from students’ academic experience. The article was titled 10 Skills that Any Employers Will Appreciate. Thus, under each skill there was the list of the relevant experiences that psych major students are gaining while being at school. I will try to do the same but with a focus on us, students of language, culture and communication.
The first skill is interpersonal skills – a crucial condition for the progress of any organization. The authors pointed out work ethic and sense of commitment as well as psych classes on motivation and group work as the reference for the experience that is helping psych students to develop interpersonal skills. I think the same can be applied to MLC students: We all are developing a strong work ethic when collecting data and writing papers according to the academic code of ethic. I’m talking about the team project and group study sessions that are so crucial for developing interpersonal skills. In addition, MLC students become very attuned to subtle changes in the dynamics of communication through sociolinguistics classes, which helps make us excellent negotiators.
Other highlighted skills are engaging in critical thinking, applying theory and research in other settings, appreciating research and diversity, and considering ethics. Regarding critical thinking, such academic experiences as seeing and accepting multiple solution-problem perspectives, dealing with uncertainty, differentiating causality and correlation, and examining research methodologies can be of great service. And decision-making is an activity that we are involved into along all our school years at all levels: which class to pick up and what data to collect. Surely, we all are equipped how to apply the theory in different settings through our diverse discourse classes in which the actual application of theory is a norm. For instance, Schiffrin’s notion of discourse markers (1988) has been applied by MLC students to shed light on many settings from personal communication, professional interactions, and charting on Facebook.
(image via www.ryanhamilton.org.uk)
Next, we can offer employers our ability to work with data, to analyze it and to weigh its strengths and limitations (again gained through many class projects). Since we are dealing with people, their personal information, and, most importantly, their emotions, we develop ethical judgment and ethical behavior. Another skill that comes from academic research is our ability to appreciate and further diversity as we deal with various populations (men and woman, ESL and EFL speakers, ethnic and cultural minorities, etc). All these allow us to see various perspectives and appreciate individual and groups differences.
Finally, as a linguist you write well for different audiences, show capacity for professional development, are civic-minded, and attuned to details and time management. Being at school for several years requires us to develop strong writing skills simply because writing is the way you earn those As. As the article nicely points out, we, as students, are constantly asked to do self-reflection that results in realistic confidence, self-reflection and self-evaluation skills. This is how we develop capacity for further professional development.
To sum up, the very nature of linguistic analysis and academic experience requires enormous focus and attention to tiny-tiny details, experiences which make us highly attuned to the problems that arise in any area of today’s workplace.