Ho Fai Cheng, Viggo is a first-year PhD student in Sociolinguistics with an interest in language and identity and intergroup prejudice.
“So… what are you gonna do with your degree in Linguistics?”
“Teach? What else can you do with it? Haha”
“Most probably yes, I am really into linguistics research and I would like to further my career in higher education, where I can teach and do research at the same time.”
Yes indeed, this conversation has occurred to me so many times that it is beyond counting. I consider myself one of the lucky ones who manage to find my interests and career goal – a researcher/ educator in academia – at a fairly early stage of my life. Nonetheless, I always find it frustrating when I fail to tell people what a linguist can do outside of the domain of higher education. I feel like a culprit by reinforcing this stereotype and failing to do justice to my fellow colleagues who are planning their adventures in different fields. So, what exactly can linguists offer?
Participating in the MLC Career Mixer, I finally get the chance to learn about all the opportunities available for linguists in the job market. One of the most amazing gists about the event is its specific focus on the applicability of (socio)linguistic knowledge in a wide range of professional realms. It bridges the gap between theories and practices. It is at the mixer where I get to talk to experts who utilize their linguistic knowledge in medical consultation (Glenn Abastillas), survey designs (Mikelyn Meyers), campaign advertisements, and policy establishment. For instance, Clarabridge is hiring linguists to do sentiment and text analysis (for example, in social media) to ‘tap into the voices’ of their customers in order to understand what aspects of the products or services they are most likely to orient to. Having gathered this information, companies can better strategize their advertizing campaigns and tailor them to the target audience. Furthermore, insights from candidates with a linguistic background also prove to be very crucial in designing (and translating) a culturally appropriate survey, which can affect not only its response rate but also the accuracy and comparability across different versions of the same survey.
In merely two hours, I have learnt a lot more about what I can offer as a linguist. Whatever your specialization is, there must be a company or an organization that you can put your linguistic knowledge to practical use. Are you a computational linguist? Then perhaps you know how to mine a large amount of data on social media platforms and incorporate them into ads design. Are you a sociolinguist? Then perhaps you may be able to offer insights into how people interact in various situations and foster better communication between clients and customers. This realization is without a doubt one of my biggest takeaways from attending the MLC Career Mixer.