3 answers

What is the best way to deal with people misunderstanding your field?

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I'm studying Linguistics, and I've seen many businesses post openings for a "linguist" when what they actually want is a translator. Since people often misunderstand the relevance of the work that linguists do, what is a good way to counteract that and find jobs relevant to what I'm actually studying? Is anyone in a field where this is an issue? How do you handle it when job hunting? #linguistics #job-search-strategies

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3 answers

Lance’s Answer

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Speaking as someone with a PhD in linguistics: it's not just you. There's not a working linguist who hasn't been asked "How many languages do you speak?" as if that's what the core of being a linguist is. And yeah, when I decided to get out of academia and look for other work, I found an awful lot of jobs that said "linguist" when they really meant "someone who speaks more than one language". (Often translation work, though not all of it.)


I'm not sure there's really anything we can do about it, other than firmly but politely explaining to people what it is that linguists actually do, and how extremely interesting a field it is even if it's not about translation. That's great when you're in a job interview and the interviewer says, "So, linguistics...?", but not very useful advice when searching job listings. Possibly the best you can do is grit your teeth and scroll past the people who are looking for translators while searching for something more in line with your interests. (I'm pretty sure that's what I did; it's been a while since I was job searching, but I believe I recall just scrolling through postings going, "Nope, nope, nope, not what I do, OK maybe this one, nope, nope, don't speak Estonian, nope...")


There are a few other tacks as well: you might be able to modify your search based on what sort of work you're looking for: "computational linguist" or "linguist & programmer" or "linguist & research" or the like. Sometimes "linguist" isn't even the right word at all--depending on what you're looking for, "language" or "NLP" (natural language processing) might get you closer to turning up the right jobs. You can also take a look at https://linguistlist.org/jobs/ -- most of the things on it will be academic positions, but there are also plenty of other positions, and people who advertise on LinguistList are typically doing so because they understand what a linguist is and why they want one.


Good luck with the job hunting!

Hello Lance, thank you so much for your reply! I check The Linguist List pretty frequently, so I'm happy to hear that I'm looking in the right place! Even if it really comes down to just slowly sifting through all the irrelevant jobs that are looking for a translator, it's comforting to know that there are linguists out there who've been through it and have found what they were looking for. Even if it takes time, I'll try to stay hopeful. Thank you for the advice! Jessica H.
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Col Sen’s Answer

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Hi Jessica,
This is a problem you face when you specialize in a field which many people don't have an idea as to who you are and what you can do for them. Well, this has to be handled with patience and perseverance. For this, when you are asked to share your own story (about you- during interview) please make it a point to tell them what you expert in and what you can do for the organisation in addition to translating. May be your dropping of such words draw their attention and they understand your value. May be they offer you the requisite job content you are looking for. Please remember, narrating your story during an interview is an art. First two minutes of your narration makes or mars your chances of getting selected or otherwise. It is you who has to turn the table to your advantage. You may like to take help from someone who can guide you in this regard. I shall be happy to do that over a video chat provided career village has no objection to do that.
Thank you so much for your advice! I'm not even at the point where I'll be going to interviews yet, although it's very kind of you to offer to coach me on that! I've still got a year and a half before graduation, so lately I've been trying to get a head start by seeing what's out there, but when I am finally at the point of going for interviews, I'll be sure to take your advice and make sure they know what I have to offer them at whatever company or organization it may be that I'm applying for. Thank you for the reply! Jessica H.
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Blake’s Answer

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Hey Jessica,

I am not familiar with this field, but I would try and call the employer before going through the interview process. I would ask them what the exact job description is, and that way you can at least prevent wasting your time going through the entire interview process.

Thanks,
Blake
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