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Sí, se habla español: Speaking Spanish as a Career Strength

Often, when thinking about career strengths, words like adaptability and agility come up. But have you ever considered how speaking multiple languages can be a strength that can help you score the career of your dreams?

Understanding the value of speaking a second, third or even fourth language can open opportunities for yourself you may not have thought possible. And knowing how to sell that skill on your professional journey can be particularly useful. This is especially true if you speak Spanish fluently, as Spanish is the second-most spoken language globally, second only to Mandarin. Some studies even predict that one-third of Americans will speak Spanish, either as a native or second language, by the year 2050!

We chatted with four Hispanic American Family Insurance agents and employees to gain first-hand insight on the benefits of being bilingual in the workforce, as well as how to best showcase your Spanish-speaking talent as a strength on your resume. ¡Vamos!

How Can Speaking Spanish Create Career Opportunities?

American Family Insurance Agency Owner, Leticia Guzman, may not have given her native fluency in Spanish much consideration when choosing her career path, but later she discovered just how powerful and useful it would be.

Leticia, who spoke Spanish as her primary language until the age of six, said, “For me, growing up in a Spanish-speaking household, I didn’t know the value of it because I didn’t know the difference. It’s like asking someone who has always had two arms, ‘How is it to have two arms?’ I didn’t understand how this would translate into an opportunity until later on.”

Little did she know just how great that opportunity would be.

Leticia always knew she wanted to help the community where she was born and raised, and she knew being an agency owner could help her do that. It wasn’t until she opened her agency doors and started gaining more clients from the Hispanic community that she realized the value of her bilingualism.

“We have a huge Hispanic community in Waukesha. Being able to tap into a different market and help the Spanish community was an entirely different ball game,” she said. “In the Hispanic community, people are very tight — everybody sticks together — we’re very loyal people in general. So when I did help someone, referrals came in leaps and bounds because that’s just what we believe in. It was a turning point for me and I never saw it coming. It opened up a lot of opportunity.”

Leticia’s business was booming at a rate that was not anticipated, in particular due to this new wave of clientele coming in. She admitted it did create a challenge for her, albeit a good one.

“When you’re growing your book of business and it’s growing at this rate with a ton of Spanish-speaking people, it’s a really good challenge because that meant we were growing and doing great things for our community. But I became the go-to and really the only person in the agency who could help this pond of people.”

So when Leticia went to bring on additional employees to help keep up with growing clientele — seven percent who speak only Spanish — she knew she was looking for someone who was fluent in both English and Spanish.

However, that requirement also really narrowed the candidate pool! Leticia shared that “finding a good quality person, first and foremost, is huge, but then to find somebody with an additional talent, it just makes things a little bit more challenging to find that perfect person.”

So, Leticia sought out the perfect candidate. And thanks to her ability to stay patient and vigilant, she was able to find the perfect fit in Adriana Promotor, her Customer Support Team Lead, having said, “We looked for a very long time for the right person — and she’s it. She’s our front line when it comes to the Spanish-speaking community of customers.”

Adriana Promotor, Customer Support Team Lead, Right, Leticia Guzman, American Family Insurance agent and agency owner.

Our takeaways from Leticia? You may not understand the value of your abilities right away, but once you recognize them, use this valued skill to advantageously grow your bottom line. In addition, Leticia’s experience as a hiring manager shows that if you’re bilingual, there may be job opportunities available to you that aren’t available to candidates who only speak one language, giving you more choices when it comes to picking your dream career.

How Does Being Bilingual Help in Your Career?

From a young age, Jesus Salinas, an American Family agency owner based in Grayslake, Illinois, knew his future career would involve helping others with a language barrier, like his parents. And when he became an agency owner, he truly discovered just how valuable being bilingual would be for him and his success as a business owner.

Jesus was born in Mexico and moved to the United States with his parents when he was two years old. His ability to speak Spanish became a starting point on his journey to becoming an agent. He said, “Growing up, I was my parents’ main translator. Seeing the struggle my parents had to go through with being in a new country and not speaking the language, I knew that I wanted to do something where I could help people that were in the same situation. I didn't know what it was going to be, but I knew I wanted it to be something where I could use my Spanish to make a difference.”

And eventually his dream of helping the Hispanic community came to fruition when he opened his agency.

“It can be difficult to understand insurance for anyone, especially the value of it,” Jesus expressed. “In their own language, I can help them understand that insurance isn’t just something you need and pay for. I can speak to my customers about how American Family is protecting their family and what coverages actually do and the importance of getting the right kind and limits.”

American Family Insurance agent and agency owner, Jesus Salinas.

Jesus reflected on helping a Spanish-speaking customer who came in for a personal insurance review. He said, “Initially, the conversation was, ‘I just want to look at my insurance and make sure we’re paying for what we need and so on.’ So we sat down and went through the review. They began to understand the value because I was able to educate them in their own language, which is great. Now fast forward, not even a year later, they have a home fire.”

He goes on to say that their home was a total loss and had to be completely rebuilt. “I went out to meet with them and their adjuster,” Jesus said. “He speaks English, they speak Spanish. So me being there able to meet with the adjuster and the homeowner, it made them feel, even though this is a catastrophic event, they were comforted knowing I was there and can explain what’s going to happen and things are going to be okay.’”

The power of being able to communicate with somebody in their own language — especially in times of distress — is evident in the work Jesus does. If your dream is to help others in some capacity, the ability to speak another language can make you a hero in someone’s eyes and allow you to help out in situations where others may not be able to assist.

And, according to Jesus, “It really is a privilege to speak two languages.”

How Being Bilingual Helps You Better Serve Customers

What are other ways you can turn your Spanish skills into a strength if opening your own business isn’t your dream pursuit? If you’re looking for employment opportunities utilizing your bilingualism, there are plenty of other options. Perfect example: Yaniela Magana, Customer Service Sales Representative at American Family Insurance. Born in Cuba and raised in Florida, Yaniela’s first language is Spanish — a dexterity that helps her excel in her career.

She said, “Being bilingual plays a huge part in my current role at American Family. We service states like Arizona and Nevada — states that are known to have a high volume of Spanish-speaking families. I have the privilege of helping others understand their coverages and make good financial insurance decisions in their own language. This way they get the power and a voice in deciding what they do and don’t want.”

By speaking in someone’s language, Yaniela said she’s able to help alleviate some of the anxiety a customer may have because they don’t understand what the representative is explaining. She provided us with an example:

“I had an older gentleman call and I could tell he was already nervous. In his broken English he requested someone to help him in Spanish. Right away I eased his nerves and explained that I spoke Spanish and would love to help him. The sigh of relief he let out was huge! At the end of the call, he was so grateful. I live for calls like this and they brighten my day!”

Yaniela Magana, Customer Service Sales Representative, American Family Insurance

Yaniela offered some great insight into the importance of having Spanish-speaking employees on your team, saying, “In a corporate setting, compassion and empathy can sometimes be overshadowed by performance and data, but keep in mind that we service people with completely different experiences than us and culturally foreign backgrounds. With the asset of bilingualism, we are promoting an inviting atmosphere that will attract all to do their business with us.”

American Family Insurance offers bilingual sales and service operations through the care center called El Centro. Fernando Villegas-Rodriquez, a representative from El Centro, shared similar sentiments to Yaniela about better serving customers by having bilingual team members.

“Being able to help both English and Spanish speaking customers in their own language makes them feel valued. I love that American Family has a department dedicated to providing excellent customer service to our Spanish-speaking customers. They appreciate us educating them about insurance in Spanish and it makes them feel better with the coverage they have.”

El Centro representative, Fernando Villegas-Rodriquez

Fernando moved to the US in August of 1993, when he was only nine years old. He said, “Within a couple of years, I was interpreting for my parents at school meetings and at their doctor’s appointments.”

Similarly to Jesus’s experience, translating for his parents was the catalyst for Fernando’s career path. “I always knew that I wanted to help people in their native language because I have seen how my parents struggled to communicate with others.”

And he sure is helping. Working in El Centro, Fernando said that about 80 percent of his daily calls are from Spanish-speaking customers. When it comes to speaking Spanish as a career strength, Fernando said, “Knowledge is power and knowing multiple languages gives you the power to help people in their own language and make them feel welcome.”

How to Feature Bilingual Skills on a Resume

So, now you know how speaking a second language can be a career strength that can help you land jobs that might not otherwise be open to you and take your business results to the next level. But how do you best showcase that skill in a way that stands out on a resume?

Fernando said to highlight your bilingual skills under the summary section to reach potential employers and put your skill up front and center. Yaniela echoed this idea. She said, “Being bilingual brings cultural enrichment and diversity to the work environment. Make sure you place your bilingual talent at the very top of your resume. You want to make sure this talent is not unseen.”

Along with highlighting it right away, Leticia said to promote your talent equally — if not more than — the position/professional title itself. And make sure to promote your professional title or degree as dual language. (E.g., dual-language marketing specialist.)

Other experts say that you can list this skill as its own section on your resume, labeling it Languages or Language Skills. Here you can add your proficiency level. (E.g., Spanish — Native/Bilingual.)

If you know the job is specifically looking for someone bilingual, make sure to include examples in your work experience section or portfolio to demonstrate your ability and put an emphasis on your dual language proficiency.

Whether the job description is specifically looking for someone bilingual or not, having your bilingualism featured on your resume can help you shine in a sea of applicants and be on your way to landing your dream job!

Already have an interview lined up? Awesome! Check out these tips for nailing your job interview.

Interested in Learning Another Language?

When you think about the fact that Spanish is the second largest language in the United States with over 33 million Spanish speakers, making the US the second largest population of Spanish speakers in the world, there’s no denying that being able to speak Spanish is an unrivaled asset.

Yaniela challenged, “Knowing this, why you wouldn’t want to broaden your horizon and help this vastly growing demographic?”

And Leticia summed it up in a way that makes even us ready to download an app like Babbel or Duolingo (language learning apps that help you learn Spanish quickly!):

“There’s just so much added value. People make the world go round. If you have that additional value, you can network and communicate and grow and learn from an entirely different world. You can help a whole different pod of people that you may never have the opportunity to otherwise because of that language barrier. The more people you surround yourself with, the more you learn and grow as a human. You just naturally immerse yourself into a different culture. All of that can’t really be taught, you have to learn it on your own. That creates a different character in someone.”

If you want to learn a new language to help you excel or stand out in your career, Fernando said, “It’s never too late. With dedication and consistency, anything is possible.”

Career Growth Resources

Whether you’re just beginning your job search, looking to move upwards or pivoting to a completely new career, we have tips and resources to help you grow professionally with confidence. Check out our Career Growth Resources hub for professional development tools to help you grow and thrive in your career.

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