Insights from the August webinar series: be a linguist for yourself

For the month of August, Career Linguist has been offering a series of webinars, Employing Linguistics, about linguistics and career. Employing Linguistics is also the name of Anna Marie Trester’s new book which will be published in 2021.

Linguists and linguistics students are often asked “What can I/you do with a linguistics degree?” The answer is so often limited to things like speech language pathology and second language instruction – worthy pursuits to be sure, but there are so many more options. The following are some highlights from the second webinar titled “BRIGHTENing Your Career Outlook”. 

BRIGHTEN represents seven worlds of work: Business, Research, Innovation and Impact, Government, Healthcare Communications, Technology, Education, and Nonprofits.  Commonly jobs touch on one, two, three, or four of these, so jobs don’t fit perfectly into these buckets, they’re a starting place, a way to broaden your thinking and to take an outlook of abundance, to remind yourself that there’re lots of things you can do with your training skills, training, and interests in linguistics. Participating in the webinar we had three people with amazing stories to share and who just to embody that: Katie Nelson, who works in language, culture, identity, and education; Anthony Koth, who works in taxonomy at Indeed; and Alex Johnston who teaches at and directs the Masters of Linguistics and Communication at Georgetown University.

One participant asked a question in the chat that so many linguists have encountered:

Non-linguists have quite varied and yet particular ideas about what a linguist is and does. Have you had issues with this creating barriers and communicating with industries employing linguists? Have we? Raise your hands. I mean, that’s yes!

Each of the panelists raised their hands in response to this and Alex provided the following answer drawing on our skills as linguists:

This is the difficulty. Everybody has a different definition of “linguist” and “linguistics.” So we have to find out from our audience, the people that we’re talking to, what’s their assumption and how can we meet that. How can we use words that speak to them? So there are very few times I use the word linguist. For example, if I were in a government agency, and I talked about myself as a linguist, I would be heard as someone who has expertise in a world language other than English. That’s a very, very, very narrow definition of the word. So to the government, federal agencies, and military, a linguist is a person who knows another language other than English. If I go again to a corporate training office or work with corporate clients, I don’t tend to say linguist very often. I tend to say communication and then describe what I mean. So it’s never obfuscating the meaning, it’s just trying to meet your audience where they are, and use words that have meaning to them.

In summary, we can use our abilities as linguists to engage our audiences and explain our skillsets using the vocabulary and language that they themselves use.  This demonstrates that we know how to apply our knowledge to that domain.

For the whole transcript click here.

For the recording, head on over to Career Linguist’s channel on YouTube.

The fourth and final webinar will be “A Story Approach to Career” on Friday August 28th at 2:00PM PDT / 5:00 PM EDT.  Click here to register.