Students from Heriot-Watt University’s Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies were given first-hand advice and insight into the many careers their degrees could lead to at the first ever ‘Alternative Careers for Linguists’ event organised by the University’s Careers Service.

The event saw recent graduates of the department share their stories with a highly-engaged audience of students who ranged from 2nd year undergraduates right through to those on Postgraduate Master’s degrees.

In total, 11 Heriot-Watt alumni shared inspiring stories of their careers so far and led discussions on their experiences in the work place, their own job searches as graduates, and their reflections on how Heriot-Watt University assisted them in reaching their goals.

The alumni guest speakers who shared their insights came from a number of different sectors, roles and areas where they now live.

  • Kate Ballantyne - EU Affairs & Policy, Chevron, Brussels.
  • Callum O’Donnell - Brand Management, Chivas Brothers, Dominican Republic
  • Holly Davies - Global Support Analyst, Bloomberg, London
  • Christina Bevan - TV Production, Scriptwriting, London
  • Laura Mitchell & Rachel Maitland - Management Intern / Graduate Programme, Enterprise-Rent-A-Car
  • Melanie Orr -Digital Content Executive, QueryClick, Edinburgh
  • Roger Edwardson -Recruitment, Think Global, Edinburgh
  • Lucy Inglis & Joanne Sanderson - Modern Languages Teachers, Chryston High School & Larbert High School
  • Joanna Harlos - Financial Intelligence, HSBC, Edinburgh

At the end of this article, you’ll find some of the top tips our graduates shared to help current students find the right job for them when they graduate.

As a Truly Global university with alumni working around the globe, it was not possible for each guest alumni to attend in person, but with the help of modern day technology in the form of Skype, the students were able to chat with alumni now working in Brussels and another in sunny Dominican Republic.

This was a new project for the Heriot-Watt’s careers team and it attracted a room full of students who heard fantastic presentations and took full advantage of Q and As with the guest speakers and Languages Teaching Fellow, Fanny Chouc who co-organised the event in collaberation with the Carreers team.

The feedback received from students, staff and alumni after the event was extremely positive, with one student saying,

“It was fantastic to hear such reassurance from languages alumni and to get advice on applications from graduates in the workplace”. “It was great hearing about the diversity of options available and how the many transferable skills developed during a languages degree can be used in the workplace, even when the word languages is not in the job title”.

Languages Student at Alternative Careers Event

Lorraine Chambers, the University’s Careers Advisor who was involved in organising the event said it was great to see this new event work so well, adding,

 “There was a palpable buzz and some great connections made during the informal networking at the end. Every single alumni speaker from the class of 2017 back to 2013 was engaging, realistic and inspiring and really opened up students’ eyes to what is out there, how to stay resilient and aim high.” “They are a true credit to Heriot-Watt languages department and we look forward to working on next year’s event!” On Twitter, Kate Ballantyne who spoke via Skype about her role as EU affairs & Policy at Chevron in Brussels, said “The transferable skills I got from my language degree help me so much in my current role”.

Lorraine Chambers, Careers Officer

Graduate Top Tips for Starting an Alternative Career for Linguists:

  1. Do not be afraid of failure. They all went through many job applications to receive the position they were in now.
  1. Your first role will not be your favourite. By taking internships or work experience during your studies can help with this as you will be able to experience what you do and do not like doing.
  1. Network. Go out and speak to people, attend industry events, speak out in class and ask a question, whether you think it is relevant or not (no question is a stupid one!).
  1. On your year abroad, try to mix with native speakers of the language you are studying. Do not stay with your “safety net” of English speaking students, as this will not help with your language skills.
  1. Realise that there are alternative careers out there and languages is an increasingly important skill to have, even if it wasn’t advertised in the job specification, you may find that it will stand in your favour.

Our careers service host regular insight events for all areas of study offered here at Heriot-Watt University.

You can also make one-to-one appointments for assistance with graduate jobs, internships, interview prep, and more. See their webpage for further details: