Story by Emily Curtis, Language Institute
UW-Madison students of Russian recently participated in a new event, Global Professionals Day, organized by the Russian Flagship Program. The goal? To better understand how to utilize their Russian language skills in their future careers, given their diverse majors and professional aspirations.
The three-hour event included a keynote address, an alumni discussion panel, a resume-building workshop, and a networking and resource fair with a photographer who took professional headshots of students for their LinkedIn profiles.
Michael Baumann, a 2005 graduate of UW-Madison and a Russian Overseas Flagship alumnus, delivered the keynote address. Baumann is currently working at Booz Allen Hamilton in Washington, DC as an analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense. His keynote focused on how to navigate transitions immediately post-graduation to longer-term career successes. “Pursuing a career using Russian is the single best professional decision I’ve made,” he told the audience. “It has opened doors I couldn’t have even imagined when I was sitting in your seats. There will be unforeseen challenges, but there will also be unforeseen opportunities, support, and allies along the way!”
In the workshop led by L&S SuccessWorks, students focused on developing strategies for marketing their language skills after graduation. While language skills are extremely helpful in securing a job after college, the transferable skills that students develop through their language study are also highly valued by employers. Michael Kruse, alumni relations coordinator for SuccessWorks, says that problem-solving, working in teams, and the ability to adapt – skills that employers are seeking – are exactly the skills students acquire during their language learning and overseas experiences.
Kruse says that the Russian Flagship Program in particular helps students work on the kinds of skills that employers want to see. Their intensive study of the Russian language to a very high level and their cultural immersion experiences prepare students for various paths in life.
Ashlyn King, a current Russian Flagship student and marketing major, co-presented with Kruse, sharing tips on how students can package the unique skills that they develop through their study of Russian. King’s unique perspective as a student helped her provide useful advice to the students in attendance.
“In order to stand out as a candidate in the job market or as an applicant for graduate school, it is important to learn how to effectively market yourself. Building a personal brand is an essential skill that all students should have. For our students, part of their personal brand is proficiency in the Russian language and strong intercultural skills. By thinking about how to “sell” that brand to employers, recruiters, and admissions offices, students can be more confident when showcasing their skills in the future,” King said.
After the career workshop, students learned from a panel of alumni of the Russian Flagship, who talked about their extensive overseas experiences on the capstone year abroad in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The alumni panel included Tiara Luckiesh (International Studies and Russian), Vera Swanson (Environmental Sciences and Russian), Ben Hooyman (Finance, Investment & Banking and Russian), Jacob Beebe (Psychology and Russian) and Marisa Irwin (German, History, and Russian).
The former students shared valuable advice, which ranged from suggestions for studying to tips for adjusting to living and working overseas in environments with professional cultures that are very different from those in the United States.
Some of the alumni’s advice is applicable to all language learners. Swanson advised students to embrace their overseas experiences. “Aside from improving my language, living in a very foreign culture forced me to improve my flexibility and broaden my perspective,” Swanson said. “You’ll come away from such an experience a richer and more critical person than before you began, I guarantee it.”