It was beginning 1997. I was recently promoted from trainee to Business Analyst and my leader called me to a one on one meeting. He told me the client was reducing the team and I would not be needed. Yes the words were exactly “NOT NEEDED”. He also said that there was nothing he could do to help me and suggested me to talk to the HR to see if they had something for me in the Company. To prove he was a “great” leader, he gave me 30 days to find another position.
HR team found 2 possible projects for me within a week. I was really happy with that and went to the first interview. The first interviewer told me about the project and asked a lot of questions…Everything was going great until he asked me “Do you speak English?”. At the time, the answer was NO. He told me English was required and said “I’m sorry”.
The second interview started as good as the first one. I had the background needed for the position, the interviewer liked my profile but…he made the same question “Do you Speak English?”. I said "NO I don’t" as I did in the first one. I left the second building asking myself “Why didn’t you start the English course last year?”. I was getting very concerned and something was telling me that I was up to lose my job.
The second interviewer called me 2 days later and told me “Hey Eduardo, you did great on the interview, but you got 2nd place. The main issue is that you don’t speak English and the other person does”. Well, I had nothing to lose and to be honest I was quite desperate. Then I answered “If I understood correctly what you said, if I had English skills you would choose me instead of the other person, right?” and he said “Yes!”. And I said “Ok, let’s do this. You give me 6 months and I’ll work very hard to learn English. If I don’t speak English in 6 months you fire me!”. I don’t know why the interviewer did that, but he accepted.
The next six months after that day were very stressful. I studied English every day, during lunch; after work at night; at the restroom…any free minutes were dedicated to learn English. I was not fluent by the end of 6 months, but I was able to speak quite good and joined a global project. I never stopped learning English since then, and I always think I’m not good enough.
After that, I studied Spanish and now I’m studying German.
Those were the days where speaking English was a key differentiator. Today, if you don’t speak at least 2 different languages (plus your own language!) you may have problems to get a good job.
I learned in the hard way, but it was a lifetime lesson.
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