Can a foreign accent hurt your career?

YES it can.

Increasingly, English is the language used for business around the globe.  Studies have shown that people who speak English as a second language may be passed over for advancement. Particularly if the position requires clear communication and good political skills.

Political skills are defined as the ability to effectively influence others.  People with good political skills are able to get people to buy into their ideas, to get others to work harder to achieve a goal.  They are proficient at networking and are perceived as sincere.  Clear, effective communication is an important component of political skills.

A study done by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School found that  speakers with accented English were perceived to have weaker political skills and seen as less likely to be hired. The study suggests those hiring should be made aware of the potential for accent-bias,  but it is important that those seeking a job or promotion take steps to improve their communication and political skills.

While it may not be fair, a foreign accent may have a negative impact on your career.  At a time when there may be many qualified applicants, don’t let your accent speak louder than your skills and keep you from being the candidate that gets hired or promoted.

Consider accent modification to improve your communication skills.  If you are easily understood you’ll have increased success in networking and getting others to listen to and value your ideas.


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