Middlebury Institute Panel Discussion: Turn Your Russian Language Skills into a Meaningful Career

Virtual Zoom Event on April 19th, 2023

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The Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) at Monterey hosted a panel discussion for Russian Flagship students on applying Russian skills to a career path. Jill Stoffers, MIIS’s Senior Director of Institutional Partnerships, led the discussion. Panelists were:

  • Sarah Bidgood, director of the Eurasia Nonproliferation Program, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies;
  • Kaitlin Martin, Intelligence Analyst, Chainalysis;
  • Katherine Jacobsen, Program Coordinator at Committee to Protect Journalists; 
  • Marit Eiler English-Russian-Spanish translation student, Middlebury Institute of International Studies, currently working as a translator.

Discussion focused on 1) developing knowledge of Russian after studying abroad, 2) anticipated demand for Russian knowledge in the future, and 3) career advice for students of Russian.

 Language Development: the panelists agreed that to develop language skills beyond the transactional, study abroad is mandatory. They also stressed the necessity of learning to improve language skills after formal study, especially to use Russian in the workplace. A key recommendation is pursuing one’s own interests in Russian, which can help build vocabulary, become familiar with larger and challenging texts, and themselves to discuss the interests at work and elsewhere. Another suggestion is to engage with Russian pop culture, including music and social media, as it is an accessible bridge to vocabulary acquisition including slang and new words, understanding language of various social groups, and a range of perspectives. Finally, panelists suggest that pursuing and developing personal interests through the language will acquire expertise and improve language proficiency.

 Future of Demand for Russian: All participants agreed that Russian will remain a critical language and that therefore Russian knowledge will continue to be a valuable skill.

 General Career Advice: It’s useful to see every job as an opportunity to develop skills, decide which of the skills to focus on (based on enjoyment or practicality), and be willing to pivot on career paths. Finding an ideal job right away isn’t likely, and working in a variety of fields before finding a permanent place is valid and adds to a skill set. It’s a good idea not to limit yourself, because language knowledge can be applied across disciplines and areas of life and be of use in a variety of areas. Don’t be afraid to pivot or change jobs to find the right fit in terms of career and employer.

Thanks to Middlebury for inviting such interesting and varied speakers and to the speakers for providing useful, inspiring insights. For more information on Middlebury’s programs, which range from national security to language, see their website.