My 15-year law career stalled: unemployed due to poor English skills

By Hung Yen   January 13, 2024 | 05:17 pm PT
As a lawyer with 15 years of experience, primarily as the head of legislation at several companies, I never anticipated that my limited English proficiency would significantly hinder my career path.

My tenure at two Vietnamese companies required minimal English usage. My involvement with English was limited to reviewing and editing their Vietnamese contracts, leaving the English adjustments to my team.

However, while working for a South Korean company, the demand for English proficiency increased, particularly in reading and writing. Despite this, I struggled with verbal communication and often relied on interpreters when interacting with Korean colleagues.

In 2022, I left the company, aspiring to find a position with better remuneration and work environment.

Yet, throughout 2023, I faced challenges in securing a new role. Offers from Vietnamese firms were substantially lower than my previous salary, and foreign companies consistently sought candidates with comprehensive English fluency across all four language skills. Thus I have been unemployed for over a year.

This experience has been a stark reminder that professional expertise is not the sole determinant in the current job market; English proficiency often takes precedence over working experience and specialized knowledge. Regrettably, I realized the importance of English proficiency too late in my career, and now, catching up feels daunting.

At this juncture, I find myself uncertain about how to salvage my career and am grappling with where to begin.

*Editor's note: The reader's opinion was written in Vietnamese.

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