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Do Mandarin learners have the top five skills that employers want?

Mandarin Aspirations

Earlier this month the Careers Centre at the University of Leeds organised a series of workshops about the top five skills that LinkedIn says employers value. We went along to find out more about these skills and to consider how Mandarin learners can demonstrate creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability and emotional intelligence to employers.

We’ve looked back through our Mandarin Aspirations blog posts and lecture recordings and pulled out a range of examples that we hope will help you identify and articulate what you have gained from learning Mandarin.


Connecting dots—that are seemingly unrelated—to generate original, useful solutions is an incredibly valuable skill in every employee, regardless of what industry or country you’re doing business in.

The panelists in this session challenged the misconception that creativity is limited to artistic ability - it’s actually about being able to use your imagination and find new and inventive ways of doing things.

A great example of creativity is Sean McGibney realising that there was a lack of engaging reading materials at his level for studying Mandarin, and writing articles himself to fill that gap. This project became the Chairman’s Bao, the most comprehensive news-based graded reader for students of Chinese.

When learning Mandarin you discover new ways to overcome problems regularly, whether that is getting around communication difficulties or finding the time to study a demanding language. Many posts on our blog include examples of the learning techniques people have used. Professor Gary Chambers went back to basics, writing words out like he did in his school days, while Natasha Fowler-Ekar discovered that music, pop culture and Taiwanese dramas were some of the best ways for her brain to take in the language.

Kim McGreal finds that her creativity is kept alive through her Mandarin studies - it exposes her to lots of new ideas and ways of learning.

It’s kept my mind active, even on days when I’m so exhausted I just want to sleep, and it’s introduced me to so much new information (which is something I thrive on). I’m learning about history and religion and mythology, as well as e-sports and 1930s detectives and criminal psychology.

Making connections between different topics could help you to spot things that others might miss, which can also be helpful in your career. Fashion journalist Babette Radclyffe-Thomas finds that her ability to research a subject in Mandarin can often help her to find a fresh perspective on a story.


Persuasion is convincing others to buy into your idea or a different way of doing things to build consensus or make a decision. It’s one of the most powerful communication skills for all employees to have in their skillset.

Mandarin students have the ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and genuinely understand their perspective, which is a good basis for negotiating successfully and persuading others of your ideas.

Kay McLeod uses persuasive skills in her role as Coordinator of the Mandarin Excellence Programme - she has encouraged schools across the country to provide Mandarin lessons, and inspired many teachers to do the same. In this clip from her talk Kate discusses why schools are taking on Mandarin and how teachers could encourage it, and you can see that an ability to understand the wider context and the motivations of people involved helps to make a more persuasive case.

In his guest lecture Andrew Disbury described how his Mandarin knowledge meant that he was included and trusted by Chinese delegates in meetings and negotations. This rapport often meant that they would come to him after meetings and explain the key issues further, giving him valuable insight into what the other side were really thinking and improving his ability to build consensus.


People who can work effectively and efficiently to achieve a common goal—or influence others to the right end game.

Learning Mandarin enables you to collaborate with people more effectively as your communication skills are improved and you gain intercultural competence.

Both Guy Dru Drury and Andrew Disbury felt that their experience learning Mandarin and living in China improved their interpersonal skills, allowing them to collaborate with people from around the world and successfully bridge the gap between languages and cultures.

Tobias Ross noted that his Mandarin skills not only helped him stand out and get a foot in the door in the competitive world of sports marketing, but also facilitated good relationships with Chinese partners he worked with in his role at the Bundesliga.

Gary Chambers took a short Mandarin course at the BCI to learn a few words and phrases to use with the Chinese students in his class, showing that even a little Mandarin can go a long way in building rapport and setting the foundation for strong collaborative relationships.


The only constant in life—and in business—is change. Employees who thrive in a dynamic environment and bounce back quickly in the face of challenges are the ones who can handle anything that comes their way.

Having the ability to readjust and acclimatise quickly in new and challenging situations allows you to approach experiences positively and proactively. When looking at job candidates, the panelists said they want graduates to be able to demonstrate how they have shown adaptability and stepped out of their comfort zone in their time at university.

Studying Mandarin offers you plenty of opportunities to step out of your comfort zone - from learning to write your first Chinese character to going on a trip to China.

The Year Abroad is a rich source of evidence that Mandarin students can draw from to demonstrate their adaptability and resilience. Grace Valks described the experience of being thrown in at the deep end in Shanghai, having to do everything in Chinese – including finding an apartment. As Natasha Fowler-Ekar also stated, there is a real sense of self-confidence that comes from facing and overcoming challenges like this.

Going to China is not the only way for Mandarin learners to step out of their comfort zone. Grace participated in a British Council speaking competition when she was at school, and University of Leeds contestants regularly impress at the annual Chinese Bridge competition. 2020 finalist, Rebecca Mingotti-Landriani, describes herself as an ‘ex-introvert’ and highlighted the opportunity to push herself out of her comfort zone as one benefit of taking part in the competition.

To hear an example of someone speaking passionately about their experience in China and what they gained from it, watch the clip from Kay McLeod’s talk in which she describes her job doing subtitles for a Chinese Opera company.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, evaluate, and respond to your own emotions and the emotions of others. New to the most in-demand skills list this year, emotional intelligence underscores the importance of how employees interact with each other.

According to Andrew Disbury emotional intelligence is ‘having your wits about you’ and ‘thinking on your feet’ to understand what people really mean. Language skills help here in allowing you to read between the lines without relying on an interpreter’s version of what somebody said. Understanding the concept of ‘face’ and the importance of friendship are crucial when working with Chinese people, and having this emotional intelligence would help Andrew feel more confident of reaching a win-win solution for both parties in business situations.

Marina Rupp demonstrates her emotional intelligence in the way she describes her motivation for learning Mandarin. As an international student herself Marina Rupp she could really empathise with others going through a similar experience, and also saw her efforts to learn Mandarin as a sign of respect towards her Chinese friends’ culture.

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Learners of Mandarin develop many valuable skills through their language study and study abroad experiences, including the top five skills that LinkedIn says are most valued by employers!

Browse all our Mandarin Aspirations blog posts and lecture recordings to find more examples from people at all stages of their careers and Mandarin learning journeys.