How to Market Your International Study Abroad Experience to Future Employers

Posted on November 1, 2011


“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you want to become.”
– Steve Jobs

You may not have set out on your journey abroad with intentions of using the experience as a resume booster, but knowing how to market yourself to future employers is vital. Here’s how to effectively use your skills gained from living abroad to set yourself apart from other internship or job candidates. Whether you’re still abroad or you’ve recently lived abroad, take these steps to ensure professional success.

By Kristen Sandstrom

Take a moment to think about those unforgettable, successful people who are passionate about what they do. If you’re able to integrate your passions with your professional life, you’re one step ahead of the rest of the world. As a study abroad student you’ve had the opportunity to make the world your classroom and apply the lessons learned to your career and personal life. You have a lifetime of work ahead of you so choose the internships that fit who you are as a person and go the extra mile to seek something that makes you happy-you’ll be thankful that you did.

While You’re Abroad

For all of you travelers who haven’t returned home yet, note how the industry you’re interested in plays a role in the economy of your study abroad country. With globalization on the rise, it’s  important to see the ideas and trends that ‘stick’ with people all over the world.

  • Make a professional travel blog: The creative freedom is up to you, just tailor it to your ideal career path. Blog about businesses abroad that relate to the industry you’d like to work in. Write reviews about the books you read in your travels or blog about marketing abroad, customer service abroad, history you encounter etc. Blogging also shows off your writing, communication and multi-media skills. Include photos and videos to showcase your interests.
  • Festivals and events: Research your desired career path and see if there are any festivals or events you can attend that would relate to what you’d like to do.
  • Get a foreign perspective:  Befriend others when you’re traveling. Ask them about their job experiences and what the job market is like in their country. Note the differences and similarities as they relate to your own culture.

After You’re Abroad

Step 1: Make a list.

Start by brainstorming and create a list of the things you learned and enjoyed. Weed this down so it applies directly to your interests and career path.

Step 2: Figure out the skills you’ve gained.

International travel says a lot about you as a person. Any employer would love their employees to have these characteristics:

  • You recognize amazing opportunities and have the confidence to go for them.
  • You’re open minded and interested in the world.
  • You have the ability to deal with ambiguity and embrace change
  • You’re flexible
  • You can do research to prepare for what’s ahead of you
  • You can solve problems on your own- Riding solo during travel shows that you can manage the logistics involved with serious travel.

Think of a time when you encountered a logistical nightmare and note how you overcame the problem. Think of an interesting story about personal change, or a lesson you learned on the road, which you could tell in an interview. Keep it brief, but focus on impact, change, and skills.

Step 3: Show what you’ve learned about your industry on a larger scale.

  • You are informed about the industry and where the power is located
  •  You have the ability to see how the industry fits into the larger, global picture
  •  You have the ability to demonstrate leadership while showing respect for different nationalities, cultures, and religions

Step 4:  During the interview.

Many interviewees believe that their boss only wants to hear about work related topics during an interview. Your future boss is not a “soulless” robot that eats, sleeps and breathes work for Company X. The employers of the world are real people with families, interests and goals, just like you. As people spend more and more time at the workplace, companies seek employees who will not only accomplish their job, but who will fit in with the company culture.

Build rapport by finding similarities between you and your interviewer. International travel heightens your exposure to different cultures, foods, interests and people so you’re guaranteed to find something you both have in common! For example if your employer has a picture of a soccer team, break the ice by talking about how you went to a European game.

Step 5: Application of your skills.

Once you figure out what skills you’ve gained make sure to notice how they will better your professional life. Giving specific examples of how you applied your skills in real life situations is important to your employer because it will give them a better idea of what you can do for their company. And remember to focus on all of your experiences. Chances are, study abroad is the most recent and exciting experience that you’ve had.  Don’t forget the other great things you accomplished to get yourself where you are today and show that you’re well rounded.

 A World of Opportunities

Studying in another country opens the door to a world of possibilities. The people you meet from different walks of life teach you about the world and act as contacts for the future. Traveling offers the unique opportunity to explore your passions and find new ones in the process.  You will begin to better understand the way in which international affairs influence every aspect of American business and life.

Do you think studying abroad is a way to advance a student’s future career path? Did studying abroad change your mind about what field you want to work in? Do you have any advice for students who want to talk about their travel experiences in an interview? Let us know in the comments section below!

Posted in: LIFE ABROAD