How To Sell Your Overseas Experience To Employers
- Study Abroad
- Student Tips
If you have worked or studied abroad, your international experience may be a distinguishing factor on your resume. However, the reality is that it is not going to sell itself. Rather, there are some things you can do to highlight your international work or studies while simultaneously showing how it will help you make a meaningful contribution in the workplace. Read on for a roundup of six tips aimed at helping you market your overseas experience in the most advantageous way.
1. Make an inventory of what you learned.
There is no doubt that you learned a lot during your time abroad. However, can you account for all of these things off the top of your head? Probably not. Taking a minute to brainstorm a list can help you encapsulate your package of skills -- and have it at the ready when you are writing your resume or preparing for an interview.
In addition to including your study abroad courses and professional experiences, consider country-specific and universal cross-cultural skills, as well. These speak not just to your competencies for a particular job, but also to positive character traits like independence, curiosity, open-mindedness and adaptability.
2. Create an 'international experience' heading on your resume.
Many of today’s employers prize international experience. Whether you are working for an international company or pursuing an international career, creating a heading on your resume just for 'international experience” ensures it will stand out.
3. Be prepared to describe your experiences.
The interview offers employers a chance to get to know you better, but it is also an opportunity for you to show off why you are an excellent candidate for the position. While there are many different kinds of interview questions, you will almost certainly encounter competency-based questions.
Interview Skills Consulting explains, “Competency-based interviews (also called structured interviews) are interviews where each question is designed to test one or more specific skills. The answer is then matched against pre-decided criteria and marked accordingly. For example, the interviewers may want to test the candidate's ability to deal with stress by asking first how the candidate generally handles stress and then asking the candidate to provide an example of a situation where he worked under pressure.”
Many experts recommend the 'STAR' technique for shining in competency-based interviews. The 'S' stands for 'situation,' i.e., setting the context for your story. The 'T' stands for 'task,' i.e., explaining what was expected of you. The 'A' stands for 'activity,' i.e., what you actually did, and the 'R' stands for 'result,' i.e., how the situation played out.
Using your international studies or work to formulate a STAR response is the perfect way to showcase how your international skills boost your candidacy.
4. Keep relevancy at the forefront.
Your employers do not want to hear all about where you went and what you did during your time abroad. They also do not want to hear that it was “great,” “fun,” or “life-changing.” Rather, they want to understand -- specifically -- how where you went and what you did during your time abroad will be applicable in the workplace. From learning to communicate across languages and cultures to coping with unknown and stressful events, translating these skills to the job at hand is vital.
Remember: It’s all about adding value. The ability to identify (and articulate) how your international experiences add value is critical. Looking at the job’s key competencies in advance and matching them up with key findings and skills learnt while abroad can help you stay on topic.
5. Reassure employers who have no international experience.
While many of today’s employers eagerly seek out candidates with international experience, others -- particularly those who have not had international workers before -- may be ambivalent at best. Not only that, but they make assumptions that may harm rather than help your application.
You may not be able to change someone’s world view, but you can positively influence their impression of you by having a positive attitude, maintaining a professional demeanor, avoiding mention of future plans to return overseas, and expressing your enthusiasm for working back home.
Ultimately, the degree to which your international experience helps you on the job market depends on the degree to which you leverage it to that end. Use these five tips during your job search to make the most compelling case.
Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.