How to Leverage Your Study Abroad Experience in Job Interviews

Originally published Jul 22, 2017 at Rakbo.com.

It can be difficult to explain your life abroad to others when you return home. I felt like my eyes had been opened in China, as I had seen how a culture completely different to my own could thrive with lifestyles opposite of western ideals. Traveling helps you grow in unimaginable ways, and parsing all your experiences to an interviewer can be a challenge. It’s a challenge to even write this article! Luckily, I have held an internship and a job or two since I left Beijing, and I believe that I got these jobs directly because I studied abroad. Here are my tips on how to leverage your study abroad experience to stand out from competition in the job market:

SHOWCASE WHAT YOU DID WHILE YOU WERE ABROAD.

Were you abroad to study at a university or college? Did you travel so that you could take up an internship, apprenticeship or a job? Did you go abroad on a volunteer or mission trip? Helping to quantify your experiences will help you to understand the major skills you learned. Try to focus on your most impressive accomplishments abroad, such as the classes you completed, the people you connected with or the languages you learnt. This will really show the company why you are valuable.

YOUR EXPERIENCES ARE DIVERSE AND VALUABLE. SHOW IT.

Studying abroad gives you the unique advantage of being a global citizen with a variety of skills that others who haven’t traveled abroad will lack. Seek out companies that will value your globalness. The first internship I got after being abroad was for a school planner company that published books for nearly every school and university in North America. I was hired because I had blogging experience from being abroad, I had already been published internationally from my beijingkids magazine days, and I had experienced being independent in my work. Writing experience, international publication and independence were key values my company wanted and my experience abroad helped solidify those ideals. Try to not make it harder on yourself and seek out companies that already value what you can offer.

BRING UP YOUR SECOND LANGUAGE SKILLS ONLY IF YOU CAN USE THEM.

When I was in China, I interned with a magazine company and was published in a few issues. Although I did learn a little bit of Mandarin, my Chinese language skills were not nearly as impressive as my writing portfolio. If I did mention learning Chinese in my job interviews, it was only in passing. Being well-rounded is always appreciated, but remember to emphasize the skills you learned abroad that you couldn’t have gotten elsewhere.

However, if you did become fluent in a language, absolutely mention it in your interview. In the current job I hold as a marketing specialist for a financial tech company, we recently relaunched our update website. If I was fluent in Portuguese, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese or Japanese, I could have taken an even larger role for translating our new website. Knowing a second language will always be a valuable skill for a global company.

PLAY UP YOUR SOFT SKILLS.

Something that is often forgotten in interviews is showcasing your soft skills. There is no doubt that you learned independence, adaptability, resilience, mental fortitude and so many other skills while you were abroad. These skills will always be in demand, and living in a different country is an excellent way of showing your interviewer that you have these skills.

 

MAKE CONNECTIONS ON LINKEDIN AND IN REAL LIFE.

Learn from my past and network while you are abroad. I had a very challenging time with culture shock in Beijing, and this led me to retreating inward into myself and becoming a bit of an introvert. I still dislike networking at formal events even now that I’m back in the US, but this is something that will always be beneficial to your career. Creating connections with others will help you get jobs in the future, and you can help your friends in times of need. At the very least, add your study abroad friends, teachers, bosses or mentors on LinkedIn and keep up regular interactions with your connections. Doing this now will help you in the future.

After adding your peeps on LinkedIn, you should probably make sure your profile is up to date while you’re at it.

I’d love to know your advice on leveraging your study abroad experiences for interviews. Let me know if these tips helped you! In the spirit of making connections, feel free to add me on LinkedIn or you can see what I’m up to on Instagram @emalicethomas.

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A note on my work:

Unless specified as a personal or class project these pieces are the property of the companies for which I represented at the time. I have linked all pieces that can be linked to give credit back to the source. These pieces are being shown as work I completed solely to portray my writing and designing capabilities in a portfolio setting and not to show my express ownership.