You might not be stoked about coming back home after experiencing all the world has to offer while living abroad, but you should be proud of yourself. Immersing yourself in another culture takes real guts. But you did it. Now comes the tough part: how do you get an employer to realize how international experience adds to your qualifications?
Well, luckily you don’t have to. 60% of employers thought international experience to be valuable when hiring and promoting employees, according to a report by the International Institute of Education. But you still need to make it to the interview with an unscathed resume. With careful consideration and planning, and using the helpful tips below, you’ll be able to market your travel experience to boost your application to the top of the pile.
So, How Valuable IS Your Experience?
More than you think. Thanks to the internet, globalization is taking place at an exponential speed. Communication between people in different countries costs nearly nothing, and with the click of a button we can connect with others across the globe in seconds. That’s why your ability to successfully navigate a new country, often in a foreign language, is so valuable.
Immersing yourself in a new culture involved having to adapt to new customs and learn acceptable social interactions. It develops your cultural sensitivity, resourcefulness and resilience through, often uncomfortable, adjustment periods. Even if your experience abroad is different from the field you’re looking to pursue, the interpersonal skills you’ve gained will still be looked upon positively.
Living and working abroad also shows that you’re able to build new connections in an unfamiliar environment and integrate yourself successfully. Just like with any experience, the value of your international work will depend on how relative it is to what you are seeking when you’re back home. Therefore, you must customize how you present it to maximize its marketability.
Find the Sweet Spot
Just as important as the experience itself is where you include it on your resume. If the work is directly related to the position, you would include it in the body of your resume as a main focal point. An example might be if you’re applying for a veterinary assistant position and completed a veterinary internship during a study abroad program.
However, if your time abroad works to boost a past position, you can list it under a different category such as “Related Experience” or “Activities”. You might also include some of your experience under the “Skills” section. Examples might be a new language, specific software, negotiation, customer service, and many others.
Include Specific & Relevant Information
Not all your travels will be valued in the same way. For example, if you spent several weeks in an expat beach town soaking up the sun, you’d need to get creative to market this as valuable. Only include specific information that is relevant to what you’re applying for.
For example, if you’re applying as a junior marketing coordinator and have international internship experience working in the marketing department of an NGO, add it. It shows that you worked in a professional setting and learned skills that are specific and relevant to the position.
Another example might be for someone who completed their TEFL. A TEFL certification could be a huge advantage for someone interested in applying for a teacher or classroom assistant. Even if the subject isn’t English, the training you receive during the TEFL program includes classroom management strategies, lesson planning, and real teaching experience. These components of the TEFL training program are transferable to any classroom.
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Study Abroad Experience
While working and volunteering abroad can add tremendous benefit to your resume, don’t forget your study abroad experience. Studying abroad challenges you in ways traditional education can’t. You can add study abroad under the “Education” section, or create a subcategory called “International Education”.
You should highlight unique courses, projects and assignments completed, and demonstrated application of your language classes.
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The Cover Letter
“The cover letter is your first introduction to the person who may hire you, and its goal should be to make you as memorable as possible, in a good way” says glassdoor.com.
Being able to include an anecdote about how your international experience makes you the most qualified candidate would definitely make for a memorable cover letter. If your time abroad included any work specifically related to the position being applied for, make sure to include what your duties were, any software used, and techniques or strategies learned.
If your experience abroad isn’t directly related, you can still use an anecdote to show how you developed some very important skills. This could be anything from new language skills, effective communication, relationship building, cultural awareness, flexibility in new situations, organization, or any other transferable skills.
Finally, the interview. Just as with your cover letter, you want to do more showing and less telling. If your resume says you have the “ability to establish and maintain relationships”, talk about how you expanded your network while abroad and how you stay connected with them all.
Use the interview to impress the employer by telling a story about how you hiked up to Machu Picchu just to avoid the long bus line and what an (exhausting, and possibly regretful) adventure it was, or anything similar. Your experiences abroad make you unique, and the employer will remember you for it.
Now that you are fully versed on how to market your international experience on a resume and in person, make sure to do so! Take the confidence you gained overseas back home and show the world what you’re worth.