Those who’ve traveled, studied, worked, or interned abroad have gained tremendous skills that are relevant to any position they wish to pursue back home. So why is it that most times, those same individuals down play their experience, or don’t consider its value for what it’s worth? Usually it’s because they don’t find the connection between their experience abroad, and the jobs they’re applying for back home. But that’s the beauty of transferable skills.
Transferable skills include any skills which have the ability to be transferred from one industry to another, no matter how different those two industries are. For example, while interning for a semester in Antigua, Guatemala, you will no doubt develop Spanish language skills, whether you intend to or not. And language skills are 100% absolutely transferable. I mean, who doesn’t want an employee to have the ability to communicate and service more customers? Here are the top 4 ways to market those well-deserved qualifications you gained during your internship abroad.
Value Your Experience
Your experience matters, period! So many people downplay their international experience by saying things like “I only interned abroad for half a semester”, or “I interned in Peru, but it’s so much different than back home”. Yes. Yes, it is different. And that’s what makes it beautiful and unique.
Employers value the courage, flexibility, and independence it takes to choose to live and intern in a country so different from your own. Instead of dismissing your experience, be confident about all the incredible and adventurous things you’ve done, the skills you’ve developed, and the connections you made while overseas. You didn’t choose an internship at random–especially if you are receiving university credit for it. Likely, your internship abroad is related to your career goals, no matter how different the setting and circumstances might be. For example, if you chose to get involved with a medical internship, you probably had to work with basic supplies in a humble clinic, while providing antiparasitic medication to patients. This shows that you’re creative in your approach to servicing patients thoroughly, even without first class technology and equipment, and you’re flexible in your ability to adjust to patient needs, even if their illness is not common in the U.S.
On your resume, add your internship under the “Work Experience” section, while highlighting the fact that it indeed was an internship abroad. Then highlight three or four major accomplishments, using standard industry terminology. Some examples of accomplishments abroad might be “Implemented a digital filing system to organize patient/client records”, or “Took the initiative of triaging patients in an understaffed clinic to help serve more patients per day”.
On an interview, you should talk up your international experience by describing your responsibilities and accomplishments just as you would if the experience were had in your country. If you were enrolled in a micro-business internship and helped a local business owner to redesign their website to help gain more traffic, say that! These are huge advantages that show initiative, creativity, leadership, and business development.
Market the Daily Skills You Needed to Use Abroad
The part of living abroad that you may not realize is that you are constantly learning and developing new skills. Again, the example of learning a new language you must practice and utilize during your everyday interactions. Some others might include negotiating (hello, street markets!), navigating unfamiliar territory (wait, where am I?), or organizing events, which are really important skills to have mastered while away. Working in a new culture and language shows your dedication, resilience, and flexibility–all great qualities employers are looking for.
On your resume, showcase these great new qualifications under the “Skills” section. Languages can become a new section all on its own as you list each language you’re familiar with, and your fluency.
On the interview, tell the hiring manager about the different situations and circumstances you had to navigate which helped you to develop these new skills. Then, make the connection to why those skills are important for the role you’re pursuing.
Choose Relevant Stories to Share
Telling a story is a great way to showcase your strengths, growth, and accomplishments. Saying that you know how to create an engaging academic lesson plan is one thing, but showing how you helped your students learn the English language, and fellow teachers to plan their lessons, brings the full picture to life.
Though we all have exciting stories about our experiences abroad, do make sure to only share stories that can bring context to an answer. Therefore, sharing stories about the wild time you had at the Palmares festival in Costa Rica is probably not the best idea.
Anecdotes should not be mentioned on your resume, as your resume strictly notes your experience, education, and skills. However, a cover letter is the perfect opportunity to display relevant anecdotes which highlight your skills and qualifications. Quantify your achievements as much as possible to show you’re results driven. One way to do this could be, “Promoted incentives for reviews on yelp, boosting the company to the Top 10 cafes in Antigua, Guatemala”. A story such as this shows skills related to marketing & promotions, sales, and business development. It also highlights the results of your efforts.
On the interview, do the same. Stories should be less than a minute to explain, and shouldn’t need loads of context.
Connect International Experience with National Experience
It may often be difficult to connect international and national experience due to politics, bureaucracy, and labor laws. However, when we are outside the box, we learn how to improve matters within the box. Try to determine the differences between the two industries in each country, and then determine which factors seem to make business easier, and how you can implement those ideas in a business back home. For example, if you witnessed the operations of a large multinational corporation abroad, and compared them to those back home, you should be able to articulate why certain systems or strategies work better. It’s the perfect opportunity to show how your experience can transfer, and the advantages you possess over other candidates.
On your resume, highlight any writing, public speaking, or follow up initiatives you’ve launched since your return home. Include any associations, clubs, and organizations that have an international presence
On the interview, discuss how your internship abroad is related to the work you hope to do back home, or share how your time abroad allowed you to reflect and develop a new perspective on major global problems. Use examples of innovative solutions, fundraising, or resource utilization to discuss your focus and skill set. It doesn’t matter much whether these initiatives were successful or not, but rather that your time abroad allowed you to think creatively about how to solve problems, and take risks to get the job done. Determine which strategies might have worked for you abroad, and how they can be useful back home.
In conclusion, your international experience should be seen as an advantage which has allowed you to gain experience and skills that set you apart from the competition. It should give you an edge during your job search, but the key to making the most of your experience, depends on how you market yourself as the unique, adventurous, creative, and innovative superstar you are.