It’s no secret that international experience is highly valued by employers in practically all industries, regardless of whether you've been working, studying or doing an internship abroad. In an increasingly interconnected world, the capability to work effectively in a diverse workplace is vital. However, international experience is only an advantage when you can articulate how this experience has been used to gain the knowledge, skills, and abilities required by an employer. Below you can find hints and suggestions on how to convey such an experience in the pursuit of your dream job - irrespective of if you are trying to find a domestic job or building on your international experience to find a job overseas.
After returning, students generally find that it takes a proactive effort to fully realise the applicability of their experiences to career planning. Consequently, a first step in learning how to apply your international experience to your job search is to identify some of the skills you may have gained while abroad. This could involve how you have improved on your intercultural/communication skills, if your worldview has shifted or if you have identified/built on some of your personal capabilities. Think about the person you were before you left and how you changed during your time abroad. Chances are that you most probably have gained a solid international IQ!
A well-thought-out resume should not simply be a laundry list of experiences, but rather a thoughtfully designed record of the employee’s most noteworthy experiences. The most common factors to contemplate with regards to your international experience are the following:
- Where should I include this experience on my resume so that it will have the most impact and support what I’m trying to communicate?
Students pursuing an international career could create a separate block called “International experience” and include all information about working and studying abroad as well as language experiences, thereby distinguishing themselves from traditional CV-writing with a “Work experience” and “Education” block.
- How much detail do I need to provide on my resume to ensure that the experience has a meaning to a potential employer?
The resume should focus on the accomplishments and skills you gained from the experience, drawn from your self-assessment – rather than solely where you went and what you did. In relationship to this, it could also be interesting to outline significant projects and/or fieldwork. Naturally, young professionals should write about their education more expansively than mid-career professionals.
When students are asked about their international experience, their answers are typically short and along the lines of “it was great!”. Employers are looking for you to be able to describe what you gained professionally. Therefore you put yourself in an advantageous position if you develop a stock of stories that illustrate your skills/competencies and have these ready for the interview. Most employers use behavioural interview questions to get an insight into how the interviewee handles certain situations, a common one being “tell me about a time where you took responsibility to deal with a certain problem”. Such a question presents an excellent opportunity for the interviewee to make their international experience relevant to the employer. It is important that you ensure to mention how the experience benefits the employer. If you are able to answer with a “STAR,” your responses will be concise and descriptive:
S – Describe the situation
T – What was the task to be done?
A – What action did you take?
R – What were the results?
Similarly to people with highly coveted student jobs, applicants with one or more international experiences should have a significant advantage when applying for a job. Yet, this substantially depends on how well you can capitalise on this advantage in a way that makes the experience relevant to the employer.