Studying abroad is one of the greatest adventures and challenges any college student can take on. Many exchange students look at it as a fun opportunity to travel, but, in all reality, it’s a whole lot more than that. The experience can impact you in a big way, including the things you’re interested in, how you see the world, and what you want to do with your life…and it can make you more marketable, too.
If you’re a college senior or have just graduated, you probably have one priority on your mind right now, and that is getting a job. But forget the notion of just getting any old job and up the ante: landing your dream position. Remember all the things you learned while studying abroad and follow these tips for transforming your application process to land the first job you’ve been dreaming about.
1) Become a scrapper.
Remember how you were forced to toughen up when you landed in your foreign destination at the beginning of your study abroad program? Maybe you didn’t know the Metro system, couldn’t speak Spanish, or were greeted with stares from the locals. Over the course of your program, you overcame your insecurities, learned to live and speak like a local, and all around toughened up. Apply those learned skills to your job search by becoming more aggressive and nimble in your application approach. Just because your dream employer doesn’t have any job listings posted doesn’t mean they may not be accepting resumes. Call to inquire about any open positions and express your interest. If you can, drop by to leave behind a hard copy of your resume; it will stand out from the boatloads they receive via email. Follow key employers on social media, read their blogs, and stay abreast of any announcements they make regarding acquisitions of new accounts, and other signs of growth. Pounce on the opportunity to send a personalized cover letter congratulating them on the news and explaining how you would be a valuable asset to their team now more than ever.
2) Perfect your language skills.
If you learned the basics of a foreign language while abroad, now’s the time to hone those skills to perfection. Most students return from their program with strong conversational skills, yet lack the needed reading and written skills to be considered truly bilingual. Sign up for formal training, such as one-on-one tutoring, to fill out your education in the second language. Add it to your resume and talk up your enviable Italian, French, Russian, or Icelandic skills in interviews. Employers will take note of your dedication to mastering the language.
3) Get personal.
Students who study abroad can easily fall into a trap of highlighting generic takeaways from their experience. While the fact that you made friends with people from other cultures is important, it’s critical that you share your own, more personal highlights with potential employers. On your resume, bullet point three challenges you faced and how you overcame them. In an interview, talk about how the experience changed you and ignited a newfound passion for Bollywood films, Australian folklore, or German cuisine. Make it personal and at the end of the day, when potential employers think back on all those candidates they’ve interviewed, they’ll remember the recent college grad who got lost in Amsterdam or hitchhiked along the Pan-American Highway in Chile.
You may be riding on cloud nine upon returning from a study abroad experience, and rightly so. Enjoy the memories, the souvenirs, perhaps the last of that tan you worked on for the past 4 months. But when it’s time to build your resume, practice your interviewing skills, and get a first job you’ll be excited about, be sure to draw on that study abroad experience to give yourself the extra advantage among your peers.