How to Use Your Abroad Experience to Land a Job
Labor Day is celebrated by most of the world on 1 May, but since in the U.S. we celebrate it on the first Monday in September, today we provide some ideas on how to market your experiences and skills from abroad when looking for a new job. This can be a challenging exercise for students with a gap year, volunteers, and those of us who just travel for the fun of it. For folks who follow a partner overseas the task can seem even more daunting.
Despair not! Travel and your experiences are recognized as valuable assets. But how you capture them is key!
In case you are struggling with articulating and developing your story, reach out to us! We host a storytelling and processing workshop and are happy to schedule a one-on-one conversation as well! Part of selling yourself is knowing your story - and while being overseas gives most people a stronger sense of identity, it can be hard to articulate! Let us support you find that voice!
If you were working abroad or volunteering capturing that in a resume and interview is relatively easy and should be done in the main work history portion of the resume or CV. But, what if you were traveling or not working while overseas, how do you still capture that time in a meaningful way to demonstrate your adaptability and the new skills you’ve gained?
First, check out this video from recruiters who discuss being up front and capturing that time. They also suggest including what you learned during that time – whether that be classes you took, #intercultural adaptability, or other transferable skills. This video might be slightly specific to those in the development world, but the basic assumptions are universal.
Before we get into what else to include, always be authentic. Inform the organization of the skills you bring, don’t tell them that you saved the world. If you did, we haven’t seen it yet…and that doesn’t validate your claim. Plus, it makes you look immature.
So, what else do you need to include?
--Language skills. Discussing how you’ve used #language to #integrate to a community in your cover letter can demonstrate your adaptability into new #cultures, including corporate cultures. If you had to learn the language explaining how and what that
means about how you learn can be equally valuable to potential employers. You might also be used to help translate occasional documents, if no one is available, usually a separately compensated skill.
Example: I arrived in Mali with 30 hours of French prior to departure. I have a minor in French and studied it for about 8 years, but that was 10 years before Mali. Nonetheless, I managed to survive for two years, learning new words, and conversing with my housekeeper, gardener, and diplomatic officials. You could capture this as used conversational French skills to advance organizational missions (be more specific with what that mission was and what you did to help it!).
--Think through what skills the position requires and how you’ve developed or demonstrated those skills while overseas – this can be as simple as the position requiring a creative problem-solver and the makeshift methods you used to survive overseas –also known as resourcefulness. Similarly, a position may want a candidate with the ability to negotiate and develop relationships with customers; navigating foreign bureaucracy to establish yourself calls upon similar skillsets. Transferable skills also include financial and data analytics, surviving in a hard place, and understanding new cultures. Adapting to tough, dynamic, or challenging environments also shows that you are patient and willing to learn – what else do you want in a teammate?
Example: I once ordered the wrong teff to make injera. Instead of the flour, I ordered the grain. I decided that since Ethiopians in villages seemed to make it work, I could too – and used a mortar and pestle to grind my grain into flour…I guess that’s an indicator of persistence!
--Set yourself up for greatness. If you know what sector you aspire to be in, you can take relevant courses while overseas or volunteer in similar sectors while abroad. These experiences help to bolster your resume and demonstrate your foresight. They also make it easier to accept the circumstances that led to any gaps in your resume.
--Cultural Skills are an Asset, especially in #globalizing companies. Your ability to adapt and survive in a new place without being sent home speak to your #adaptability and knowledge of cultural norms. These skills remain important to companies seeking to expand into the market that you have first-hand knowledge of. Capturing your time in the country that they are interested in either through the cover letter or the resume can help to secure the interview. Ashima Khanna, a recruiter with Intrahealth International, suggests you "use specific examples in the cover letter that convey how your experience shaped your perspective and makes this organization and its mission/values speak to you."
Example: I’ve seen travel photographers talk about how to get authentic pictures by hanging back and observing until they are part of the scene and people can be authentic around them. This demonstrates patience, adaptability, and a willingness to learn about norms that are equally important in corporations. Similarly, you could talk about bargaining in a souk; recognizing the ways in which that requires certain rituals that you must adhere to in order to get the best deal.
--Be Able to Relate the Specific Skills Through Examples. Especially during an #interview showcase your skills, how you’ve applied them, and how you see it being applied in the position. Specific anecdotes are memorable, leave a positive impression, and due to their uniqueness help to set you apart from other candidates. Examples should also demonstrate how you’ll be an asset to the company due to their own values and mission – do your research ahead of time!
Now, where does it all go? There are some great examples in this article by Nomadic Matt. Importantly, see how many people he finds looking for similar advice? Alternatively, look at how many people are in Digital Nomads groups on Facebook – there are thousands! You are not alone, so don’t worry that you have gaps, most people today probably do, it’s how you capture and sell what you did that matters.
Lastly, for the interview, talk about the position and why you are best for it, not about why you have gaps in your resume. You certainly want to explain it, but the longer you spend talking about the gaps, the less time you are spending on selling yourself as a viable candidate.
If you're looking to process your journey abroad and how that sets you up for greatness, check out our other blog posts and contact us to schedule a conversation! We will help you develop your story for yourself and for your interview!