Going on exchange is life-changing in so many ways. You gain new perspective on the
world, discover new cultures, travel more than ever before and your friends from home
will soon be sick of hearing your “this one time in Chile” stories! You may not realise it, but
throughout your time spent abroad you’re cultivating skills and experiences which will
make you stand out in the job market in future. Here are some tips on articulating your
international experience to potential employers and making your CV and interview skills
How people live and how things work differs world over, that’s the beauty of diversity! However, that means you’ve probably had more than one surprise when it comes to your new life abroad: a different university structure, new ways to deal with money, or even totally different weather than what you’re used to. Since these are things you can’t change, you do something very special: you adapt. Don’t underestimate the importance of this ability. Particularly in a small or growing business, you might have to work in totally different circumstances or environments from day to day. Similarly, in a world of work where technology continues to dominate, you’ll probably have to adapt to different systems, software, or even to working remotely. Showing an employer you’ve had experience adapting to different institutions, systems and habits abroad shows them that you’ll be able to apply this competency to your professional life.
In an ever-globalising world, many jobs require you to work across cultures and markets. When you study abroad, you find yourself surrounded by people of all different backgrounds. You’ve probably had countless chats about what food people eat, the education system, how people greet each other, or how people live together in your home country compared to those of your friends. This is more than just something funny to chat about over lunch, it’s genuine intercultural learning which could help you in your future career. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll understand subtle variations in the approach you might want to take when communicating and working across geographic and cultural boundaries. Adrian, who works at Dutch startup HousingAnywhere.com helping international students find accommodation, explains that having studied abroad in Chile makes him stand out among his colleagues. Equipped with increased cultural knowledge, he can use a more tailored and nuanced approach to sales in Spanish-speaking countries. Remember to big up cultural awareness on your CV to express this capacity to employers in future!
Okay, so you can use google translate to understand a basic email, but can you translate a joke? Familiarity with different languages is still of great importance, and you’ve probably picked up more than you think during your experience in Chile! In today’s world you might be living in a country with one language, communicating with colleagues in another, and talking to clients in yet another. Remember to mention any languages you have experience in, even if you’re level is not at full professional proficiency. Even if you’ve had trouble speaking or learning Spanish, you can still use this experience when an interviewer asks for a time when you tackled a challenging situation, or for a time you had to change your approach to achieve the results you were looking for.
A Broader Worldview
You probably noticed it already: your view of the world and your perspective on life has shifted. Being in a totally new environment and meeting people from all corners of the earth makes you reflect on your longterm goals and what’s really important to you. This means that when you’re applying for a job, you’ll think about how the role fits into your bigger plans and your overall purpose. For a potential employer reviewing your motivations, this will definitely help you stand out. Framing your motivations for applying for a specific job within an overall narrative of your life goals, which you developed thanks to your experience abroad, solidifies your position as a strong applicant. You can think about expressing this in your summary section on LinkedIn or Levo, or working it into your answer to a tough interview question like “what motivates you?” or “why should we hire you?”.
What does it all mean?
The main thing you can take from this is that it’s all about recognising the skills you already have and articulating them in a meaningful way when it comes to your employability. Enjoy your exchange and live it to the fullest! The most fun time of your life might just be the most useful when it comes to the world of work.