You did this semester abroad and had a hell lot of fun and a great time. Thinking of it makes you want to travel back in time, doesn’t it? Strolling through those picturesque streets again, feeling the excitement of a thrilling adventure in your belly, and laughing with your friends until you can’t breathe anymore. Unfortunately, everything ends, and you’re already back to your old day-to-day life. Actually, you’re on the verge of applying for your first graduate job *fearful scream in the distance*. This is indeed an adventure of a different kind. What you really need now is to learn how to include your study abroad experience in your application to truly impress your possible employers. I’ll show you how!
Over the next few minutes, I’m going to talk about three things you should do for your application. It’s a step by step guide to help you get ready for writing the perfect application. First of all, being one of the lucky students who spend a semester or year in a foreign country definitely gives you a head start. BUT you need to know how to communicate it. In our globalised world international experience is in demand, in fact, it is almost a must. So there are many, many other people who have done the same thing you’ve done. What will make you exceptional among all those others is that by the end of this post you’ll know how to communicate your study abroad experience in the best possible way. You’re going to improve your application so much that every employer will say: I want to have this person working for me! Sounds alright to you? Great!
There are three main things you need to do before you apply for a job:
- Realise what skills you gained while studying abroad.
- Learn how to include your time abroad in the best way in your CV and Cover Letter.
- Prepare yourself to talk about your study abroad experience with employers.
Below, I’m explaining each of these in detail and share several specific ways that you can use to get your dream job.
1. Realise what Skills you gained while Studying Abroad
… and learn how to articulate them confidently. There are various things you’ll learn while you live in another country. Your cultural sensitivity will develop, you will learn how to communicate and how to solve problems. You probably learned a myriad of things in one way or the other. Sift through your experiences and select the stories and examples that best fit your knowledge, skills and motivation for the job you’re applying for. Not sure what skills you’ve got through your study abroad experience? Then I highly recommend you to read this article and find out more on how traveling enhances your job skills. I wait till you finished reading!
Done? Now that you have some broad ideas about what skills you learned, it is immensely important that you articulate those skills in the right manner.
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2. Learn how to include your Time Abroad in your CV and Cover Letter
Writing CVs and cover letters can often be seen as both a time-consuming and daunting process. Don’t think they are pointless, though, because they perform a major role in making your application a success. Your CV and cover letter may be your first point of contact with an employer. So use it to your benefit!
The purpose of CVs and Cover letters is to enable employers to determine your suitability for the opportunity that you are applying for. Because of this, it is essential that you exemplify the skills you gained through your study abroad experience. You need to show how your travels actually transfer to the position you are applying for. It is not enough to just mention that you’ve studied abroad without explaining how this is relevant for the job. I know, it’s pretty amazing that you made this huge step out into the world and went abroad, but unfortunately, that is not enough for a job position. What you need to do instead is formulating an argument that supports your skills. In the end, your stories need to be about them – your employers and the job – not you. Think in terms of what the company expects from a good employee.
How do you do this? First, research the job to find out about the necessary requirements and person specification – read the supporting company literature and visit their website. Second, formulate your arguments with a clear structure, include the situation where you gained the skills (e.g. your teamwork skills), what you did to contribute to the task, the results achieved and, ideally, what you learned from this situation. If you still need more help, you can learn more about CV writing here.
3. Be Prepared to Talk about Your Study Abroad Experience with Employers
If you have your international experience on your CV, employers will ask you about it – directly or indirectly. Be prepared and practice your answers – the better you prepare the better you will perform on the day. For example, an interviewer may ask: “How has your time abroad changed you?” or “Describe a goal you set and how you achieved it.” Think of a few specific stories about your time abroad. Really put some time into it and figure out how those stories relate to specific job skills needed in the position you’re applying for. With interviews, the same rules as with CVs and cover letters apply: It is important that you support your argument by concrete examples.
You can practice with a friend or relative, or even in the bath or in a quiet room by yourself. You will find that you will give a much better impression at the interview.