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Coaching Students to Market Their International Experiences

By: Chelsea Keen, Penn State University

Students’ international experiences can be a secret weapon that make them a more marketable job or internship candidate. As career professionals, we have the opportunity to coach students on how to effectively integrate their experiences abroad – whether a semester-long program, an international internship, or a service learning trip – into their job search strategy.

As the world of work becomes increasingly globalized, employers are eager to hire individuals who can demonstrate intercultural communication skills, an appreciation for diversity, and the ability to adapt to new situations. Regardless of a student’s professional area of interest, they can leverage their international experiences by distinguishing themselves as a candidate who is culturally curious and maintains a global worldview.

Unfortunately, students too often mistake demonstrating their intercultural competencies with simply telling an employer about their sightseeing excursions. So how can we, as career professionals, help students to dig deeper and connect the professionally relevant skills they developed abroad to their future career?

Prompt students to reflect on their experiences abroad. A key part of coaching students to ace an interview or build their personal brand is helping them to recognize that they have a distinctively interesting story to tell – and international travel tends to be ripe with interesting stories. Encourage students to reflect on specific experiences that challenged them, changed their outlook, or taught them something new about themselves or the world in which we live. Workshops, individual appointments, and professional development courses are ideal settings for these reflection exercises.

Coach students to identify the skills they developed during those experiences. The stories about students’ time abroad become professionally relevant if, and only if, they can clearly articulate the skills that they developed during these experiences. Career professionals can help students to identify these skills by asking strategic guiding questions: “How did navigating a train station in a foreign country help you develop problem solving skills and the ability to think on your feet? What did your international travels teach you about different social, religious or political customs and becoming more open-minded? What did you learn about adapting to a new style of communication while interacting with a host family – and how will you demonstrate those communication skills in the workplace?”

Empower students to market their skills to future employers. We can support students in becoming more marketable job candidates by encouraging them to internalize and incorporate their intercultural skill set into their job search strategy.

  • Remind students to add study abroad to their resume and LinkedIn profile, and to include bullet points expanding on the cultural or academic value of the experience.
  • Coach students to strategically weave their cross-cultural skills into their elevator pitch.
  • Encourage students to leverage their cultural curiosity during networking opportunities – you never know who has also studied in Brazil, or always wanted to visit Greece.

As career professionals, we can help students use their international experiences to their advantage as they pursue their career goals – and maybe even jet off on a few adventures of our own!

Chelsea Keen, M.Ed., is a career coach at Penn State University, specializing in promoting professional development through international experiences. She is passionate about empowering students to identify and articulate the valuable, unique skills they bring to the table.  

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