Explain Your Experience

How to Explain Your International Experience from “Marketing Study Abroad: How to Sell Your Overseas Experience to Employers” by Jean-Marc Hachey of www.workingoverseas.com   

You are already aware that, with the exception of others who have lived abroad, very few people are interested in or able to understand your study abroad experience. Be cautious when discussing your international experience when meeting prospective employers. Here are a few tips to help you down this delicate path:

Be professional in describing your study abroad experience. You are probably fairly animated about the challenges you faced when overseas. Practice rewording your description of job responsibilities in a more businesslike manner. Be formal. Be articulate.

Use the language of your future work. You may have to give up the expatriate jargon that has become second nature to you. Avoid using too many names and titles that will be foreign to your prospective employer. Avoid detailed geographical descriptions. Speak in terms familiar to your audience. For example, use “adjustment” instead of “culture shock”; use “able to deal with change” instead of “cross-cultural adaptability”; use “interpersonal skills” instead of “cultural sensitivity”; use “effective listening skills” instead of “cross-cultural communications”; use “political astuteness” instead of “diplomacy.”

Speak of your successes, your accomplishments. Do not discuss insurmountable challenges or why you did not succeed at something. Employers, especially those with no international experience, will not be able to judge the context and could form erroneous conclusions about your capabilities.

Avoid shocking stories. Do not go into bizarre tales or misadventures. The harder your overseas experience, the more cautious you should be in talking about the difficulties you encountered.

Network with other returnees. Actively seek out others who have recently returned from abroad and can provide mutual support during your job search. Find these people on the Internet and through the organization that sent you overseas.

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