So you have graduated, are on the brink of graduation, or are re-examining your current job and thinking: “What should I do with my life?”
When thinking of your college and prior experiences, those international experiences keep coming to mind. But how in the world do you become one of those people that help students engage in international experiences? Here are five things to have on your resume that will help your name rise to the top of the large applicant pool.
1. Diverse array of experiences
Be it different tasks within the same office, studying/traveling in multiple countries, or different types of jobs, employers want to know that you are versatile. Many positions will call on you to wear multiple hats and have different skill-sets. On the job learning is to be expected, but they ideally want to hire someone who already has a good handle on common office tasks, soft skills and professionalism. Taking on different jobs, learning important skills, and working with different populations really helps you hone in on an ideal career. That being said, it’s important to not overdo it and be involved 10% in 10 different things. Strive for that delicate balance between gaining a variety of experiences but not becoming sporadic and overcommitted.
2. Evidence of staying involved before and/or after an abroad experience
So you went and had an amazing time in China. That’s awesome! Now what did you do to continue to stay engaged in international education after coming back? Employers will want to see continued passion and application of prior experiences. Get involved in your study abroad or international student office. Learn another language, or volunteer with immigrant children in the community. Even if it is just a friendship you established with an international student, it can be really powerful when translated correctly in a resume or cover letter.
3. Additional Language Skills
About 20% of Americans are bilingual, but that number primarily represents people who speak English as a second language (US Census Bureau, 2007). When you have strong language skills working in the USA, you stand out. There are many free resources you can utilize to learn another language (Duolingo, Byki, etc), so start today! Even if you just have a working knowledge of a language, it can really help you get a job in international education. However, it is important not to oversell your skills, and be prepared to show your language skills in an interview!
Many employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree, so it may take an additional degree to move your resume to the top of the pile. However, you may not have time or money for a full-time master’s degree. Don’t underestimate the power of nontraditional opportunities. Look at different opportunities like the international education certificate at Western Kentucky University, or the low-residency program at the School for International Training (SIT) in Vermont. Also, your bachelor’s degree may not be directly international related, but you can still give your classes and academic work an international flair. Did you do class projects or research papers with an international focus? All of those things can really help you stand out.
5. Up-to-date lingo and terminology
It probably isn’t a good idea to share all about the study abroad “trip” that you took during your sophomore year. Knowing the correct terminology and trends in the field are extremely important and avoid an interview gaffe. This is probably the easiest fix for your resume, but is the most continuous need throughout your career. You should always strive to stay on top of trends in the field, and eventually contribute research and knowledge yourself. There are a variety of costly and free professional development opportunities, so research and choose wisely.
What I didn’t Include
Notice I didn’t put “an international experience” on this list. While this may seem like an obvious necessity, many employers realize that it can be expensive and a challenge for some people to make studying abroad work in their college schedule. If you have not studied, volunteered, interned, or lived abroad, you will need to think about how you can supplement that on your resume and how to translate your other valuable experiences. Did you work with an immigrant population? Did you intern in your study abroad office? Did you participate in an international student organization? With the right passion, supplementary experience, and dedication, those experiences can be even more impactful than someone who just studied abroad one semester.
Getting your ideal job in international education stems from how you sell yourself, and how you showcase the valuable experiences you have had (and realizing that they are valuable!). Become an expert on how your experiences make you the best fit for the job. Use this article as a starting point to craft your resume, and start building your experiences based on the qualifications of the job you want in the future! The great thing about the field of international education is that there are no perfect paths or experiences you should have, but the field truly represents a great mosaic of people with many different backgrounds and experiences.
Natalie Cruz is the coordinator for International Student Life at Emory University, where she has been developing the office from the ground up since its recent inception. She discovered her passion for international education through meeting international students her freshman year, which led her to study abroad for a semester in the UK. After college, she volunteered for 3 months in Ecuador, and then went to work for an international educational travel company. In addition to working with international students currently and during her graduate program, she has also led three short-term programs for students to Ecuador, Puerto Rico, and Iceland. She has a BA in Psychology from Clemson University, and a MEd in Student Affairs and Higher Education from University of South Carolina. You can connect with her at @natalieicruz on twitter.