The word is out! As more people learn how unique, fun, and rewarding a career in international education is, the job search is becoming increasingly competitive.
With perks like domestic and international travel and the ability to make a difference in the lives of others, people who work in the field are sticking around. Getting a job is more competitive than it was ten, five, or even three years ago. So what is a recent grad or career-change hopeful to do? With a combination of the right attitude, preparation, and self-marketing, you can get a job in international education. Read on for three must-do’s and stay tuned for three more.
Take an Unpaid or Low-Paying Internship
In terms of building your resume, making connections, and getting actual experience in the field, this is the top tip. By taking an unpaid or low-paying internship, you can learn if you really want to commit to a job in study abroad. An unpaid internship is the ideal way to get your foot in the door and see what you learn from the experience. Some organizations (such as GoAbroad) even have an institute for interns to build professional skills and network.
If there are international education organizations in your area and if your schedule permits, an in-person internship is best. You will get an idea of the company culture and be able to work directly with your colleagues. If this isn’t an option, go remote. Be sure to provide examples of your work ethic and independent motivation and specifically mention these things in your cover letter. Pick a defined length of time for your internship. Aim for a three-month minimum if you have full time availability or a six-month minimum if you have part-time availability. Craft a cover letter that explains you would like an internship for credit or learning experience, and suggest a few projects and tasks you can do well. Example ideas would be social media management, a competitor analysis, content creation, or anything else you feel qualified to do. If you’re going with a remote internship, be sure to pick something that is easily done from outside of an office and individually.
International education organizations are a better target than universities, since colleges have a plethora of alumni and student workers. If you have the choice between a large company and a smaller, start-up organization, approach the smaller one first. While the big provider might have a recognizable name, a smaller company gives you the chance to truly make an impact on the projects and strategy. You’ll also be more likely to work directly with a decision-maker or even the owner, so your hard work will be noticed by someone who counts.
Get Involved With Local Events
Being a part of local international ed events in your area is another excellent way to build connections and get an idea of the topics and trends that other professionals are discussing. NAFSA is the leading professional organization for inbound and outbound study abroad, and is a great starting point. Sign up for the NAFSA listserve as well as your state NAFSA listserve to get notifications about upcoming conferences. Regional conferences are throughout the fall, and state meetings are in spring – visit the “Get Involved” section of NAFSA’s site.
If you know you’ll be in the same city for a bit, consider joining a planning committee for Lessons From Abroad or another returnee conference. This will allow you to build friendships and professional relationships with other members of the planning committee (usually university advisors and provider reps), as well as get more experience for your resume without committing to full-time work.
Set up informational interviews with local professionals to see if there’s anything else you can do to get involved or if there are any casual meet-ups. The Denver/Boulder/Fort Collins group has a Facebook page where people post happy hours, sports games, and other events to get everyone together, and newcomers would always be welcome.
Become Active on Social Media
If you’re not already on Twitter and LinkedIn, you need to stop, drop, and … click. Take it from someone who very much disliked social media in a past life – you should be there! These platforms are where the leaders in the field are communicating and interacting.
Social media presents an excellent way to get involved in conversations and discussions, as well as learn about top issues. Furthermore, this is something you can on your breaks, during evenings and weekends, or even sitting in the subway on your smartphone. Comment, like, share, retweet, and favorite the heck out of posts from the people who you want to build relationships with. When you finally do cross paths with them in real life or apply for a position at one of their companies, they’ll already have an idea of who you are and what you value.
Your LinkedIn profile should be the best it possibly can be – for tips on this specifically, check out this post from my colleague Tiffany. And all those people you met in person through your unpaid internship and local events? Connect with them on Twitter and LinkedIn!
Stay tuned for the final three tips on how to land a job in international education. But in the mean time, you have plenty of work to do!
As the VP of Communications at GoAbroad, Nikki gets to be involved with almost every aspect of the organization. She has experience volunteering, teaching, working, and studying abroad in a variety of countries including Fance, Costa Rica, and Chile. No matter where she goes or what she does, her favorite thing tends to be the amazing people she meets along the way. A Wisconsin native, Nikki manages to feed both her Spanish language skills and love of cheese through work and play.