Translating Overseas Experience into a Successful Resumé

7695987818_6c5443289c_zLived overseas?

You’ve been there, done that, and designed and marketed the t-shirt. But how can that get you a job now that you’re back?

The key is articulating your transferrable skills.

“It is simply not enough to seek an international experience—the experience itself has little value for an employer,” writes Cheryl Matherly, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs for Career Services, Scholarships, and Fellowships at Rice University. “The savvy job seeker must be able to speak about this experience in terms of the transferable skills that he or she developed while abroad and how they can be applied to the workplace.”

While Matherly’s comments are aimed at students who study abroad, they apply to anyone who has spent time living in another country. And when she says that selling one’s international experience “can be an enormous challenge,” that caution fits non-students, too.

It can be difficult to find new employment when returning to your passport country. Not only can you be out of the loop when it comes to networking, but many employers don’t see living overseas as a plus—and some see it as a negative.

It’s up to you to show employers how your cross-cultural experience has added to your skills portfolio, in ways that they may not have considered. In fact, your experiences may have have benefited you in ways that you yourself haven’t considered.

To help, I’ve pulled together several lists, from various sources, of job skills and qualities that can be gained from living outside your passport country. They’re not guaranteed, so you may not have them all. But neither are they all-inclusive, so consider this a jumpstart for creating your own list.

First, Matherly says that students should be able to share experiences showing their ability to

  • Creatively solve problems by applying familiar concepts to unfamiliar situations
  • Contribute to an ethnically diverse team
  • Be self-confident, yet able to listen and learn from people whose value systems are different
  • Take personal risks and act independently
  • Be flexible and adaptable to rapidly changing situations
  • Have a basic command of the local language, and be able use it in practical situations
  • Imagine, forecast, analyze or address business situations from a different cultural frame of reference.

(Cheryl Matherly, “Effective Marketing of International Experiences to Employers,” Impact of Education Abroad on Career Development, Volume 1, Martin Tillman, editor, American Institute for Foreign Study, 2005)

Researchers at Michigan State University found that the following traits were chosen by 35% or more of responding employers as “where recent hires with international experience stood out.”

  • Interacting with people who hold different interests, values, or perspectives
  • Understanding cultural differences in the workplace
  • Adapting to situations of change
  • Gaining new knowledge from experiences
  • Ability to work independently
  • Undertaking tasks that are unfamiliar/risky
  • Applying information in new or broader contexts
  • Identifying new problems/solutions to problems
  • Working effectively with co-workers

(Phil Gardner, Linda Gross, and Inge Stieglitz, “Unpacking Your Study Abroad Experience: Critical Reflection for Workplace Competencies,” Collegiate Employment Research Institute, Michigan State University, March 2008)

The Learning Abroad Center at the University of Minnesota offers this list of “skills that professionals with international experience cite as being particularly useful in their careers.”

  • Enhanced cultural awareness and sensitivity to customs and cultural differences
  • Foreign language proficiency
  • Adaptability
  • Ability to identify and achieve goals
  • General improvement in communications skills
  • Increased confidence, initiative, and independence
  • Greater flexibility and sense of humor
  • Awareness of global economic and political issues and realities
  • Ability to maintain an open mind and be tolerant of others
  • Clarification of goals and improved self-awareness
  • General travel skills
  • Resource management
  • Organization
  • Problem solving and crisis management
  • Patience
  • Listening and observation
  • Specific professional skills or knowledge base

(Resumé Tips, Learning Abroad Center, University of Minnesota)

When some question the value of overseas work experience, Graduate Prospects, offers “a whole host of benefits that these doubters seem to have failed to consider.”

  • Culture and community – working abroad shows your desire to get stuck in and work alongside local people, rather than stand back and take in the culture from afar while you drift through the country as a tourist.
  • Sink or swim – demonstrate to potential employers that you can cope in a multicultural, multilingual working environment and produce great work in the process. Even if you go to work in an English-speaking country, employers will see that you can rise to the challenge and succeed despite being out of your comfort zone, away from your friends and family.
  • Language skills – these are hugely valuable to employers and spending time abroad and working alongside non-English speakers will help them improve. Remember, though, that languages are most valuable alongside another specialism, so don’t pin all your hopes of employment on your new-found linguistic finesse.
  • Get up and go – moving abroad and finding work experience shows motivation, independence, maturity and adaptability – all extra ticks on your job application forms.
  • Travel – this is usually a secondary motive for many people, but it is quite a nice bonus.

(“Work Experience and Internships: Experience Abroad,” Prospects)

And at StudyAbroad.com, Martin Tillman suggests that job seekers “may want to think of concrete examples from your experience abroad that demonstrate your development of some of these characteristics:”

  • Independence/Self-reliance
  • Self-knowledge
  • Self-confidence
  • Flexibility
  • Perseverance
  • Ability to cope with stress, rejection
  • Assertiveness
  • Inquisitiveness
  • Awareness of lifestyle choices and global consequences
  • Adaptability to new environments
  • Appreciation for diversity
  • Ability to establish rapport quickly
  • Open-mindedness
  • Understanding and appreciation of other perspectives
  • Suspend judgment about people and their actions
  • Concern/knowledge of international issues and politics
  • Learn quickly
  • Greater focus on career interests
  • Handle difficult situations
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Function with a high level of ambiguity
  • Achieve goals despite obstacles
  • Take initiatives and risks
  • Communicate despite barriers
  • Learn through listening and observing
  • Time management skills

(Martin Tillman, “Effective Marketing of Your Study Abroad Experience to Employers,” StudyAbroad.com, February 4, 2014)

Did you know you had so much going for you?

Welcome back, and happy job hunting.

[photo: “Vintage Leather Suitcase w Travel Stickers,” by Lynn Friedman, used under a Creative Commons license]

Four Ways to Leverage Multi-Cultural Experiences to Raise Successful Kids

7778827430_2098f27ba3_nIn an increasingly globalized world, there are several ways to use multi-cultural experiences to help your children get a leg up as they move toward adulthood and future careers. Here are four of them.

None are easy, but the first may be the most difficult.

1. Be an Immigrant to the US

Sociologists at Johns Hopkins University, Lingxin Hao and Han S. Woo, found that children of immigrants in America achieve more academically and have better transitions into adulthood than their peers with native-born parents. The advantage is highest for foreign-born children whose parents move to the States, followed closely by American-born children of immigrants. Hao and Woo’s findings appear in the September/October 2012 issue of Child Development (“Distinct Trajectories in the Transition to Adulthood: Are Children of Immigrants Advantaged?“)

Explaining the difference,

Hao suggests that there is a greater sense of community among immigrants out of necessity—newcomers often need a lot of assistance when they first arrive in the United States. But Hao, who is from China, thinks there is also a great deal of inspiration to be found among the immigrant community: Parents might be working multiple low-level jobs and encourage their children to seek a better life for themselves. The success stories of immigrants who have “made it” are also held up as role models for immigrant children, something other native-born groups might be lacking, Hao said.

(“Children of Immigrants Are Coming Out Ahead of Their Peers, U.S. Study Finds,” ScienceDaily, September 13, 2012)

2. Don’t be a tiger parent

This one might go under the category of cultural lessons on what not to do.

Regardless of what Amy Chua writes in her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, “Chinese-style” tiger parenting is not the best model for raising children. This is according to researchers Su Yeong Kim, Yijie Wang, Diana Orozco-Lapray, Yishan Shen, and Mohammed Murtuza. They compared the developmental outcomes of children from 444 Chinese-American families in northern California, using eight parenting dimensions—”parental warmth,” “democratic parenting,” “parental monitoring,” “inductive reasoning,” “parental hostility,” “psychological control,” “punitive parenting,” and “shaming”—to categorize four parenting styles. In order, from the style that produces the best developmental outcomes to the least, they are “supporting,” “easygoing,” “tiger,” and “harsh.”

From the abstract of “Does ‘Tiger parenting’ Exist? Parenting Profiles of Chinese Americans and Adolescent Developmental Outcomes” (published in Asian American Journal of Psychology, March 2013):

Compared with the supportive parenting profile, a tiger parenting profile was associated with lower GPA and educational attainment, as well as less of a sense of family obligation; it was also associated with more academic pressure, more depressive symptoms, and a greater sense of alienation. The current study suggests that, contrary to the common perception, tiger parenting is not the most typical parenting profile in Chinese American families, nor does it lead to optimal adjustment among Chinese American adolescents.

(Nate Kornell “Does Tiger Parenting Work?Psychology Today, December 14, 2012)

3. Make sure your children learn a foreign language

Bronwyn Fryer, a senior editor at the Harvard Business Review, trumpets the need for “soft skills,” things like “emotional intelligence,” “listening,” and “authenticity,” for global leaders. But, he writes, the top soft skill for executives in global organizations is “sensitivity to culture,” also known as “cultural empathy.” According to Frye,

True cultural empathy springs from personality, early nurturing, curiosity, and appreciation of diversity. But, very importantly, it also springs from deep exposure to more than one language. And this is where American executives fall short.

Learning another language, he says, not only helps in communication, but opens up one’s thinking:

As anyone who has ever learned to speak a foreign language fluently notices how each language shifts one’s consciousness. One day, you wake up and you realize you have been dreaming in the new language. Eventually you realize you are thinking in that language. And when you shift back and forth between, say, your native tongue and the acquired language, you feel like you are driving a car with a stick-shift; you are more involved and engaged in the experience. You take in more; you hear more. And you literally feel different; you are “more than yourself.”

(Bronwyn Fryer, “Why America Lacks Global Leaders,” Harvard Business Review, August 23, 2012)

4. Encourage your children to add overseas work experience to their educations

This one comes a little later in their lives, but they’re always your kids, right?

In 2010, Susan Adams, of Forbes, gathered the views of several hiring experts on the value of work experience overseas. She writes that foreign postings, including the Peace Corps, internships, and other types of jobs, give an advantage to people looking for work. One of the reasons is that living and working overseas exposes people to differing leadership styles.

And some who move overseas find opportunities for long-term employment there. Adams talked with Mary Anne Walsh, a global-leaders coach based in New York, and learned that Walsh’s clients “who moved overseas shortly after college and graduate school . . . advanced much more quickly than if they had tried to climb the career ladder in the U.S.”

Others had this to say:

Dan Black, Americas director of recruiting for Ernst & Young—

We definitely see overseas experience as an advantage. Our clients are demanding more of us these days. They want diversity of thought and diversity of values, and many of our clients are multinationals.

Gary Baker, U.S. global mobility leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers—

[Being part of a minority group in another country]  gives you a greater respect for other cultures, and you learn to be better at managing teams that are diverse.

Not only does working overseas build character, writes Adams, but being successful in a foreign country also increases one’s confidence. “If you can make your way in Mexico City, Abuja or Sao Paulo, then traditional U.S. organizational issues will be a snap for you.”

(Susan Adams, “How a Job Abroad Can Give Your Career a Big Boost,” Forbes, November 4, 2010)

[photo: “Awaiting Riders,” by dolanh, used under a Creative Commons license]