On April 11, I participated in a panel discussion at the inaugural Global Career Symposium at Arcadia University with Zabeth Teelucksingh, Executive Director of the Global Philadelphia Association.

The goal of the panel was to help students understand how to “sell” their experiences abroad to employers. In other words, what do employers look for in globally-minded employees when hiring? And what do they expect to hear about experiences abroad when interviewing?

Here are a few of my suggestions:

  1. The best way to describe an experience abroad: Students should relate specific scenarios to describe what they learned during their time abroad. Whether it was a new way to look at an issue, a new method of doing research, or a new way of completing a task, the student should be specific about the experience and what he or she learned from it. It is acceptable and appreciated to talk about an experience that was originally an awkward cultural moment or a cultural faux-pas, the point being that the student learned from it and hopefully the student is able to articulate how to apply this new knowledge in the future. In addition, students should think about ways to demonstrate their global cultural knowledge. The student may comment on the economic situation in one of the countries where the potential employer is expanding. In general, avoid sounding clueless about world politics, world geography etc. Prior to the Arab revolution started by an incident in Tunisia, many Philadelphians would make me repeat “where? Indonesian, Tanzania?” No, “Tu-ni-sia”.
  2. The worst way to describe an experience abroad: I do not recommended talking only about sightseeing, exotic food tasting, siestas, world-beat dancing parties, and so forth. As mentioned above, the experience related by the student should highlight not only some key lessons learned about the foreign culture(s) but also what the student learned about him/herself. Oftentimes, an overseas experience has made the student realize the degree to which he/she is adaptable, flexible, a good listener and more. Seeking experiences outside one’s comfort zone says a lot about one’s own personality and strengths.
  3. How to “build your abroad resume”: Learning a foreign language is a must and a first step. English might be widely spoken for tourism purposes but to truly connect and learn a foreign culture, learning the native language is critical. Prior to going abroad, it is wise to engage in conversational exchanges, and seek local meet-ups for foreign language conversation.
  4. Which countries or which type of experiences abroad matter? Both Zabeth and I agreed that this step in a student’s educational path should fit within a given career plan and goal for employment. The experience abroad that is right for a student involved in arts administration will not be the most relevant for a public health student.

The students attending this inaugural Global Career Symposium asked many relevant questions and I think they got a good sense of how to frame their experiences abroad.