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Career Development

Study Abroad and Your Career

This section offers information about why study abroad increases job prospects and what skills and traits employers seek that are built by study abroad.

Resume, cover letter, and interview advice for study abroad returnees. A very important aspect of acquiring a job after graduation is building a package that will capitalize on your study abroad experience. Here we offer students, parents and advisors advice on how to build this package and how to market it to potential employers.

Study Abroad and Career Development

Study abroad is an incredible opportunity for personal, academic, and professional growth. Learning a new language, being exposed to new and different religions, beliefs, political systems, foods, clothing styles, architecture, and landscapes are opportunities best learned through international living and travel. As a result of study abroad, many students become more engaged in their studies, gain a global perspective and are more self-reliant, independent, and confident.

Studying abroad can give you a new perspective on your major and career plans. Or, if you are unsure of what do to after graduation, studying abroad can actually help define your goals and inspire a career path. Staying after the end of your study abroad term in order to pursue an international internship can greatly increase your professional expertise and future employability. Similarly, the connections you make while with like-minded people, institutions and businesses abroad can be invaluable to you in the future.

Perhaps most importantly, study abroad also offers an exceptional opportunity to be highly employable and a competitive applicant after college. In today's market job competition is stiff, and study abroad sets you apart from other job seekers who lack the international experience and intercultural skills and competencies employers seek.

IES Abroad, a major study abroad provider, surveyed over 30,000 of their 2006-2012 alumni and compared their results to those of the general recent college graduate population. IES alumni earn an average of $7,000 more in starting salaries in comparison to the general population of recent graduates. Similarly, 97% of their alumni were able to secure a job within one year of graduation, whereas only 49% of the general recent grad population had done the same. Even more impressive, almost half of their alumni had secured a job before even graduating. For those who pursued graduate studies, 90% were accepted into their 1st or 2nd program or choice. Finally, 84% affirm that study abroad "helped them build valuable job skills, such as language proficiency, cultural training, tolerance for ambiguity, adaptability, and communication."

Many jobs are available with large, multi-national companies who need employees with an international mindset. Similarly, because of the increasing diversity of the workplace, national and local companies need employees who can work effectively in a diverse office environment. Having studied abroad, you are a strong candidate who offers a potential employer a set of experiences, skills, competencies and perspectives they need and actively seek.

An extensive 2011 survey of more than 10,000 global employers in 116 countries on five continents reveals that the employers are indeed seeking graduates with skills and experience gained from study abroad. Students who have studied abroad can compete for more competitive jobs because their international experiences give them an edge on students who have no international experiences.

The industries that are most engaged in seeking internationally minded employees are Energy, Travel, Leisure and Hospitality, Electronics and High Technology, Consulting and Professional Services, and FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Products). Public Sector, Government, and Non-Profit, Finance and Manufacturing / Engineering are similarly seeking employees with international experience. No matter what field you are considering going into, having studied abroad will supplement your skill set and give you a competitive edge in today's global marketplace.

The skills highlighted by various findings include:

  • The ability to adapt to changing situations, understanding cultural difference in the workplace and gaining new knowledge from experiences.
  • Intercultural communication is very important in the recruitment process, and there is general support for internationally educated recruits outperforming their nonmobile peers.
  • Undertaking international study is not just about experiencing the culture and excitement of a new place, but is now increasingly important in positioning graduates for future success.
  • Cross-cultural sensitivity, political awareness, intellectual flexibility and adaptability are skills required to compete in today's global job market.
  • Please refer to our section The Resume: Skills, Competencies & Qualities for a comprehensive list of skills, competencies and traits gained through study abroad that are sought by today's employers.
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