Tips for talking about your time abroad on a job interview
By Katie Arango
We all know that there are significant costs associated with having an internship, volunteer or study experience abroad. So in order for your time abroad to make financial sense, you have to see it as an investment in your future career. There are significant returns in terms of learning, but none of that counts for anything unless you are able to communicate your new skills, experience, and expertise to a potential employer, graduate school, etc. Here are some tips that can help you do just that!
TIP: Be ready to explain your international experience to an audience that doesn’t know anything about your host city or country
Make sure to have not only your own personal elevator pitch down, but have one ready for the city/country where you lived as well. Don’t make assumptions about your interviewer’s knowledge – especially about international experience. Cape Town, South Africa, for instance, will mean different things to different people. So having a concise but insightful summary prepared of about the country and city you lived in is key.
TIP: Don’t underestimate the skills that living abroad has taught you
During your international internship, you didn’t just learn hard skills like how to write a press release or how to calm a nervous patient about to receive chemotherapy. Don’t underestimate the so-called soft skills you’ve likely gained by living and working internationally…they are highly coveted by employers! Some examples of these include cultural awareness, initiative, maturity, organizational skills, communication skills, flexibility, and the list goes on and on!
TIP: Don’t focus on the negative
Living abroad can certainly have its share of challenges, but the only reason you’d need to mention that on an interview would be to show what you learned from those experiences and how they helped you grow. Did you have a misunderstanding with one of your colleagues? That’s a great way to demonstrate your awareness of cultural differences. If you had a supervisor only checked in with you once a week, that’s a great way to show your ability to work independently.
TIP: Practice makes perfect!
You should expect to hear some/most/all of the following questions on a job interview. Prepare well-articulated, insightful answers ahead of time to be ready.
But even if you’re not specifically asked about your time abroad, there are many ways for you to bring it up as well. Think about how you might answer the following questions, using them as a platform to discuss your time abroad:
What are some interviewing tips that have worked for you?