By Marcie Waters
More and more students are taking advantage of opportunities to study, intern, and volunteer abroad. These are often impactful and meaningful experiences that stay in their minds for a long time afterwards (over a year later, I’m still driving people crazy by telling them how great Seville is). What not every student realizes, however, is that a study abroad experience is a great asset to the job hunt. In an increasingly global business world, cultural competency is a necessary skill, and an experience like studying abroad provides many talking points to show off that skill and more. If you’re unsure whether you’ve gained cultural competency from your time abroad, consider that a person who has cultural competency values differences, is responsive to diversity, understands the importance of culture in interpersonal interactions, and promotes quality cross-cultural interactions.
If you’re not sure what other skills you many have gained from studying abroad, think about these:
- Communication Skills: Did you learn/improve foreign language skills? Did you participate in group discussions with people from diverse backgrounds? Did you communicate with others in stressful or challenging situations?
- Organizational Skills: Did you successfully juggle multiple demands? Did you have to prioritize? Did you better your time management skills?
- Interpersonal Skills: Did your appreciation of diversity or cultural awareness increase? Are you now more open to differences, new ideas, and other perspectives? Did you learn to be sensitive to cultural customs and norms?
- Intrapersonal Skills: Did you take initiative and risks? Did you have to learn to adapt quickly? Did you handle stressful situations? Did you gain self-confidence or independence?
Now that you know what skills you have gained from studying abroad, you may be wondering how you can utilize these during the job search. One way is to effectively include your experience on your resume. For this, you have three options. Pick which ones make the most sense for you.
- Include in the education section. You can note a specific skill or skills that you learned through the program, such as language acquisition.
- Include in the experience section. This works especially well if you completed an internship or relevant volunteer experience.
- Include in activities section. Note any volunteer experience or special activities you participated in while abroad.
Of course, you can also discuss your experience in an interview. Nearly every employer asks a behavior-based question during an interview, like “Tell me about a time you had to solve a problem on your own” or “When was the last time you took a significant risk and what were the results?”. Chances are you’ve got a study abroad scenario that would be a great example of solving a problem, taking a risk, or making a difficult decision. Just remember to focus on how the skills you gained from the situation are directly applicable to the particular job for which you are interviewing. Depending on the geographic reach of the company and position you’re applying for, mentioning your cultural competency will also be beneficial.
At the very least, a study abroad experience gives you an interesting topic to bring up in an interview if you can’t think of anything else to talk about, and you probably should talk about it!
By Marcie Waters
Skype and phone interviews are becoming more common as a recruiting tool for employers. They are more cost efficient, as they cut down on travel costs, and are convenient for potential employees looking to relocate. When I studied abroad last spring, I completed multiple Skype interviews as I looked for a summer internship. Here are some tips that I found helpful in succeeding in a Skype interview:
- Set up Skype. Make sure you have an appropriate Skype username. If you have never used Skype before, do a test call with a friend so you can get a handle on the different functions.
- Prepare a Location. Find a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted to conduct the interview. Make sure there is sufficient lighting in the space, so the interviewer can clearly see you, and that there is nothing distracting or inappropriate in the space behind you. Avoid sitting in front of a window.
- Dress professionally. Even though you are not in the same room, professional appearance is important. Darker colors look better on camera, while bright colors and busy patterns can be distracting.
- Make Eye Contact. During the interview, it can be easy to look away from the camera. Try to maintain eye contact as much as possible to avoid looking disinterested. Remember to smile!
I usually log onto Skype 5-10 minutes before the interview is scheduled to make sure I am prepared for the interviewer to call me. This also gives me an extra second to take a deep breath, so I am not feeling rushed or nervous when they call.
These tips are largely applicable to a phone interview as well. While phone interviews can feel awkward and impersonal to some, they do hold one great advantage. Because the interviewer cannot see you, you can keep notes in front of you. Prepare answers to common interview questions and have a copy of your resume to reference during the interview. Just avoid reading them word-for-word, so your answers sound genuine. Also avoid shuffling through papers during the interview; the sound can be distracting to the interviewer. Additionally, hanging up can be awkward. Have a closing line prepared, and make sure to thank the interviewer before hanging up.
Aside from the different means of communication, Skype and telephone interviews are the same as a traditional, in-person interview. You can refer to LSCS handouts here for tips on answering questions and talking to interviewers.
By Michelle Schmid
A few weeks ago, in my hunt for a future after college, I had the pleasant opportunity of interviewing with Teach for America. Perhaps you’ve heard about Teach for America in e-mails from the university, in books, even occasionally from your high school teacher. And what’s not intriguing about a non-profit two-year program that allows you the opportunity to teach and work on your master’s degree and make a difference? However, the entire application process isn’t what you might be expecting, especially for a professional job. Here are seven insights into the application process for Teach for America that might help you approach the process.
- Online Application: Conveniently enough, the entire process happens on the web. This includes the original application, recommendations, interview scheduling, your status in the process, and many other helpful details and directions. Because of the status option, this means that you do not need to call Teach for America to check up on your application, unlike other jobs you might apply for.
- Written Responses: The initial application has several questions that require a written response. Make sure to allow plenty of time for each answer. This is a concrete sample of your writing skills.
- Two Interviews: Not that out-there as far as professional jobs go, but it is good to remember and prepare accordingly. A lot of the time, the first interview is a phone interview which helps screen applicants further than the original application. This dual interview process also lengthens the admittance time, so be prepared for a longer journey.
- Pre-Work: The application process requires you to become familiarized with articles that address educational issues. It’s important to take the time read and learn about all the information that you receive because it is relevant to understanding Teach for America’s mission.
There are over 1,000 schools nationwide where Teach for America corps members are placed.
- Group Interview: Don’t let the idea of other potential employees being present disturb you. The final interview splits the day into two, and the morning has you interact with other applicants. However, this work is strictly non-competitive, so don’t spend your time worrying about comparing yourself to those around you and focus on your own performance instead.
- Five Minute Lesson: Another aspect of the final interview is teaching a five-minute lesson to the entire group. You get to pick what you teach, the age group you are teaching, and the subject. Basically, it’s like a mock classroom experience. To keep within the time limit, however, go for simplicity in your lesson. You want to be able to show how you interact with a classroom when there are questions, and questions require extra time.
- Details Matter: When it comes to the second half of the final interview and even the phone interview, remember how important details can be. A great way to prepare for these interviews is the use of the STAR method, which will tell your interviewer quite a bit about how you deal with situations and produce outcomes.