A conversation on international student careers

A conversation on international student careers

International Education International students Jobs

Last week I hosted a Twitter discussion about international student careers by hopping onto #IEW2015. The hashtag had a flurry of activity all week with over 1000 posts by international educators. Most of the content focused on study abroad initiatives and the results of the Open Doors report. My goal was to move the discussion from a focus on international student recruiting to best practices in international student success, specifically on careers.

Though the discussion was rather quiet compared to other discussions on the hashtag, there hasn’t been a better time to start talking about international student careers. With a ten percent increase in international students in the 2014/15 year, higher education has a lot of catching up to do to meet international student needs. Karin Fischer, an international reporter from the Chronicle summed it up best:

Below are a few ideas on how to better improve international student career outcomes, common barriers to the US job search, and how internationalize the career services office.

You can join a live discussion on international student careers during the interactive webinar on Dec. 10, 7pm EST. Details here.

International Ed Week: Let’s talk about international student success

International Ed Week: Let’s talk about international student success

International Education International students Jobs

There are 1.13 million foreign students in the U.S., the vast majority in college-degree programs… That represents a 14% increase over last year, nearly 50% more than in 2010 and 85% more than in 2005. – International Students Stream into US Colleges

International student growth shows no signs of slowing down in the US. But with that growth comes new expectations from administrations and students alike. A 2014 NAFSA study found that international students identified career services tailored for international students as a best practice. In a fresh-off-the-press more recent study, QS found that “improving employment prospects and progressing on a current career path” were among the top reasons international students apply to grad school. Careers are clearly on our students’ brain. Yet career services staff and international advising professionals do not feel well equipped to provide this high-touch service. Unlike domestic students, the international student job search is not a straight-forward path. Their path is not as simple as submitting a resume and hoping an employer calls. Visa barriers, cultural misunderstandings, and language ability add complications to an international student’s job search. As an international student career coach supported by a stellar university career services team, I work with students on these challenges daily.

So to celebrate International Education Week, I’m launching Advising International Students on Career Opportunities, a virtual professional development workshop designed to help higher education professionals better advise international students on career outcomes.  I’m hosting an interactive webinar on December 10, 7:00 pm EST. You can look forward to a webinar that doesn’t suck! You read that right. No boring, one-way webinars here. Hosted on Crowdcast, you’ll have the opportunity to chat with one another, share your department’s best practices, upvote most common questions, and get answers to your immediate challenges in international student career advising. For free!

You might be a good fit for this course if you are

  • An international student advisor
  • A career services professional who advises international students
  • A dean or provost interested in improving international student retention

By participating, you will be able to

  • Understand the US job search from an international student perspective, including motivations and search process
  • Recognize barriers and opportunities in the international student job search
  • Help international students adapt to specific cultural challenges in the US job search
  • Evaluate current tools for international students in the US job search
  • Advise international students on best practices in their job search, in the US and back home
  • Create an advising framework that works best for your international student population
  • Make department recommendations on how to improve international student career outcomes

After the interactive webinar you will receive 

  • Recording of the video
  • PowerPoint Slides
  • Curated resources to support international students in the job search

Length of the webinar

  • 90 minutes with plenty of breaks for Q&A

Ready to sign up?

>>> Click here to go to the Crowdcast platform to RSVP <<<

Here’s a peek at the easy-on-your-eyes slides:




What if college majors were designed more like General Assembly programs?

What if college majors were designed more like General Assembly programs?

International Education Marketing

My love affair with General Assembly continues. I’m slightly obsessed with their user experience design program. My love of ethnography, problem solving, and communication has me dreaming of a job in user experience. (true dream job: travel ethnographer). Some day I’ll take a sabbatical from my current dream job and take a GA course. For now I’m window shopping.

When I get an email from General Assembly I click. I click because they’ve got a strong email marketing game. I’m sure I’ve got a mighty fine behavioral score. But I return to their website each time because I know that I’ll find a landing page that answers all my questions: So what’s really going on in this course? How much is it? What will I learn and what can I do when I’m done? 

With an admissions-focused communication and design style, General Assembly nails it. They communicate all the program information a prospective student needs in a single place. Their landing pages are also quite easy on the eyes (hello white space!).

Now compare this experience to university websites. Imagine you’re an eager prospective college student, ready to learn all the things. Take a look at the computer science major at Stanford or MIT’s computer science programs page. As you explore your future major, try finding the cost of their programs or career outcomes. Get a feel for the work students get to do or look up faculty. Can you find that information? If you did, how does the experience feel?

Chances are it feels like a chore. And that’s a shame because both schools have killer courses, rockstar faculty, and plenty off opportunities (including scholarships). Now imagine if those college majors read more like General Assembly programs.

Here’s why GA’s prospective student experience works so well:

Clear Learning Goals


No mysteries here. Bold headings tell me exactly what I’ll learn in a clear outline featuring succinct descriptions. Did I mention it’s oh so easy.on.the.eyes?

Financial Aid and Cost

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 12.04.37 PM


Cost is the top factor in college decision making. GA doesn’t hide their program costs and includes the price right alongside the curriculum. I don’t have to play the guess-and-click game to track down the tuition (and ways to pay for it) elsewhere on the site.

Career Tie In with Company and Alumni Spotlights



Career prospects are a key enrollment driver for prospective students, right up there with affordability and academics. As a prospective student, I can visualize a future at the end of the program. If I’m feeling extra motivated (and I am because I’ve had to do so little work so far) I can research the companies that hire in this field.

Put simply, the prospective student experience with General Assembly programs is down right enjoyable. I feel excited and motivated when I look at their programs. I’m not burdened with hunting down important decision-making information; it’s all served up in one scrollable, mobile friendly package. The experience makes me return to the program again and again.

Grant it, General Assembly offers career accelerator programs not degrees. Plus Stanford and MIT can kick back and ignore user experience because they have gleaming reputations that seem to make the user experience all but irrelevant. But marketing and communication teams in institutions without shiny brands should take note and adapt accordingly.

Can higher education marketing teams create better, more enjoyable experiences for prospective students? It’s remains to be seen. A recent analysis on the failure of schools to adapt to an admissions focused experience on mobile doesn’t inspire hope. University departments are so siloed that it takes a feat of mental gymnastics to imagine career services sharing a digital space with academic departments. With the cost of a college education now synonymous with crushing debt and delayed life events, higher education marketing teams may cringe at being so up front and center about their tuition cost.

I did find a bit of hope in my search for a university website that creates a positive experience for prospective students: my alma matter, the University of Oregon, gets closer to the GA style with their computer science major page. They could use a few more graphic elements to break up the text blocks. Information about their tuition is only one click away, under a menu clearly labeled “Costs & Financial Aid.”

So maybe there is hope. Maybe higher education just needs more user experience designers.


General Assembly’s tech intensive experience combines tech skills and study abroad

General Assembly’s tech intensive experience combines tech skills and study abroad

International Education Jobs Study Abroad

Hot damn I love General Assembly. GA’s career accelerator courses appeal to the masses seeking a career change. They also have an option for university students who want to combine tech training with international experiences. Through GA’s tech intensive programs students can immerse themselves in tech communities in London or Sydney while exploring local culture and learning practical skills. It’s study abroad meets tech and it’s quite clever.

Study abroad shapes career paths. It also attracts the type of people that GA wants for their programs: curious, motivated and open to more than one way of solving problems. GA is on to something by offering an option to study abroad. Their programs remind me of the awesome work being done over at Sage Corps.

I can think of several student types who might benefit from GA’s tech immersive experience:

  • Liberal arts majors who want to add concrete skills to compliment their studies (hello user experience design!)
  • Business students who aim to work in tech post-graduation
  • STEM majors who want to work in another country and need a network
  • Student entrepreneurs who love tech and travel and see no practical options at their university
Study Abroad tech

Connecting culture and industry in the GA immersive experience

Study abroad tech

The programs aren’t cheap. But neither are university study abroad programs.

In the future I’d love to see a foreign language component added to the next location. Learn German while networking in Berlin’s startup community! Learn Swedish in Stockholm, the startup capital of Europe!  Language is the gateway to new ideas, impactful professional relationships, and ridiculous amounts of fun.

Throw in an adventure travel component and GA could really take these experiences to the next level. Imagine kayaking wild rivers with overnight camping or an afternoon spent Skydiving. Those experiences create bonds for life – professional and personal.

Overall, I’m definitely feeling these courses.

New skill development + career prep + international fun having times = Dreamy.


International students: Where are they now?

International students: Where are they now?

International Education International students

“There are 1.13 million foreign students in the US … a 14% increase over last year [and] nearly 50% more than in 2010 and 85% more than in 2005.” International Students Stream Into U.S. Colleges, Wall Street Journal

If you work in higher education these numbers are no surprise. There is plenty of discussion on international student mobility in the US, much of it centering on international student origins and destinations. Despite the increase in foreign students in US higher education year over year, little information exists on international student outcomes, particularly with regards to employment.

I’m researching the career paths of international students who remain in the US after graduation. Know talented foreign professionals who graduated from a US degree program and stayed in the US for work? Share this short introductory survey with your network so I can connect with them for a Skype discussion.

Survey link: http://goo.gl/forms/hF32oZBzux

Got questions or interested in this subject? Connect with me on LI (send a personalized message) or @pdxnicolle.

Could MOOCs be a new tool for international admissions?

Could MOOCs be a new tool for international admissions?

International Education International students Marketing

In a way, we’re kind of a lead generator… [t]here are many universities that are very well known in U.S. that are not very well known abroad, and the visibility they get through Coursera is in a way a very efficient way to reach new students. – Richard C. Levin, Coursera CEO in Wired Campus, As Coursera Evolves, Colleges Stay On and Investors Buy In

MOOCs as lead generators: I’d love to see this happen.  And apparently so do Coursera’s investors as they just served up $49 million in VC funds to support Coursera’s new experiments in international markets. While most of the Coursera coverage focuses on MOOCs as professional development tools and mini-degree providers, the quote above introduces a new marketing tool for international admissions. Three-quarters of Coursera’s users are outside the US. For international admissions departments that are as open to experiments as Mr. Levin, the move raises loads of fun questions. A casual list:

  • How do you define an international student on Coursera and what are their motivations? How do online-learning habits differ by country or culture? 
  • How do you identify a future international student – the one who is interested in attending the university hosting the course rather than just gaining new knowledge?
  • How are future international students using Coursera?
  • What’s the value of 40,000 student emails who signed up for a specific university MOOC but didn’t complete it? How does that value shift when 60% of that list completes the course? Would those who complete a MOOC earn a high value score and sky rocket to the top of your engagement list? 
  • How would MOOCs change if part of the course goal was lead generation (i.e. would they include rockstar professors who have a knack for engaging across cultures and platforms? Would they include strategic university swag placement!?)
  • How will university departments – faculty and administration – muster the willpower, curiosity, and design-thinking skills to collaborate across departments to experiment with Coursera as a recruiting platform for future international students?

This last question might actually be the hardest to answer.

Intl Admissions Teams

Start your international job search while studying abroad

Start your international job search while studying abroad

Jobs Networking Study Abroad

“I WANT TO WORK ABROAD!”  That was my overly-enthusiastic answer to everyone who asked about my study abroad experience when I returned. In response, my study abroad advisor talked about Peace Corps and teaching English as possible options. My mom suggested I get a job at a company in the US that would transfer me. My American friends shared words of encouragement and promises of meeting up for glorious expat parties. Everyone had ideas but nobody knew exactly how to turn my study abroad experience into an international career. It wasn’t until an Australian friend passed through my town and shared news of a job that later took me to Canada and New Zealand that I learned the truth: there’s no fast, direct path to an international career. Instead it’s more of a slow meander, with plenty of pauses for inquiry and conversation.

An international job search involves equal parts research and hustle, plus a dash of right place/right time luck. If your study abroad experience has you dreaming of the expat life, start your international job search during your time abroad. Here are 6 steps you can take during your time abroad to help you tackle the search.

Queen Bey of the Job Search

Step 1: Know what you’re good at
You international job search starts with knowing your skills. Employers don’t care that you love (insert your favorite country here). They don’t always care about your global mindset. They care about your skills. What can you do that other candidates can’t? What knowledge do you bring to a position? Knowing the answer is what will help you differentiate yourself in the job search. Try this exercise to figure out what you’re good at or research the skills required to work for the world’s most in demand employers and then match them to your own experience.

Master LinkedIn for International Careers

Step 2: Master LinkedIn
LinkedIn makes the international job search so much easier.  Learn how to use the alumni tool, create advanced searches with key words and set up saved job searches. You can also have a LinkedIn profile in more than one language, increasing your visibility to international recruiters.

Mind Blown

Step 3: Read all the jobs
The best advice I ever received came from a friend who read jobs as if she was reading the daily news. She told me to start reading jobs daily so I’d know how to position myself for international opportunities. Job posts give you all the information you need to better understand your target industry or company:

  • Skills: Do you have them? Take note of the skills you have to gauge how marketable you are in your field; if you don’t have the skills, figure out how to get them (MOOC’s, coding camps, volunteer projects, etc)
  • Language: When you write contacts or submit your resume/CV you need to use appropriate language for the industry and position. Use keywords gleaned from job posts to better articulate your goals, improve your LinkedIn profile, and include in your cover letter.
  • Additional information: Job postings often note where can you learn more about the company such as on LinkedIn and Twitter. Use information from these sources as the foundation for informational interview questions or to start conversations at networking events.

Cheers to Careers

Step 4: Keep up with your international friends lives
Sure you’ve shared bottles of wine and traveled to beautiful islands together. But your travel buddies have friends and family in the workforce (plus they’ll have jobs soon too). Don’t underestimate the power of your international network. They may be able to help you find a job. Stay friends on Facebook and find them on LinkedIn too. Check in with them and catch up on their lives and careers. Tell them you’re interested in pursuing a job in their country and ask them if they know any companies or people who hire international candidates.

Awkward Interviews

Step 5: Embrace the Informational Interview
Informational interviews are simply casual conversations with professional people. They also open up doors. I know a former student who had over 120 informational interviews with professionals to understand the employment opportunities in his target country and build his network (he got a job too). The goal of informational interviews is two-fold: learn the paths of people who were successful in landing their jobs and get advice. If all goes well your curiousity and willingness to learn about this person will impress them and they may refer you if a position opens up. Ask your host family, site director, professors, and/or friends if they know someone in your industry of interest who is willing to talk to you about their career path. Look up alumni from your school who are living in your host country. Spend 20 minutes talking with a contact and you’ll get insider knowledge about organization and insight into what employers look for in candidates. For outsiders (read: foreigners) this information is priceless as you’ll need to navigate an application and interview process filled with new cultural challenges. Bonus points if you can do the informational interview in the language of the country you are residing in.

Small Steps

Step 6: Start small 
Don’t start your international career search with a big-time, high stakes jobs in mind. It pays to start small. You won’t the big expat job like Director of Emergency Services relief for the Red Cross right out of college. Instead, search for entry level jobs at startups abroad. Find English tutoring projects. Or ask a local hostel if they need extra support. Seek out small opportunities to volunteer in your host country. Ask your site director if he or she needs help on extra projects like marketing, event planning, or logistical support for trips. Ask if they have a family member or friend who needs help with English tutoring. Small opportunities lead to bigger ones for people who have an open mind, cultural understanding and a solid work ethic.

Want help starting your global career? Sign up for the only career course for global graduates and learn how to build your global career. 

I wish I were back in college to take this cultural anthropology class

International Education

Imagine never being bored again. That’s what college is really all about. It’s not just about getting a job. It’s about learning all kinds of stuff so that the world becomes alive. And you might actually purposefully not open your phone every time you have a moment because you just want to be with the world. Let’s put that as the ultimate goal of the class.

Professor Wesch takes his class on the ultimate journey and he kicks it all off in the coolest way possible.

And if you liked this, spend some time with his fascinating work in digital ethnography. Watch An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube and The Machine is Using Us.

3 LinkedIn features to master for international job seekers

3 LinkedIn features to master for international job seekers


Questions about profiles dominate the Q&A of my LinkedIn workshops. Maybe it’s the general anxiety about resume writing that induces a panic over what to include in a LinkedIn profile. Or maybe because employers are always watching. Luckily the internet overflows with info on how to make kickass profiles. LinkedIn has a killer student resources pages with tons of info on how to build a profile and a profile checklist (check out their profile video.) The Muse, a fab career website, lists 31 Best LinkedIn Profile Tips for Job Seekers.

With so much focus on crafting the perfect profile people often overlook the most powerful features that make a job seekers life so much easier. For study abroad alumni or recent graduates interested in starting a globe-trotting career, these features are even more important. International careers require access to a stellar network and a job database that is global in scope. LinkedIn has tools for all of that.

Alumni Feature Global Careers

Your alumni network is powerful but overlooked by many graduates. Use the tool’s search feature to find an alum in the international city of your choice and send them a personalized message to connect. Remind them that you are an alum and ask if they have 20 minutes for an informational interview to talk about their experience. Ask them how they landed their job abroad! Use the tool to search companies that have hired graduates from your school. (Need help preparing for informational interviews?)

Advanced Search LinkedIn for Global Careers

Skill Set Search Using Advanced Job Search
Searching by job titles only works if you know exactly what you want to do. Use LinkedIn’s advanced job search to search by skills and location. Searching by skills and keywords gives shows more opportunities to find a position that matches your experience. Locate the Advanced search in the upper left side of the job search results page. Set your location to anywhere, then add locations in the location section. Narrow your search by selecting the function, industry, and skill set. Use keywords for unique qualifications, like languages and software.

Don’t know what skills to search? Here’s how to sort it out:

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 1.55.02 PM

Saved Job Searches
Pair that advanced job search mastery with the saved job search function. Let LinkedIn do the daily search work for you. Click on the grey Save search at the top right of the search results list. Name your search and set it up to deliver results to your inbox on a daily, weekly or month basis. Set up multiple searches with diverse key words, locations and industries.
Saved Search Global Careers

And there you have it. LinkedIn: So much more than a perfect profile.

giphy (10)

Eating all the foreign things

Eating all the foreign things

International students Study Abroad Travel

The first time I tried Ga-Jol, the salty licorice candy that Danes consume in massive amounts, I spit it right back out. My Danish friends laughed and accused me of wasting perfectly good candy. I protested, unable to rid my mouth of a taste similar to cough syrup mixed with dirt. It remains one of the worst things I’ve put in my mouth, right after the fish eyeball I tried in China. Danes, however, happily consume over 600 million of these candies a year. It’s their much beloved national candy.

My favorite part of living abroad is tasting (and commenting on) all the foods a culture treasures. So it’s a delight to see Buzzfeed has brought that experience to YouTube, minus the living abroad part. The series features people from one country trying snacks and meals from another country. It’s cross cultural exchange meets reality TV: cultural curiosity through food with exaggerated reactions for an entertaining effect.

Take a look. You might even find some of your favorite treats in here.

And it goes the other way too. Here are Americans sampling treats and food from across the world.

And of course, booze tasting!