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. 

Sage Corps brings a major dose of global entrepreneurship to study abroad

Sage Corps brings a major dose of global entrepreneurship to study abroad

International Education Networking Study Abroad

This is the second post in a series exploring startups in international education for NAFSA 2015 week. Read the previous post here.

Ultimately I want to build a global community of students and entrepreneurs. Once you’re part of Sage Corps, you’re part of the community for life.

It’s not often you hear stories about American undergraduates devising go-to-market strategies for global startups in Argentina or translating slides for a fundraising pitch to Korean venture capitalists. But these are the stories coming out of Sage Corps, an experiential learning program that sends top US college students abroad to help entrepreneurs build companies. Students are immersing themselves in startup communities around the globe, trying new roles, applying their skills and gaining access to influential makers and leaders along the way. It’s transformative learning at its best and the most captivating new program in the international education space.

Founded by Matt Meltzer and located in Chicago’s thriving tech hub 1871, Sage Corps has been sending students abroad to work in global startups since summer 2013. And with 1871’s incredible network of co-working spaces around the world and Matt’s personal network, there is no shortage of startup projects for students: Working with 3D sensor technology in Buenos Aires. Developing next-gen baby monitors in Singapore. Creating sustainable housing in Singapore.

Yet the student experience doesn’t end after the 12 week program. When students return from abroad they are paired with a Sage, a global business leader – often a Vice President or higher – who is tasked with helping the student figure out how to leverage their experience abroad in a professional context.

Below I talk with Matt to learn more about immersive professional experiences abroad and what Sage Corps participants gain from this unique global experience.


What is the goal of Sage Corps?
We are really focused on teaching students global company building and global networking. That’s our two pronged mission for college students.

There are many places outside the US where the local consumer market is too small to support a robust startup community. So out of necessity someone who wants to create a business in those markets has to think globally from day one. That’s global company building. If you look at a place like Israel the local consumer market is tiny. So Israeli startups need to figure out how to sell products or services internationally, across markets, languages, and geographies. That’s a much different process than starting a company in NYC or LA. In the US you walk out your door and have access to a billion dollar market. But we think it’s increasingly important for students to understand how you build a global company as opposed to a local one. At Sage Corps students are learning how to sell a product that is made or developed in one continent and sold in another. They’re learning how to sell it to consumers in multiple languages and across time zones.

The idea of global networking is really based on the idea of expanding your professional network beyond just your local borders. We took our students to a networking event in Hong Kong last summer. One of our students approached a speaker who was from the local startup community, in ten minutes had a job offer, and then went to work for him. We had another student in Argentina and we took him to an investor conference. He connected with an entrepreneur who was moving his startup to Chile. They kept in touch and the following summer that student went down to work with them. There are real opportunities now especially with startups because they need the help.

How did Sage Corps start?
It started with my own personal experience having spent a year in South America, primarily in Argentina. I worked for a small early stage newspaper and I taught corporate executives to pay the bills. I was getting access to higher ups at multinational corporations. In the process I became fluent in Spanish. When I returned in 2004 I went to law school and was able to leverage my experience abroad into a niche practice representing Latin American companies. That was due in part because of my global work experience and the network I built overseas. So my idea is to help students open doors to form real professional relationships with people across borders.


What type of students participate in Sage Corps?
We are looking for students who are self selecting who want to do this. We have poetry and literature fanatics who work with startups on creating a narrative for their customers. We have comp science majors. We have huge opportunities for engineers and those on the business side. We have a mechanical engineering student going to Ireland who is building a sensor for a company that will purify and kill bacteria in the air. We have three mechanical engineers going to Singapore to build a prototype of a new baby monitor that’s placed underneath mattresses to detect the baby’s heartbeats.

The great thing about this is that there are no rules. Students are not pigeonholed into a department and given assignments. Students have the freedom to dabble in other areas. They may be at a startup for sales and marketing but if they want to learn how to fundraise, they have the freedom to do that. And CEOs think that’s amazing.

How does Sage Corps benefit student’s careers when they return? 
Our alumni have gone on to work at other startups, consulting firms, tech companies and even investment banking. The anecdotal feedback we get is that students are walking into interviews and recruiters are looking saying, “Wait a minute, you rolled out a market strategy while you were in South America? That’s amazing.” We’ve had incredible outcomes for our students. One student from Dartmouth came back, started a digital marketing company out of his dorm room and launched a student innovation center.

We tell students that if you go through this program with the right mindset and open yourself up, there will not be a job in any corner on the earth or professional opportunity that you would be scared to take on once you come out of this experience.

What’s next for Sage Corps?
We are rolling out part-time programming during the semester for the first time. So if you are studying abroad you can work with a startup 10-15 hours a week and join our event programming on the ground. It all takes place after hours so it doesn’t interfere with your studies. We aren’t looking to replace study abroad; quite the contrary. We are a niche opportunity to compliment student activities. We give you that immersive professional experience to compliment your study abroad experience. We are already working with University of Michigan business school and Illinois engineering school on that. We are obviously looking to connect with other schools who would be interested in offering this to their students who are studying abroad.

Learn more on the Sage Corps website and get connected with Sage Corps on Twitter


6 ways to make networking less awkward at NAFSA

6 ways to make networking less awkward at NAFSA

International Education Networking

We all know networking is key to getting things we want – new jobs, new ideas, new partnerships. Yet when I ask students or colleagues about their networking efforts their answers fall somewhere between “networking is so awkward” or “OMG I hate it.”

Networking at its simplest is about conversations. Talking to strangers can feel awkward, no doubt. But your willingness to push through the awkwardness, engage strangers and actively listen opens the door to potential. And with a bit of preparation, a few opening lines and a dash of bravery, anyone can be a conversationalist. You never know where a conversation might lead. It may be a hint about a unadvertised job opening. Or an invite to a coffee chat about your new idea. They can lead to insightful career advice. Or maybe even a fantastic travel tip.

So here are six ways ways to network at NAFSA 2015. Use the opening lines to get those conversations started.

Find Your People

The key to good conversations is finding commonality with other people. NAFSA is huge but they make it extremely easy to find your people through the Knowledge Communities and Member Interest Groups. Look through the list before you attend. Find a meeting with your people. Show up, find the host, and introduce yourself.

Opening line: “I didn’t know this group existed. How long have you been part of it?”

Ask All the Questions

Fun fact: plenty of people love talking about themselves. The trick is to get them started talking. This is the best tip for introverts and non-native English speakers. Approach a group of people like you are a cultural anthropologist and learn about them. When they’ve answered your questions, ask follow up questions. Let them do the talking until they ask about you.

Opening line: “All this talk of study abroad reminds me I need to take a vacation. Where do you want to go this year?” Or try any of these awesome conversation starting questions.

Chat up the Presenters

Post-presentation chats are the perfect opportunity to connect on a topic you’re interested in. I love the questions and ideas that audience members ask after a presentation. As a presenter I’m always willing to share more because I can’t fit everything I want to say into a presentation. So say hello to the presenters and ask them a question about their work.

Opening line: “I really enjoyed your talk and learning (summarize what you learned). I was curious about how you (what do you want to know?)”

Treat the Expo Hall as a Career Center

The Expo Hall is where to find out what’s hot in international education. Go beyond the free stuff and engage the representatives. Ask them what attracted them to their company and what skills they look for in potential hires. Ask them what the most innovative new program or idea they’ve seen in international education. Use the expo hall as a place to get up to speed on what’s new in the industry and to find out where you might fit in, now or in the future.

Opening lines:

“How did you get your job at this company?”
“What do you like most about working for this company?”

Go to the Parties, Seriously

NAFSA is full of learning opportunities and professional decision-making but don’t forget the fun. You’ll be mingling with a fabulously interesting group of globally curious people who love language and travel. Pick an after party and join in the revelry. You’ll probably make a friend or maybe even a future work colleague.

Opening line: “Have you ever been to (country sponsoring the party)? I would love to go!”

Jump on the #NAFSA15 Hashtag

It’s no secret that the #NAFSA15 hashtag is the online party happening all throughout the conference. Share photos of speakers or exhibitors that you’re excited about. Tweet or retweet the people that you’re interested in. Job seekers: Use Twitter to tell people you are a job searching and show what you’re learning at NAFSA. Put your LinkedIn profile in your twitter bio so people can learn more about you.

Opening tweet: @(person of interest) I’m very interested in the work you are doing. Are you free to meet up today? #NAFSA15.
Need more tips? I’ll show you how to make networking less awkward so you can mingle throughout the NAFSA conference. Join me at the renamed-by-NAFSA-but-I’m-still-calling-it  Networking without Pants on Tuesday, May 26, 9:00am.

5.5  Ridiculously Easy Ways to Be a Standout Job Seeker at NAFSA 2015

5.5 Ridiculously Easy Ways to Be a Standout Job Seeker at NAFSA 2015

International Education Jobs Networking Study Abroad

1. Perfect Your Story
NAFSA is fast-paced and overflowing with interesting people. You never know who you may sit next to. Perfecting your professional story is such a key skill that all MBA students are required to learn it. Yet few job seekers outside of MBA programs put it to use. A little forethought and practice go a long way to standing out in someone’s mind. It may feel cheesy and awkward at first but the result is an articulate and genuine narrative that will leave you sounding professionally polished. So give it a try.

2. Go Beyond Passion 
Everyone at NAFSA has a passion for study abroad so don’t rely on a “passion for study abroad” to differentiate yourself. Instead, show off your knowledge and ideas. Start clever conversations by sharing your knowledge on global education trends. Get up to date on international education trends by reading a few articles on The Pie News, a fantastic site for all things international education. Ask other professionals how you think your ideas would fit into an organization you are targeting: new orientation ideas, recruiting strategies, creative advising approaches, awesome online marketing skills. By showing your interest and commitment to study abroad your passion will shine through on its own.

3. Work Twitter Like a Boss
I landed my first job in international education because the hiring manager saw my international education related tweets on Twitter.  You never know who is looking on Twitter. Change your bio to “NAFSA Job Seeker interested in ….” for the week. Plug your LinkedIn profile into the website link. Then engage with those who interest you on the #NAFSA15 hashtag: thought leaders, NAFSA speakers, study abroad providers, attendees who work at universities you’re interested in. Respond to their tweets, offer advice, or RT their comments. A favorite is a good way to get someone’s attention.

4. Treat the Expo Hall as a Career Fair
NAFSA makes it oh so easy to explore the hundreds of international education companies before you attend. Think beyond university positions and keep an open mind about jobs. Research the companies that interest you. Visit their booths and talk to their hosts. Ask “How did you get your job” or “What do you like about working for this company?” Inquire about open positions. If the conversation is going well, ask if you can connect with them on LinkedIn to stay in touch in case future positions open up.

5. Speak Up
Even if you’re not working in study abroad you can always contribute a student or study abroad alumni perspective to session discussions. During Q&A’s people will often introduce themselves by name and title before asking their question. Do the same. “Hi, I’m Nicolle and I’m a job seeker interested in global career coaching, thanks for taking my question….” Then ask a smart question or offer a follow up comment on the topic. It’s an easy way to let the people know you’re on the market.

5.5 Join me at Networking without Pants (aka Creating Clever Conversations Online and Off) on May 26, 9:00 am to learn how to mingle your way through NAFSA! 

See The Session Title that was Banned by NAFSA

See The Session Title that was Banned by NAFSA

International Education Jobs Networking

Clickbait headlines typically aim to exploit the “curiosity gap”, providing just enough information to make the reader curious, but not enough to satisfy their curiosity without clicking through to the linked content. – Wikipedia

I’m a Twitter and Buzzfeed junkie so it’s safe to say I’m no stranger to clickbait. I have a love/hate relationship with it. I hate it as a user but as a content marketer, I know the value of it. Clickbait is what got you to click on this post.

Quick test: in a list of NAFSA sessions, which title would you be most likely to click on?

  • Networking for NAFSA Career Professionals
  • Improving your Networking Skills for Life
  • Networking Can Be Fun!
  • Networking without Pants

Most of you probably chose the last one. I teach a rad workshop called Networking without Pants. I’m thrilled to give it at NAFSA this year. The title of the session is as fun as the workshop. It’s also a clickbait title designed to capture your attention.

Unfortunately two weeks ago the NAFSA committee informed me that the title Networking without Pants made them uncomfortableSo they cut it down to the subtitle only: Creating Conversations Online and Off.

Fair enough. They are the organizers after all. I’m still stoked to present.

But they’ve just stripped away the creative marketing strategy as well as the key point of my workshop.

Networking is the type of subject that causes eyes to glaze over. I can practically hear crickets when I share information about networking on Twitter. It’s not a attention-getter. Yet the session style is fast-paced, interactive, and fun. Participants can immediately apply lessons learned at the conference. At the Women in Travel Summit last March, participants spent the last 45 minutes of our session pitching their needs to the audience and connecting with like-minded participants:

The results were even better than I expected.  But I can’t do that if I don’t get people into the session. Enter clickbait workshop titles. The title Networking without Pants has served me well over the years for a simple reason: it gets people’s attention. After my last workshop several participants said they attended because they didn’t know what to expect based on the title. That’s a clickbait win. It also creates fabulous conversations on the conference hashtag:

Networking Without Pants Hashtag

There’s even a story and a lesson behind the title of Networking without Pants, but I’ll save that for the actual session.

I’m told the NAFSA print schedule won’t use the original title but it may be kept as is online (in the link below it’s still the boring title).  For the record, my contact at NAFSA has been wonderfully professional and understanding, which I appreciate. NAFSA is full of volunteers that work hard to pull us all together each year. As professionals we often put so much into helping our students that we neglect our own career development. So we need it. I’m grateful for the chance to share and learn in our international education community.

So now I would like to formally invite you to the newly clickbait-titled Banned by NAFSA: The Too Hot to Handle Workshop Formerly Known as Networking without Pants but Retitled to Creating Conversations Online and Off But I Promise It’s Still Fun  on Tuesday, March 26, at 9:00am. Bring your coffee and your fun.

And if you have a clickbait session title I’d absolutely love to hear it! Tweet it to me at @pdxnicolle.

New Course for Study Abroad Students and Global Graduates

New Course for Study Abroad Students and Global Graduates

International Education Networking Study Abroad

When I first returned from study abroad I assumed employers would ask me all about my international experiences. They didn’t. The only time I was asked about my study abroad experience was when a hiring manager told me about her Italian honeymoon. We talked about gelato. I assumed I’d stand out in my search because of my study abroad experience. I assumed employers would inquire about my newly-developed problem-solving skills or ability to smart decisions in ambiguous situations from seeing my experience on the resume. But I didn’t stand out and employers rarely asked about my time abroad.

The lack of discussion was disappointing but it was not a one-off. I learned early on that I couldn’t assume employers knew the value of study abroad. Instead I learned to weave my global experiences and skills into a narrative that matched what employers wanted to hear and the job I was applying for.

Career Skills for Global Graduates is designed to teach study abroad students and alumni how to communicate their international experiences to future employers. Even better, students also learn how to build a framework towards a global career, one that includes a strong network and strategic evaluation of future global career opportunities.

In the two-part course, students:

  • Build a global career path
  • Identify employment that meets their academic and career goals
  • Build a professional network online and off
  • Conduct informational interviews
  • Examine future global opportunities ranging from teaching abroad to graduate school abroad to working internationally
  • Identify and articulate their international experiences and skills into the framework that employers understand

This course originated in 2011 from a 10 week virtual course I piloted with Foster School of Business undergraduates who were studying abroad. Students learned to network, conduct informational interviews, articulate their international experience, and identify companies that matched their career goals.

So take a look. And let me know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter.