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.

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. 

Study Abroad Job Seekers: Shake Up Your Job Search

Study Abroad Job Seekers: Shake Up Your Job Search

International Education Jobs

Feeling stuck in your study abroad job search? It’s time to mix it all up.

Start right now by stretching your definition of study abroad jobs. A study abroad advisor position may be your dream job but there are plenty of jobs in the field that can be just as fulfilling and use your global skill set. If you’re really good at communication, consider a job in international admissions. You’ll travel internationally, meet students from all over the world, and get paid to talk about international education. If you’re into the programming side of study abroad advising, you’d do well planning welcome events for international students as a program coordinator in international student services. Broaden your search to include positions beyond the study abroad advisor position.

Get unstuck by knowing all your job search resources – job boards, LinkedIn, Twitter -and the relevant search terms. Search beyond universities and include international education companies. Find people inside those organizations who are open to having conversations about their job and your skill set. Impress them with your passion for and knowledge of the international education landscape during informational interviews.

Think you can do all of this? Of course you can. Apply your problem solving skills, creative thinking and adaptable mindset – the skills you gained from your study abroad experience – and use them in your job search.

Read on to see how to take your job search to the next level.

Master the job boards


As the host’s of America’s biggest international education conference, NAFSA is probably the first place you’ll look. It’s also the first place everyone else looks too, so competition for these jobs will be fierce.

The Pie News

This London-based international education news site lists mid-level jobs, mostly based in the UK with a smattering US-based and entry-level jobs. While you’re there, subscribe to their smart content to keep up with international education trends so you can impress future employers with your knowledge of the international education industry.

World Learning

From entry-level jobs in social media at the School for International Training to program managers to executive level jobs in international development, World Learning is an excellent resource for anyone looking to apply their global skills in an international programming context. Find jobs in universities and international organizations where employers value your global skill set.

Highered Jobs

Search “study abroad” to make your life easier with this massive database of university jobs. This website has a fab  international search feature which brings up opportunities at universities all over the world. You might be able to put those international skills to work at a university outside the US.

Create Saved Searches with Keywords, Not Titles

Jobs in international education come in all shapes and sizes. Entry-level study abroad jobs might be listed as Administrative Assistant, Program Assistant or Program Coordinator without anything indicating study abroad or global in their title. A study abroad advising job, which is a step up from entry-level, could be listed as a Assistant Director of Global Programs, Study Abroad Program Manager, or even Academic Advisor. Use “study abroad’ as the catch all term to pull up jobs with study abroad experience as a prerequisite (but don’t assume that’ll get you the job as everyone else applying has that experience too). “International student” and “international education” are also good terms, especially if you’re looking for positions in international admissions and student services. Set up multiple saved searches on LinkedIn, Simply Hired, and Indeed using each of those terms.

Get on Twitter

Seriously. Both NAFSA and Pie News have Twitter feeds specifically for jobs in international education. Even better, the international education community is very active on Twitter and often share jobs tagged with #intled and #studyabroad. Pick a hashtag and pair it with “job” to find them. Put your LinkedIn profile in your Twitter bio and ask the study abroad professionals how they got their job or advice for job seekers. Retweet their articles on study abroad. You’ll gain visibility in the international education community and get some great advice. When future international education employers Google you, they’ll see that you are engaged with the study abroad community.

Think Beyond the University Box

Don’t limit your search to universities. Several study abroad companies offering language and study abroad programs have rad jobs. Try IES Study Abroad and CIEE Study Abroad, Education First (EF) . Look at websites like Go Abroad and Go Overseas. You’ll work with other globally curious people, motivate people to explore the world, and get a chance at international travel. Look for jobs in volunteer tourism organizations where you’ll work with students looking for meaningful travel programs and international education programming.

Learn How to Informational Interview like a Boss

Forget writing about your passion for study abroad in a cover letter. Show your passion by reaching out to people in study abroad and talking to them about their experience. Informational interviews done right will impress future employers, give you insights into a company (to find out if you’re a cultural fit), and make you stand out when a job opens up. They are the secret sauce in your job search but few people use them to their advantage. If you’re new to informational interviews start with this super helpful post from The Muse, How to Ask for a Job Without Asking for a Job and follow the links at the end for more tips. Then spend some more time on that site because they have all the smart content you need to improve your job search.

And don’t forget, you need more than just passion to get a job in study abroad. You need mad skills.

Ok, now it’s your turn. What’s working for you in your job search? Share below or find me on Twitter at @pdxnicolle.

Need help planning your global career? There’s a class for that. 

Want to work in Study Abroad? You need mad skills

Want to work in Study Abroad? You need mad skills

Jobs Study Abroad

In the NAFSA LinkedIn group, global graduates regularly seek advice on how to land a job in a university study abroad office. The questions often revolve around getting a master’s degree, a preferred qualification that graces nearly every job listing in international education. Some job seekers want to know if they should get one; others are frustrated because they obtained one yet can’t seem to break into the industry.

But here’s what’s missing from the discussion: a master’s degree isn’t enough. To land a job in international education you need mad skills.

Here’s what to show university employers you can do.

Manage all the things
Study abroad advisors are jugglers. They juggle events, students, meetings, emails, and paperwork. All of it requires exceptional management skills. You need to be an event manager to organize pre-departure orientations and study abroad fairs. You need to be a project manager to ensure the study abroad selection process is efficient and fair. You need to be a program manager to nurture relationships with partner schools and program participants. Your organizational skills must be fierce. But don’t just tell employers you’re organized. Show off previous events or programs you’ve managed to demonstrate you can handle the chaos like a champ.

Communicate your face off
Student advising requires excellent interpersonal communication skills. But here’s what they don’t tell you about working in study abroad: you spend a ridiculous amount of time on email. Your inbox will overflow with requests from students, outside departments, partner schools abroad, alumni, corporate partners, and board members. You need to build relationships with these diverse groups and it’s usually done over email. Can you craft emails that persuade, encourage, and inform? You also present to large groups of students so your public speaking skills need to be on point.

Entertain and engage distracted students
When you think international education you don’t think marketing. But in study abroad you constantly think of ways to get more students to participate in international programs. Whether persuading freshman to apply to your programs in two years or asking returned participants to volunteer at orientations, you have to find clever ways to reach students. If you can write engaging blog posts, manage a study abroad alumni email newsletter, or capture a lecture auditorium with snappy announcements, you’re well on your way to standing out in an interview.

Work a budget
Knowing how budgets work, how to build them, and how to work efficiently within one while still providing a quality experience for students is a stellar skill. Study tours, faculty-led programs, alumni events, and even orientations have budgets (often limited). Your boss will appreciate your ability to stay within it. Bonus if you can find ways to save money. Budget savvy study abroad advisors are exceptionally helpful for students who need advice on financial aid, which is always at the top of student minds.

Own the technology
Databases, social media accounts, content management systems, and learning management systems are part of the job. Can you build a blog post or page in WordPress or Drupal? Can you run a photo contest across social platforms? Do you pick up new database terms and queries quickly? Let your tech flag fly. Show your future employer how you’ve used the relevant technology creatively and efficiently in previous positions.

Above all you need to sell yourself. Learn how to create a narrative that summarizes your work experience. Don’t assume the hiring manager can figure it out. My checkered work history is chaos to hiring managers. I’ve worked at startups that don’t exist any more. I’ve had contract jobs under six months and more than a few that have nothing to do with study abroad. When I applied for a position in a university study abroad office I translated my odd work experiences into a compelling narrative that spelled out why I was uniquely qualified. It worked.

So be bold and direct. Don’t assume a master’s degree will do it for you. Articulate your skills as they relate to the job posting. Explain how those skills will benefit the team you want to join. Match your skills and experience directly to the language in the job posting. Reference your past work experience to explain how you’ll accomplish global programming tasks.

Here’s the TL;DR recap: To get a job in study abroad don’t rely on your master’s degree (or lack of). Focus on your skills and sell yourself instead. Show off your superior project management skills, exceptional communication skills, clever marketing experience, smart budget management skills and tech savvy ways.

Check out the new global career course for study abroad students. 

My Most Awkward Public Speaking Mistake and How I Lived to Tell the Tale


public speaking survival tips

I am a public speaking junkie. I relish any chance to speak to an audience. I even teach public speaking to support people who are tasked with infotaining the masses. Despite over a decade of speaking, I still make mistakes. I’ve messed up in ridiculous ways. Ten years ago I tripped over a cord into a stumbling, slow motion fall in front of a class of high school seniors. Another time I completed a 45 minute workshop only to realize my zipper was down the whole time. When you make a habit of public speaking, mistakes are inevitable. But none have been as awkward as a presentation I made last year at a Greater Seattle Business Association event.

The setting: A Seattle brewery with around 50 friendly young professionals who were well into their second or third drink. I spoke from a stage about four feet above the crowd.

The task: Ten minutes to give an engaging talk on practical networking tips like how to create conversation with strangers and how to politely exit dead end conversations.

Three minutes into my talk I hit my stride, eager to deliver my first and most important tip. Somewhere between the sentences “If you remember one thing from this talk, remember this” and “Put your phone away!” chaos interrupted: a deep thud followed immediately by a massive crash, culminating in the clatter of silverware raining down on a cement floor. In my excitement and ferocious gesturing I had kicked a speaker box off the stage and sent it crashing into the staging cart holding the evening’s allotment of silverware.

A second after the destruction I stared confused at a crowd full of wide-eyed faces and audible gasps. Two seconds after the chaos I kneeled down to apologize to the server who was hurriedly cleaning up the disaster. By the fourth second, I returned to the crowd as stifled giggles evolved into outright laughter.

They were totally laughing at me.

Five seconds after the initial crash, I was cracking up right along with them. The situation was absurd. I had no idea I was strong enough to kick a speaker off a stage. I was unaware how excited my legs could get in a presentation.

Then I kept going. I acknowledged how ridiculous and awkward my disaster was, still giggling, and returned to my talk. And that was that. I eventually got my point across. I was even offered another speaking gig from an audience member who had witnessed the spectacle. People probably went home and gossiped about the woman they saw drop kick a speaker off a stage. I hope they acted out my kick with flare and pantomimed my deer-in-headlights look as they shared the story with their significant other.

In public speaking, people’s fear of mistakes can be paralyzing. To conquer the fear you need a plan for after the mistake. So here’s a plan: acknowledge and keep going.

Forget your words and stare blankly at the audience? Take a breathe and keep going. Bomb a joke? Keep going. Throw in a smile or a laugh to break up the silence. Keep a few emergency phrases in your back pocket like “I hate when that happens” or “Well that’s not how I practiced it” or my favorite, “that was awkward” to help you move on. By acknowledging the situation and moving forward you humanize yourself, putting the audience and eventually yourself at ease.

Mistakes happen. Even the best speakers make them. We’re human. So just own it and keep going. And who knows, maybe your public speaking mistake will make for a hilarious battle story during your next dinner party or at the very least, a dramatic blog headline.