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.


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. 

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.