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.