Menu Close


You’ve probably had it happen to you before. Possibly even before you left home. The jealous and the doubtful sneered at you when you told them you were going abroad. That’s right. They thought it was just a bunch of woo ha. Study abroad? Yeah, right. You’re just going to party. Volunteer abroad? Please. You could be volunteering here at home. You’re wasting your time and money. Teach abroad? Nice goal, but you don’t have any teaching experience. Any of these sound familiar? Some people doubt not only your intentions, but what you will actually gain from spending an extended period of time abroad. Even after you’ve returned home, many will still deny that there was any great value in having gone abroad. BUT THAT’S WHERE THEY ARE WRONG! You know better than anyone the value of your experience. It might not be clear immediately, but after some reflection, you’ll start to notice changes in yourself as a result of going abroad. You might be more of an independent problem solver than you were prior to leaving home. Or, you just may have become a Spanish-speaking whiz with a flare for engaging locals in conversation. Only you know what inherit talents were revealed and what new skills were acquired while abroad. Take some time to write down what you saw, what you learned and what situations you encountered. Remember what actions you took during stressful situations, how you reacted when plans went awry and how you coped with life in a foreign country. You’ll probably discover you gained some invaluable skills that can be applied to a variety of situations back at home.

Study abroad

And, what’s even greater is that you can now USE those skills to your advantage. Below are 3 situations where you can stand out from others in a professional setting.


You know the economy is still struggling. Things aren’t as bad as they were at the bottom of the fallout, but they aren’t yet back to pre-recession levels. There is more demand for jobs than there is supply. You are up against some tough competition. But you aren’t out of the running. Here’s where your international experience comes into play. When you’re fighting for the same job as 100 or more applicants, you need to find ways to not just compete with everyone else, but stand out from them. How do you do that? Boast. That’s not to say you need to describe the five-star hotel you once stayed at or the free cocktails a local businessman bought for you while you were travelling, but instead you need to boast about what you learned, what you overcame and how you changed. You need to describe your experience as though no one else could possibly be as prepared for this job as you because of the experiences you went through abroad. You know you have the skills, the experience and the education required for the job. You not only meet the qualifications required for the position, but you bring additional value by having lived abroad. Position yourself as the ONLY person able to not just meet the demands of the job, but to go above and beyond.


If you’ve recently graduated from college, then you may have heard the “experience” excuse as a reason an employer chose not to hire you. Any prior work experience or internships are often overlooked when an employer discovers you recently graduated. Age discrimination? Maybe. But you can’t change that. When the field has been narrowed down to you and another person, often the only thing standing between the two of you is on-the-job experience. In the past, you would have lost the job. But now you have a fighting chance. Instead of focusing on your lack of job experience, you need to focus on your abundance of life experiences. Life experiences? YES! Although you may be a young twenty-something college graduate, you may have already had more international life experiences than those three times your age. If you studied abroad or volunteered abroad, you have done something that your grandparents and quite possibly even your parents have never done before. This is especially true if you’re from the United States. Considering that only around 33% of Americans have a passport, you are in the minority. You need to highlight the experiences that you have already had and how those situations have prepared you for the challenges you will face in the workplace. Not used to the challenges of working with different personalities? No problem. You went to school with only French-speaking natives who weren’t too keen on Americans. Any obstacle you may encounter on the job, you’ve probably already faced a similar situation abroad. Don’t be shy. Just because you lack “real world” job experience doesn’t mean you lack life experience.


High school diploma? It’s a given. Undergraduate degree? Of course. Master’s degree? Thinking about it. Do you have the education and the training required for a certain position? In many of today’s careers, higher level degrees are required to be considered for a certain position. An undergraduate degree is no longer sufficient. Instead, a master’s degree or possibly even a PhD is required. Understandable…if you’re a doctor. But what about those who are in less specialized jobs. Careers in business, for example, often require an MBA. Accounting, Marketing, Finance, International Relations…you might not get a foot in the door without having received a Master’s degree. But what if you chose to spend your money elsewhere? Say in Asia? Does that really make you less qualified than someone who sat in a classroom listening to a lecture on how to conduct business in an international setting? Probably not. In fact, it probably makes you more qualified. Why? Because you were immersed in the culture. You speak some Mandarin Chinese, you lived with a local family and you know the temperaments and mannerisms through first-hand experience. So, don’t let “prerequisites” for education discourage you from going after a position you are not only interested in, but believe are the perfect fit for. Use your resume and cover letter to your advantage. Take the time to highlight your international experiences and describe why you are the ideal candidate for the position. The hiring person may not even know what specifically he’s looking for until he comes across your credentials.


Whether it is an acquaintance or a prospective employer, people will always make assumptions about you even before they know you. In professional settings, you can only hope that your breadth of experiences will stand out. It’s up to YOU to make sure that you highlight the value in those experiences. And, if an employer requires a certain amount of education or experience, then you must accept that. Just remember, those in higher-up positions use their glass doors and corner offices to exude power. But you’ve been beyond those borders. You’ve seen the world. Don’t ever forget that! Need more proof that going abroad can land you your dream job? Check out these articles:

How has your international experience helped you? Share your experiences with us!
Source: Native foreigner Magazine