The harsh reality is the statistics aren’t playing in college students’ favor. Between the unemployment rate, underemployment rate and aftermath of the recession, there’s a reason millennials don’t think they stand a chance. Hundreds of over-educated waiters and waitresses are strutting the city’s streets, hopping from restaurant to bar trying to scrounge for tips.
That said, an impressive resume can be just the golden ticket for a job in your field. As you’re stacking your resume with internships, awards and that assumedly stellar GPA, however, don’t forget one crucial component: study abroad.
More than 270,600 students stamped their passports and studied abroad during the 2009/2010 academic school year–a number triple that of the previous two decades, according to the Institute of International Education. The benefits are endless, and they can be translated into marketable skills you can later highlight on your resume.
First, you just need to realize what those skills are. The University of Southern Maine has compiled a helpful list of questions you should be asking yourself:
- Did you complete a research project overseas that relates to your field of interest?
- Did you travel independently?
- Did you learn any new languages or customs?
- Did you resolve any conflicts that stemmed from a cultural misunderstanding?
- Did you work on any projects with a diverse group of people?
Answer “yes” to even two of those questions and you’ve suddenly become this independent, patient, interculturally competent person who’s quick to adapt, can negotiate in tough situations and all in a potentially different language. Some of the above questions might also be asked in a job interview, giving your study abroad experience added value.
When defining your skills, however, be sure they align with what your potential employer is looking for. Merely saying you spent time overseas won’t mean much. What will is the fact they’re looking for a team player and you happened to have to coordinate a month-long group project with students from varying cultures.
The University of Virginia points to a recent survey by NACE Research, which ranks the top four skills employers look for in new college hires. They are:
- Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization
- Ability to make decisions and solve problems
- Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work
- Ability to obtain and process information
As the school states:
Studying abroad provides additional opportunities for you to hone not only these skills, but other key competencies such as leadership, adaptability, flexibility, time management, open-mindedness, and the ability to deal with ambiguity.
So, hone in on how your study abroad experience can specifically relate to and benefit each and every employer. If you only say, “Visiting the Middle East was wonderful and life-changing,” the person sitting on the other side of the conference room table will roll their eyes.
As for actually where you should incorporate study abroad experience on your resume, the University of Virginia has has compiled a concise list of guidelines. For example, list the name of the study abroad program or institution in the “education” section of your resume, and then other skills under “related” or “international experience.” You can cross reference their suggestions with Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.
Just because the statistics for college graduates aren’t promising doesn’t mean you need to be a statistic. You have more skills than you realize, and study abroad plays a large, unexpected role in that.
Featured Photo Courtesy of the University of Kansas