June 10, 2011

Education Abroad and Its Value on the Job Market

If you want to get ahead in today’s competitive, global job market, you need to have an edge. Studying abroad in college can give you that edge by helping you stand out from other job hunters. Plus, it’s an experience that can really open up your career path.

According to a study by The Institute for the International Education of Students, covering 3,400 people who had studied abroad, “eight out of ten students who had interned abroad said that they had acquired skill sets that influenced their future career paths, such as working for a multi-national organization, getting a job overseas or volunteering internationally.”

Here are just 5 of the many useful skills you can pick up on a study abroad trip that will better prepare you for the job market.

1.      Gain foreign language skills.
Foreign language skills are a huge plus on any resume. You can learn to speak a foreign language better from studying abroad than from taking classes in your home country. One reason is that you’ll be able to practice almost 24/7, instead of just a few hours per week.

You will also learn to sound more like native speakers. In publishing, one popular saying is, “by the time it’s in print, it’s obsolete,” and that definitely applies to slang and informal speech. It’s hard to learn foreign slang or accents in class for that reason, but you will pick those things up on your own abroad. Even if you’re traveling to another English-speaking country, you will learn different ways of speaking, which will help you better understand people from that country.

2.     Prove your independence.
Employers want workers with leadership skills. These employees have to be able to think independently and make tough choices. Studying abroad shows you’ve taken the lead by leaving home for a semester—or longer—to get the most out of your education.

3.   Show your interest in managing diversity.
Today, every employee needs to be able to handle cultural diversity. Many big companies require diversity training for workers. Employees who aren’t sensitive to co-workers or clients from other cultures can give the company a bad image.

If you study abroad, you’ll learn to get along with people from other cultures, showing that you are ready to join a diverse workplace.

4.      Learn about different business practices.
Every country has different business customs and laws. International companies need to be able to understand those that are written and unwritten. By showing that you have experience with how business is done abroad, you will make yourself more attractive to these companies. You will also make yourself a better choice for expatriate assignments later on, which usually pay very well.

Also, by understanding international business practices, you will better understand the laws and customs of your own country.

5.      Improve your ability to adapt.
Business moves at a faster pace today than ever. Major changes in technology mean that companies always need to adapt to stay up-to-date. Employees that are tied to their old ways of thinking won’t be able to move the company forward.

You, on the other hand, will have already shown that you aren’t afraid of change. If you can adapt to life in a different country, you’ll be better prepared for anything, and employers will know it.

Your ability to adapt can also help you look into new career paths that you explore while abroad. According to the IES study, of the 596 study abroad students who responded that they had interned abroad, 70 percent “agreed that the experience had sparked an interest in a career direction they ended up pursuing after their experiences abroad.” Having a more diverse background, like one that includes study abroad, gives you more options.

There are many more skills you’ll gain or improve while studying abroad, but these are some of the easiest to apply to any job. You’ll be able to describe yourself to companies as “bilingual, independent, open-minded, internationally-educated, and adaptable,” with plenty of examples of back those claims up. You will bring new skills home with you and see your possible career paths in a new way. That’s a sure-fire way to boost any resume!

Daniela Baker is a blogger at CreditDonkey, where she compares student credit card application to find the best value for college students.

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