So you want to work in the study abroad field. Maybe you’ve just returned from an international experience of your own and it made you realize that there are careers that revolve around this awesome thing. Or maybe you’re wrapping up your graduate studies and have known for years that this is the career you want to pursue. Wherever you fall in the spectrum, study abroad inspires you and you want to be a part of it. So you apply for a job. And then another one. And then a few more. And then a LOT more. It’s no secret that finding a job is tough. The seemingly endless cycle of applications, resumes and cover letters can dishearten even the most epic study abroad rockstar. Well, take heart, because here are some tips which will help you take your relationship with job hunting to the next level. Yes, the L word. Fall in love with your job search.
Get to know yourself.
When you got home from your international experience, how many times did you begin sentences with, “When I was abroad…” or “When I was in (insert country name here)…”? If you loved your global adventure as much as I did, probably way too often. But it’s a pretty basic fact that it takes time to fully understand the impact of your time abroad. Sometimes, it takes months, or even years, to really grasp the significance. When you’re in the middle of your study abroad experience, your attention is completely focused on adjusting to and reveling in the culture around you. Let’s be honest, when I go someplace new, I am definitely thinking about things like how to use the bus system or where to get the best food, more than any long term effects the trip will have on me.
So when you do finally come back home, carrying all of these new life lessons and experiences, you’re a different person from the one who left. So use the time that you are spending on looking for a job to really unpack your own experiences. The entire application process enables the hiring committee to get to know who you are, so why not use it as a tool to get to know yourself again, too. Though it is tempting, don’t blow off those cover letters and supplemental questions as mere boxes to check in your application process. Behind the (sometimes) stuffy language, those are important questions to think about and can be great springboards for reflecting on the meaningfulness of your time abroad.
On a more logistical level, reflect on what your job search tells you about you. What traits in a job do you value the most? By understanding what truly impacted you while abroad, it will be easier to understand what path to take in your job search. What type of position do you want? Where do you want to live? What type of people do you want around you? All of these questions will change your job search strategy. And make it more exciting!
Get to know others in the field.
Part of the draw of working in study abroad is that you know you are entering a world where your experiences are valued and celebrated. After finding so much meaning in your travels, it’s exciting to be around people who can relate. And let me tell you, there are AMAZING professionals in this field; people you will get to interact with through your job search! One of the most important, and sometimes overlooked, aspects of applying for a position is doing your due diligence on the people doing the hiring and with whom you’ll work. Research the team of people that make up the office and organization. Get to know the people who already work there. What does their online presence tell you? Is everyone on Twitter and/or is everyone conducting original research and getting published? Do you have any common interests or experiences? Become acquainted with the professionals already in the field and you will learn how to be a professional in the space yourself.
And even though interviews can be nerve-wracking and intimidating, try to think of them as awesome opportunities to have a one-on-one session with another study abroad fanatic! You both love study abroad enough to pursue careers in it, so turn that shared enthusiasm into a foundation to get to know them. Obviously, you want the job. Make that clear. But focus on developing your relationship with them as well. Because once you get a job – and you will – you want to have a network filled with people who have a positive impression of you. It’s a dynamic and varied field, but also a small one. And if you are passionate about becoming a professional, these people will become your peers, your bosses, and your friends. Treat them as such.
Get to know the field itself.
Something you may not realize about the study abroad industry is that it is full of specializations and a gateway to a ton of different careers paths. Is it your dream to work at a university in a study abroad office? Or does being a road warrior for a program provider intrigue you? Do you want to work with international students coming to the US or are you more excited to get American students out and into the world? The options go on and on. So get to know your own aspirations (see above) and then use your job search to figure out where your talents and dreams will be best utilized.
Looking for a job also teaches you about the field itself. Are you being asked about a specific skill in every interview? Do almost all of your applications ask if you have experience with a certain tool? Well invest yourself in the process! Make a note about it, and research it later. Your job search is key to figuring out the broader patterns in study abroad and what you need to learn in order to be successful in the field. Because if you are not committed to learning about the field, I guarantee there are a bunch of candidates who are.
So get out there and take your job search to the next level! It might be painful, you may feel like crying sometimes, and there will be moments when you just want it to end. But there are so many incredible opportunities. You just have to get out there and take them. Kind of like studying abroad ;) And think of how much more rewarding it will be when you do get the job of your dreams!