Advantage in the Job Market

Research shows that employers look for these personal skills in entry-level hiring:

  • teamwork
  • performing optimally outside of one’s comfort zone
  • effective communication in intercultural settings–

These important skills are gained through semester-long study abroad.

Chuck Portale - whose son Joe Portale ’14, a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major, studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark during the spring 2013 semester - shares his advice on leveraging study abroad experience for the job market:

Our son spent the 2013 spring semester studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. My wife and I spent a week visiting him and saw firsthand what studying abroad is all about. Neither of us had studied abroad and we didn’t have a full appreciation for this opportunity.  I have spent some time reflecting about how this great experience may have changed Joe – and all students who study abroad.

I've done a fair amount of interviewing over the years, and I see study abroad appearing more frequently on candidates’ resumes. Students must learn how to weave their experience into their interview responses. If I ask a job candidate about study abroad, I usually hear about seeing new places, experiencing a new culture, or doing new things. While true, such information doesn’t convey how the experience has changed them, helped them to think differently, caused them to look at situations from different perspectives, increased their understanding of  how others view the U.S., or helped them grow personally, academically, and even professionally. In short, employers need to know how a student’s study abroad experience will be valuable on the job.

While most colleges have processes in place to assist students as they enter the job market, parents can add some value to that process too. We can:

  • Ask our student open-ended questions about their time abroad and help kick start the thought process beyond how someone might describe a vacation.
  • Help our student understand how valuable it is to articulate their experiences in a meaningful way in a formal setting, such as an interview, or in a brief elevator speech, which they can work into a more casual discussion. Being able to tell their story in a compelling way can make a noticeable difference and may open some doors.