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Marketing Your Experience

Congratulations! As a study abroad alum, you are part of a pretty select group. According to the 2019 Open Doors report, less than 11% of U.S. undergraduates study abroad, and a more recent report by NAFSA: Association of International Educators, less than 1% of all U.S. higher education students go abroad.

At the same time, employers say they value international experience. A 2020 “Employer Insight Report” by QS indicated that 25% of employers surveyed stated that international experience was a top priority for hiring,
A 2017 IIE study of the impact of study abroad on employment showed that 73% of respondents said they discussed their study abroad in an interview and more than 50% believe their overseas experience led to a job offer.  More impressively, a study by IES Abroad revealed that 90% of study abroad alumni found a job within 12 months of graduation (compared to 49% of their non-study abroad peers) and earned on average about $7000 more in their starting salary. Similarly, a 2018 study by Hostelworld reported that 41% of employed surveyed said they would be willing to consider offering more money to candidates who studied abroad.
So, again, congratulations on your decision to study abroad! But the job offers and salary bumps don’t come just because you write “studied abroad” on your resume.  You need to be smart about how you market your experience and the skills you gained.  Start by visiting Cal Poly Career Services. Talk with them about how best to present study abroad on your resume and how to utilize your international experience in an interview, then check out these tips and links to help you get started.
  1. Identify the skills you built while abroad. According to that 2020 QS report, the top 5 skills employers are looking for are communication, problem solving, teamwork, flexibility, and interpersonal abilities.  In addition to those, study abroad may have helped develop your second language skills; appreciation of diversity and awareness of cultural difference; motivation and independence; organization and time-management; patience, independence, and self-reliance; and your overall observational skills and ability to make connections.
  2. Think of experiences that illuminate what you learned. Don’t just tell what skills you learned, show them with a situational example (think of STAR or BAR behavior-based interview questions).
  3. Keep your skills alive. Don’t let the language gains you made abroad fade!
  4. Build your network. Stay in touch with your contacts abroad. Professors, internship supervisors, program staff—all can be powerful connections.  Connect with other program alums and build international connections back here at Cal Poly and in San Luis Obispo.  Use LinkedIn to help you open new networks.

Here are some other useful online resources: