Community Leader Dij Howes wrote a guest post on the blog just a few weeks ago about the differences between Go Global and other study abroad programs, based on her super impressive long list of study abroad experiences. And…she’s back! Today, Dij wants to enlighten you further about what studying abroad has done for her resume and interview processes, and what it can do for yours.
Studying Abroad as a Resume Booster
Guest Post by: Dij Howes
Hey guys…I’m back! Being abroad is so much fun, but you may wonder what it does for you once you get home. Personally, studying abroad has broadened my career options immensely. For one, it gives me something to talk about in an interview. When speaking about being ambitious and adventurous, what could be more adventurous than going to a foreign country and doing crazy things with people you don’t really know? Since coming home from Global LEAD Cape Town, I have spoken about my study abroad experience every time that I am in an interview. At first I was unsure of how to describe my time abroad without being very generic and saying, “It was fun. I went to a new place and did this thing, with these people that were cool.” The key to making a good interview is to get the potential employer interested in you. You have to describe the experience with vivid details and images. What did you learn? What were the people like? (Don’t use the words “chill” or “cool” … answer honestly and creatively). Don’t just say that it changed you — how did you change? The sole purpose of an interview is for a company to get to know the human being you are. If they only wanted the numbers and facts, they would only ask for your those things. I tell them of my time in a country that not many people get to go to, and I speak about the beautiful people we met and the welcoming culture we experienced. Next thing you know, all of the interviewers tell me that I am so interesting. The whole interview changes from boring questions to a conversation where we are having fun, and the interview is finished before you know it! Instead of intimidating and nerve-wracking, it becomes calming and exciting…and you realize how unique your experience really was, and all that it did to shape you.
I decided to sit down with one of the Letters and Science (Liberal Arts) Career Advisor here at UW Madison. I asked what employers REALLY think when they hear that a candidate has studied abroad. The woman I spoke with told me that employers LOVE to see people that have studied abroad. It means that they are adaptable; they can handle any situation that you could give them. When studying abroad, students must also adapt to a new culture and possibly even a new language. Second, studying abroad shows that a student is ambitious. Ambition is something that is really hard to demonstrate; it means that the student is a candidate who could possibly take a company or a project to new levels. An ambitious person is someone that sees a goal and says, “No, I can do better; I can go bigger.” It is very important to have concrete examples where we can point out our core values, and studying abroad tests us as people so much so that it provides us with those concrete stories that allow us to pin point those values and where they come from, and really grasp and understand through a clearer lens how they manifest themselves in our lives. Lastly, studying abroad says that a student is a leader, a person who is brave enough to forge their own path in a land that might, at first, not be comfortable. It shows that the student is willing to seize each adventure with gusto. Not everyone can do this, and that’s okay. It just makes the ones who can that much more unique and remarkable.
Before I leave you, I’ll give you a specific example of how my studying abroad experience has benefited my personal resume. While I was in South Africa, one of the major lessons that we learned was to “look in your own backyard.” Basically, we had to solve the problems that were close to us before we could change the world — starting from the inside out. I knew I wanted to volunteer and help out in Madison. So, I applied to this volunteer program, BASES, where I tutor homeless children once a week. Throughout the application process I was asked to describe times that I was adaptable and willing to change on the drop of a dime. I responded, “Well, this summer I was lucky enough to go to Cape Town, and I had to adapt to a new style of life and a different culture than what I was used to.” I was also asked to identify my strengths. DUH! — I’m a crazy, ambitious, and adventurous person, so new things and people intrigue me and make me super excited. I was able to explain my strengths with ease because of the activities that the Global LEAD program did to guide me through my strengths. Lastly, I was asked what makes me a leader. (I had this question ready.) “I went on this amazing program that basically certified me as a leader, where I went on crazy adventures and I did community service with all these kids that I lead.”
Just to wrap up and remind y’all what just happened: Studying abroad is great for your resume. It helps make you an individual. It separates you from the pile of other people that are applying. The trick is to remember you get what you give. If you describe it poorly, your employer won’t think anything of it; you need to describe it as vividly as possible. I believe in you guys! DON’T JUST GO: LEAD. Go knock out that application!
Dij’s main advice — in an interview, describe your study abroad experience colorfully, and steer clear of generic and cliche depictions of your trip. Think intellectually, and answer honestly! What did the trip really give you that will advance you in your professional life?
Specifically on your resume, the Global LEAD site has each and every component from your trip listed in resume form. Click the link, find your program and all of the activities that applied to you during that program, and start adding them to your resume! Having an updated resume at all times and practicing your interviewing skills are very handy and important career-building tools. Go Global is excited to help you develop these skills by giving you the training that will broaden your horizons and by helping you document that on paper! One of the “post-trip” benefits that our students will always have is a team of professionals who are ready and willing to help our students continue to succeed in their endeavors. Always feel free to reach out to us for help!
-Anna and the Go Global team