I know several young people who have gone abroad to teach English and others who are considering making that move before applying for a job in their chosen field. It sounds exciting — but I always wonder how that kind of international adventure might impact their job prospects when they return, especially if they aren’t interested in the teaching profession.
Jessica Lyon, vice president, Western Region at Avenica, has worked with many candidates who have traveled abroad to teach English before starting their “real world” jobs in the states.
“If the candidate can professionally articulate their decision-making process and the skills they obtained, it shouldn’t negatively impact their job prospects when they return,” Lyon says.
That is especially true today, she notes, because globalization and interconnectedness are becoming increasingly more important for business success.
“Professionals with international experience and multicultural competence become essential to that success,” Lyon explains. “Those who can survive and thrive in new environments and who have demonstrated ability to adapt to a variety of situations are definitely in demand.”
That doesn’t mean the move abroad doesn’t come with potential pitfalls.
“You’ll be a year — or however long you spend abroad — behind in your job search and career start. Your peers/competition will be gaining on-the-job experience and progressing on their career tracks,” Lyon points out.
Finding opportunities that value your experience but don’t immediately discount you for your decision to postpone your job search might also be a struggle. “There’s always the chance that some hiring managers might not understand the value of the teaching abroad experience, she adds.
Once you return stateside and start applying for jobs, it is important to craft your resume in a way that addresses the skills you’ve gained during your international experience and how those skills relate to the job you’re applying for.
Lyon suggests addressing the following skills likely gained from teaching abroad on a resume and/or during a job interview:
1. Superior communications skills
2. Cultural competence
3. The ability to work in diverse teams and settings
4. The ability to be nimble, to be flexible and to adapt to changing environments
She also notes four opportunities “that are a great fit for people with international experience.”
1. Positions on international teams/organizations
2. Positions with cross-functional/cross-team responsibilities
3. Client services/customer service
4. Business development/sales
“Pairing the transferrable skills developed with a strong statement around your interest in the role and company is the key to turning this into a positive experience,” Lyon concludes. “Essentially, it’s all in how you sell the experience and relate it to how you will add value because of it.”
(Article written by Kathleen Furore)