How to leverage your abroad experience on job interviews

Bordeaux, L'Opéra
Bordeaux, L’Opéra

Lately going on job interviews has been bringing me back to my adventure-filled days in France. Every question I get asked from “How do you deal with stressful situations?” to “What qualities best describe you?” and every open-ended prompt they pose, be it “tell me about a time you met a challenge,” or “What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned so far,” causes my mind to jump to my experiences exploring the globe.

Whether it was trying to maneuver my way through Gare de Lyon with luggage that weighed as much as I did, or sorting out my French bank account in a village where no one spoke English, like any other serious traveler, I’ve inevitably met plenty of situations which qualify as challenging, stressful or trying.

So does studying abroad or living abroad help you get a job? Is there any relation between that instance when you were trying to navigate the metro system in Budapest, or that time when you got lost in Paris to working and solving problems in the “real world”? In my opinion and based on my anecdotal evidence, the answer is that it depends. It depends on how skilled you are at communicating how these experiences translate into skills and traits that employers are looking for in a candidate.

Maybe figuring out a foreign transportation system doesn’t necessarily translate into success in the working world, but convince an employer of your resourcefulness and ability to solve problems under pressure that you learned while abroad… now you’re speaking their language.

For example, when an interviewer says, “Wow, you lived abroad in France for eight months, that must have been so exciting,” it opens the door for you to elaborate on your study abroad or work abroad experience and what you learned from it. Say something like, “Yes, it was an exciting learning opportunity. Living in a country where I didn’t speak the language taught me how to step outside of my comfort zone on a daily basis in order to learn the language and integrate into a new culture.”

There you go; chances are that in most work environments you’re going to be learning skills you might not yet be totally comfortable with and trying your hand at some new tasks. Having the ability to communicate with a variety of types of people, both colleagues and clients, is also a relevant skill to most any workplace. If you’re able to illustrate these examples (maybe some of them being from your time abroad), then you’ve just subtly informed your interviewer that you’re a candidate with the skills they want.

What have you learned while abroad that has helped you in your career?




4 thoughts on “How to leverage your abroad experience on job interviews”

  1. Great points! So much of interviewing is about communicating how our personal journey informs our professional life. I would add that, as so many companies are global and/or have a diverse workforce, having experience in more than one culture is a great selling point.

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