You finally get the motivation to sit down at your desk, pull out your laptop, and commit the next hour to the dreaded job search that you’ve put off all day. After 30 minutes, you find a job that catches your eye, WOOHOO! You pull up the description and now you’re even more excited… until you reach the job requirements and qualifications at the bottom of the page. Your excitement dies as you begin to downplay your skills and attributes, eventually convincing yourself that there is no chance of them contacting you for an interview.
Recent graduates are holding themselves back from amazing opportunities because they are not fixating on the skills that can land them the job. Having a study abroad experience in college can contribute tremendously to the workplace, so stop focusing on the skills you don’t have and focus on the ones you do! Soft skills, like communication skills and flexibility, are the real skills employers are looking for. So without further ado, let’s jump into some of those soft skills developed on your study abroad journey.
There’s no way you studied abroad and did not develop your communication skills. When you’re in a new country, you are quick to learn how to communicate with others… kinda like that time when you needed to find a bathroom and realized you were throwing your hands around like your Italian grandmother. How you approach someone to ask for directions, smiling when you pass a stranger on the street, and greeting someone in the morning are all ways of communicating! Employers want to see that you can acclimate to a new work environment by adapting to their style of communication with clients and coworkers.
Adaptability / Flexibility:
This story should bring back tons of memories for many of you fellow study abroad students. The scenario is you spend weeks planning a full-packed weekend trip with your best friends who are living in Quito. You literally have plans from 7 am to 10 pm on both Saturday and Sunday. You booked your overnight bus ticket from Cuenca to Quito MONTHS in advance and the day has finally come! You wake up in the middle of the night to learn that the bus broke down… in the middle of nowhere! Fortunately, you and some other passengers make it to a nearby hostel, where you message your friends to tell them you’ll only be able to participate in some of the activities and not all of them. You’re obviously a bit disappointed but you are also aware that crazy stuff happens ALL THE TIME when you travel. Showing you are calm, collected and in control when crazy, stressful situations arise is a huge plus for employers. It shows them you can handle stressful situations and adapt.
Problem Solving and Resolving Conflicts
Annoyed with your host sister chatting on the phone till 2 am every night? Sick of your host mom wanting to know where you are every second of every hour in the day? Yup, you’re bound to have some conflict while you are traveling abroad. But here’s the thing… it’s not a bad thing! Conflict is totally normal and is a part of any healthy relationship. That goes without saying that how you deal with conflict is equally as important. So instead of assuming the other people is the self-centered jerk, you approach the situation with an open mind and focus on solutions rather than playing the blame game. Conflicts arise in the workplace all the time, so employers are looking for someone mature who will focus on resolving the problem and not letting it drag on.
Being a Team Player
Organizations and companies aren’t just looking for someone who will be good at the job, they want someone who will mesh well with the team. This may mean wearing some ridiculous costume on Halloween to match the department’s Halloween theme or bringing food to share to the weekly potluck lunches. When you study abroad, sometimes you pitch in, say washing those dishes or taking out the trash, because you want to be a part of your host family not just a random person staying in their house. This isn’t a sign of weakness for employers, rather it’s a sign of respect.
Everyone can think, but how many people have that knack of thinking creatively? Employers want fresh perspectives, unique solutions and innovation. Studying abroad makes you think outside of the box because you have to! Everything you were familiar with disappeared the second you got off that plane and landed in a new country.
So the next time you even think about shutting that computer down, why not give it a chance? Why not use the most amazing experience of your life to help land you that job!
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