Preparing Our Students for the Global Marketplace

I’m on college campuses a lot talking up the importance of preparing our students for the global marketplace. I have met so many campus counselors, professors and administrators eager to help their students in this area because they know globalization is here. And sometimes it helps to have an outsider share her experiences and provide a step-by-step approach to launching an international career — here or abroad — upon graduation or a few years down the road.

This is where I can help.

Many job seekers mistakenly think that domestic job search can simply be tweaked for international positions. Not so. Global employers need to know as much about an applicant’s international credentials and personal traits as they do about their professional abilities.

How exactly can soon-to-be graduates prepare themselves for interviews with employers who want global workers?  How can you help them navigate the maze of the ever-changing global job search?

Proper preparation begins with Thinking Globally. To cultivate a global mindset, students should follow world news, pay attention to global stock markets and currencies, and keep an eye on global events and international business trends. They should follow global organizations, targeted companies and international experts on social media sites.

This approach must be encouraged in all students, not just business students. An exercise I recommend is to help students connect the dots between global news and their own job search. For example, where is there a need for Portugese-speaking engineers (Brazil)? Which countries are most important to finance majors (Hong Kong, New York and London)? Has the Arab Spring opened up opportunities in tech, communications and journalism majors (yes)?

Tomorrow it will change, and so everyone must keep current with the evolving global jobs marketplace.

Once students begin to think globally, they can then be encouraged to see the value in – and then take advantage of – the variety of international opportunities on campus. Here are five pointers that I recommend every student follow beginning in their freshman year:

Pursue language study. All students should be encouraged to graduate as close to bilingual as possible through a combination of formal and informal study.

Take globally-oriented coursework. Students should take international classes within a major or coursework focused on specific regions or cultures – or courses that address broad global issues/globalization and classes on the global marketplace.

Participate in exchange or study abroad.  Study abroad is one of the best ways for a student to acquire international qualifications before graduating. Students should be encouraged to pursue non-traditional locations in developing markets (where the jobs are).

Work or intern abroad. Real work experience differentiates all students and the global experience tells future employers that students are risk takers, explorers, go-getters and have the guts it takes to work in an unfamiliar environment.

Encourage the global experience. At its heart, going global is a mindset. International campus groups and presentations will make a difference as will cross-cultural experience in the form of art, music, movies, food, dance and travel  for personal pleasure or on volunteer assignment.

Once students have acquired some international experience, it’s time to help them package it in their Winning Global Job-search Toolkit.  It’s important to note that students should not simply adapt their domestic approach; they must pursue the global job search with a fundamentally different mindset. This generally requires starting from scratch; campus counselors and professors can play a critical role in helping students:

Define a Global Brand. This is a thinking exercise and you must help them define both their hard and soft skills. Global employers need to know as much about a candidate’s personality as they do about her professional abilities.  Ask them to write it down as that will help them frame their experiences, skills and personality traits in ways that are accurate, relevant and showcase cross-cultural competence.

Draft an Elevator Pitch.  When I lecture on campuses, I ask students the most difficult aspect in creating their job-search materials. More than half say defining their skills in an elevator pitch. Any successful elevator pitch includes both hard skills (e.g., professional qualifications, education and language proficiency), and soft skills (e.g., personal attributes and interests that make an excellent global worker).  Successful pitches are unique, catchy and brief, and use active verbs.  Students should be encouraged to have two pitches – one with more international flair than the other. And they should practice with advisers, professors and fellow students so that they become completely comfortable saying it.

Write a Superb Cover Letter. The same rules apply as in the domestic search, but in addition, an applicant’s international persona must come through loud and clear so that an employer’s interest will be piqued by the relevant qualifications. I recommend that students draft their first cover letter in response to an actual global job they want.  And don’t forget that eMail communications matter!

Draft a Global Resume or CV.  A good global resume illustrates a student’s international education, experience and skills. But rather than organize the content around professional experience, the international resume should be built around the international skill set.  Global employers need to not only understand what an applicant can do – her technical skills – but also how to assess her ability to operate in a foreign or cross-cultural environment.

Build an online brand through social networking sites.  Although it can be a double-edged sword, employers expect to find applicants online and students can do a lot to differentiate themselves. Students should also be prepared to address any negative issues that may come up due to embarrassing online activities or photos.

Campus counselors play an important role in helping students launch an international career. As long as our higher-ed institutions embrace the importance of increasing students’ international exposure while on campus, everyone can work toward adequately preparing them for the global marketplace. Many internationalists I know recall that their very first overseas post came through a campus career center. Go Global!

If you’re interested in having me speak on your campus — or advise you one-on-one with your job search — connect with me at I offer an affiliate program for students.

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