One of the stranger parts of working in my corner of higher education is explaining my job to "regular people". When I tell them my title, they have all of these questions and I tend to deflate them with my answers.
Person: Ooooh, I bet you travel around the world a lot!
Me: Not really. I work on a campus. Mostly I email.
Person: It must be fun getting to plan trips for people.
Me: Nah, I don't really do that.
Person: Well, I bet you speak all of the languages!
Me: My Spanish is comparable to that of a 4-year-old with a strong grasp of the present tense.
If I'm feeling surly I break into something about 24/7 crisis response and pulling my grocery cart over to run a StudioAbroad locator search on my phone when a glance at my Facebook feed reveals a terror incident took place. (I'm super fun at parties.)
If you are a new reader of Study Abroad Careers this dream job fantasy might be what has drawn you to the field in the first place and how you landed on this website. You definitely studied abroad and now want to keep living that global life (kudos). Working in study abroad seems like the best way. It totally can be a dream job, just not in the ways you first think. Working inside study abroad is way different and sometimes even better than being on the other side.
If you are a long-time reader you probably already know my goal is to show the authentic honest portrait of what we do in international education vs. sell the Instagram version. That's why I feature real people in the field via Real Careers. That is why I have guest bloggers and interviews about different facets of the work. I want people to know that even though I'm not jet-setting, playing Rick Steves, or a polyglot, I still have a truly fantastic job. It's not because of the cool factor, it's because I get to interact with students during one of the most meaningful times in their lives.
Why am I telling you all this? Because so many people fall in love with the idea of working in education abroad that they jump right to job applications part before taking the time to consider what they want and need from a job. Then they wind up a bit deflated if that specific job doesn't provide what they hoped. It took me 15+ years to figure out that if you want to be truly happy in your work it's not just about working in the field. If you don't want to burn out, you also need to think hard about 2 more pieces:
1) In what kind of environment do you thrive?
2) How do you want to spend your days?
Those things can matter so much more than the job title or pay. The mission of your organization might light you on fire, but how do you actually fill those 40+ hours? And what is your work environment like? Surprisingly, this can vary WIDELY based on where you work and what role you have within that organization. A person who has the job title Regional Field Recruiter for a 3rd party study abroad program provider will have days that look very different from a person who is a Study Abroad Program Assistant in the exact same company.
The recruiter might work from home 10 months a year and spend upwards of 75% of their time traveling regionally with no time for a pet or partner. When they are not standing at a college info table or giving presentations (trying not to lose their voice), they are entering contact details from student interest cards at the Comfort Inn or following up with students via email from a laptop at the airport. They only interact with students on the front end and never get to hear about a given student's experiences but they have all the frequent flyer miles and hotel points to score a summer vacay.
Conversely, the program assistant might never travel unless they are lucky enough to get their turn to go to NAFSA. Instead they work in an office with a team of awesome study abroad pros who helped onboard them (and like to walk on lunch breaks). They might have zero face-to-face contact with college students, but their days are filled with phone calls to participants (and wary parents) from universities all over the US. They exchange emails (in English) with colleagues at universities abroad, having to keep the time zones in mind as they work. The walls of their cubicle might be lined with thank you postcards from former students they've never actually met.
And it is not just the title that makes things different "on the ground". A Study Abroad Advisor working at a small liberal arts college will likely have a different type of day and work environment than someone with the same title in a large research university. Office size, university demographics, institutional philosophy, access to technology, bureaucracy, budget constraints.... all of these will impact the way you are expected to do your job. You won't be able to foresee all of these factors up front but it is helpful to do some reflection before you set out on a job search.
If you are already in the field and considering a move to another role/organization you probably already know the answers to the questions below. If you have never had a full-time job, it might be hard to know, but prior schoolwork or part-time jobs can still help you to take an inventory of where you stand.
So think about it...
Notice how none of those questions have anything to do about study abroad?
Now go back to those study abroad job descriptions you were just checking out, eagerly ready to apply online. Do these jobs still meet YOUR criteria? Is it too hard to get a feel? Could some informational interviews with working professionals help you better understand which roles and organizations are a good fit? If you are already actively engaged in a search....Think about your upcoming phone or in-person interview. What new questions might you want to ask at the end of the interview? Are there things you want to pay attention to as you tour the office?
This summer I've been thinking a lot about some of the fantastic people I've met as founder of Study Abroad Careers. I've interviewed all sorts people who were willing to share about their study abroad career, their international education job search, or their entrepreneurial journey. Sometimes I knew the person, other times it was a phone call, Skype, or email with a stranger. Regardless of the connection - real or virtual - expanding my network of professionals has been the greatest reward to grow from Study Abroad Careers. Which brings me to Sinclair.
One of my favorite collaborations came in 2016 after a Twitter connection with a total stranger. I reached out to Sinclair because I admired all the good he was putting out into the world. He just had this energizing positive spirit that sparked my creative side. He was kind enough to partner with Study Abroad Careers on a fun project to support study abroad job seekers with #MyHappyMail. You can read more about it here. We still get requests for Happy Mail by the way ;-)
Since our collaboration, I've continued to follow Sinclair on social media and subscribe to his weekly newsletter, Sinclair.ity. I've watched him hone in on his life purpose and find new ways to engage and support others in higher education and beyond. He now has a podcast, has been doing public speaking engagements, shares his fitness and mental health journey, and remains true/vulnerable throughout it all. I've loved watching from afar but decided to tag in with him recently just to get an update and ask if he'd send me a quick video update for all of you.
If you are in the middle of a study abroad job search or just trying to figure out what's next in life, I encourage you to consider adding Sinclair to your daily dose of pick-me-ups. As a person who is probably more stuck in the middle that I want to admit, I find interjecting positive into my life has a contagious effect.
Over the coming months I plan to provide updates on the people featured on this site in the hopes that you can continue to learn from their stories. Is there someone you want to hear from? Just let us know in the comments.
Just this week I completed a survey for someone's dissertation (having worn student-researcher shoes I always respond to surveys). One survey question asked me to report "why you decided to work in international education". There were a number of choices to put in rank order, including: committed to developing global citizens, personal intercultural experiences, want to make a difference, desire to travel, stable career, salary incentives (hahaha!), and others. To tell you the truth, I struggled with this task more than I should have.
Why is it I wanted to do this work again?!?
This is my 15th year. At this point study abroad is a well-worn career path. If I think back to when I first made a commitment to pursue a study abroad job I wanted to make a difference and had this deep desire to help others become global citizens, particularly students from backgrounds where international travel seemed out of reach.
I'm now at an institution that allows me to fulfill those goals. This is probably why it still feels satisfying all these years later. Yet I will be the first to admit that, setting aside the lofty do-goodism stuff, there's also nice comfort in a stable cyclical university job. Every day is different, but I generally know what is coming. I know when to predict the crazy weeks. And it's summer now so the change of pace helps me to recharge. Over time I've grown to see job satisfaction isn't just about the type of industry you work in, but also finding happiness in what your days look like.
Completing that survey also pushed me to reflect upon the Study Abroad Careers community. So many of you are just starting out in your international education journey. I continue to be inspired by how hard study abroad job seekers work to break into the field these days. It seems like a good time to touch base and ask, what's your why? Is it the same do-goodism? The possibility of travel? The chance to follow in the footsteps of a mentor? Something else?
Comment below to let me know:
Why do you want to find a study abroad job? What drives you?
Quick Global Pro Institute update for any of you who are considering joining GPI during fall 2017. You now have 2 different options for the class and can pick the one that best fits your personality and career needs.
GPI 101: Self Study
This is exactly what it sounds like. You get the core content of the program without the coaching or GPI community. This works great if you are fairly self-directed or are already in the field. Learn more or register
GPI Masterclass: Coached
This option includes weekly group coaching from Brooke for the 4-week program, access to a private Facebook group for support, and 1-on-1 coaching from Brooke. If you are new to international education, this option is great because of the networking aspect. Learn more or register
Wednesday, November 15, 2017 (8 pm EST/5 pm PST) Brooke will be holding a free Fireside Chat: The Biggest Mistakes I've Made in My IE Career (so far). If you just want to get a free teaser and see what kind of advice you can expect from GPI, this is a great start. Register for free online
And if you are wondering why GPI, be sure to check out this post where I lay it all out.
Have a great #IEW17 Everyone!
- Kelly K.
Networking is a critical part of the study abroad job search process. We've all heard the saying, "It's not what you know, it's who you know". Well, it's often true. You obviously need the skills to do the job, but first you need an interview or personal connection where you can communicate your potential. A referral from an insider, who will personally vouch for your work quality and motivation, can help you get a second look or open doors to future opportunities. This is true for newbies and those of you looking to move up/on from an exisiting position.
I get that you already know this stuff. I'm not telling you anything new. But I mention it because what I do find is that how to request help and what to do after recieving help isn't as well understood. Your actions at these two points can make the difference between a professional contact actively supporting your job search or just providing the perfunctory recommendation letter. To be honest, if you really miss the mark you could jeopardize future requests for help.. Yikes!
So here are 3 tips, based on my experiences on the referral side of things --
First, say "Please"
This may seem rather basic, but ask before you list someone as a reference. Even if you are 100% certain the individual will serve and say wonderful things about you, ASK. Even if they said, "thanks for being a kickass intern this summer, feel free to use me as a reference", ASK. Ask nicely and give the person an "out" (you don't want someone who is less than enthusiastic or rushed filling this role). Ask for each and every job posting.
Why? If I get an unexpected phone call from an employer who is interested to hear about your work performance and I don't know: 1) which institution or organization 2) what position it is for 3) your current resume details or 4) why you want this job, how am I supposed to knock it out of the park for you? I need to know some basics before I can answer their questions and serve as a positive reference. It's also basic professional courtesy.
I get that you might be applying on a short timetable and it is 3 AM, but at the very least, send an email to fill them in. If you have already spoken to the person and they have agreed to be a reference, you should repeat "the ask" for each position, providing updated information about the new job postings as you apply.
REAL LIFE EXAMPLES:
I once got a call about a wonderful former employee but had to bumble my way through because I wasn't sure if the position was in study abroad or for a residence life position. There is a huge difference in what I'd say, and how I'd say it, based on which position was at stake.
I've also received a call for someone who did not provide a current resume and although I had glowing things to say, the most basic question, "Tell me how long you have know candidate X" was met with an awkward pause as I tried to do mental math and figure out when she last worked in my office. When you have been in a position for a while and take on multiple graduate assistants, practicum students, student employees, and volunteers it can blend together. I don't always have the best memory about these things and I presume other supervisors experience the same "brain blur". Help us out. We don't want a conflict with your resume details.
Stay in touch
Try your best to not just ask and run. If someone agrees to serve as a reference for a job and you have updated information about where you are in the search, take a minute and give them an update too. Let them know if you have landed an in-person interview. Or if you have changed your mind and are no longer searching for positions in study abroad, but are now applying to jobs working with international admissions, let them know. If your geographic target shifts, let them know. You never know when the contact can send along new leads. It also shows you are professional and organized. You don't need to give them a full play by play, but help them feel engaged and invested in your search process with a quick message when it counts.
Remember to say "Thank You"
If you get the job, let them know and send a thank you! Email is the most basic way to say thanks, but a handwritten note is far better. Your reference is now a professional colleague upon whom you might need to call for advice or services. I can tell you it makes a HUGE impression if you do it right. See this adorable bamboo plant to the left...
I received it from an individual I was informally coaching for several years. When she told me she finally "broke in" we were both in a celebratory mood. But I was totally surprised when such a kind, symbolic, and thoughtful gesture showed up at my office the next week. This study abroad pro has a lifelong fan. There may have been a small tear involved that day.
On the other hand, I've had indviduals contact me for references, never provide an update about the job or their search process, then contact me again out of the blue. Their only communication is when they reach out because they want something from me again. It's usually along the lines of, "Hey, Kelly, I need a letter for X by Friday. Thanks!" That doesn't feel very professional and certainly doesn't make me feel like going out of my way for them. You don't need to bribe anyone, Just show some basic appreciation for their role in the process. The person writing you a letter or agreeing to have that 10 minute phone conversation with your future employer is busy .
It can feel like the "list 3 references" is just another field to fill out on an application, but reference input usually comes at the crucial time when the employer is deciding if you get the job or not. In some ways this is more important than the resume. So remember to make the right impression everywhere it counts.
Emerging Educator Spotlight Series
These short interviews feature Study Abroad Careers readers, allowing YOU to share your own career experiences with the community, whether it's a job search, graduate school, or an entrepreneurial journey.
Q. What’s Culture Deep, Inc.?
A. We're a digital education company--which means all/most of our resources are available online and in digital form. That's how we work. What we do is... we create tools to help students translate their study abroad experiences into lifelong, concrete skills.
Q. How about you? Could you share a little about your background and connection to intercultural work?
A. I grew up in an intercultural family, so that's naturally always been my lens.
For example, my mom has incredible cultural intelligence. So, we grew up around a lot of cultures and had to learn early how to adapt and apply nuance to everything. Now, I just automatically assume all of my interactions are intercultural, even when the differences aren't immediately apparent.
And then, because my dad is from Liberia, I spent a big part of my childhood in the U.S. organizing with immigrants and exilees to end the Liberian civil war. That experience taught me that you can do a lot of what we typically think of as "internationally focused work" without even using your passport.
Q. What about your passport? What overseas experiences have you had?
A. I've had some really meaningful experiences abroad. The most life changing ones have been:
Q. So what prompted you to launch Culture Deep, Inc.?
A. There were two big pulls to starting Culture Deep, Inc. and focusing on after study abroad work, specifically.
The first was that I had been really involved in youth rights advocacy since I was a teenager. And at some point, I started noticing how much adults would parade us [young people] around as having all of this potential--but then they never really gave us the tools or education we needed to live out that potential. That observation became an obsession and I did tons of research--even a dissertation--trying to imagine new tools and systems and resources to change that.
The second was coming back from living and working abroad in non-heritage countries. I really wanted to bring parts of the culture back with me, but I wanted to make sure I was doing it respectfully and not consumptively. So, I started writing and researching and having all of these conversations and--because my brain works in flow charts and lists--I created a bunch of tools for myself. When I started sharing those tools with friends, they responded pretty positively.
Then, of course, I started making the connections between how much we talk about study abroad as this amazing educational / skill-rich experience on one hand, but--on the other hand--how few tools students actually have to really tap into the full potential of study abroad. So, things just came full circle.
Q. What do you hope returned students take away from your website?
A. The website is always evolving. But in an ideal world, it would be incredible if it were the first place all students went after coming back from abroad--because they still have work to do.
One thing that's always frustrated me is that sometimes we talk about study abroad as an end in and of itself. But it's not. It's just a means to a certain set of skills, experiences, relationships, and so on. As a student--after you get back from abroad--you have to find ways to make your skills a habit, to keep having new experiences that challenge you, to keep building on your relationships with folks from other cultures, and a few other things. Our goal is to make tools that help students do all of those things and more.
Q. How can study abroad advisors benefit from After Study Abroad?
A. One of our biggest goals is to take the pressure off of advisors who genuinely want to offer great after study abroad support, but can't because they're stretched too thin to actually design the full curriculum.
Not to mention how powerful it is to create an environment where prospective students can see their peers articulate the exact skills they got from study abroad or their specific plan for integrating their experiences into their everyday lives. For students and parents that's inspiring--and pretty recruitment worthy!
Here's how you can engage and get the most out of our tools:
Q. What's on the horizon?
A. Our big picture plan is to expand beyond just after study abroad and create tools for the whole process--before, during, and after--so students can really make all of the connections they need. That's a ways away though. Right now, it's all about creating more resources, talking to people so we can understand where the gaps are, educating folks about why it's so important to do this work after they get back, collaborating with really smart people, and a bunch of other things.
The coolest thing that I'm most excited about, though, is that we've decided to create an internship program for anyone in the Chicago area who's starting to explore the idea of a study abroad career. You can learn more at: https://afterstudyabroad.com/internship/
If you’re reading this blog, you likely have a passion for higher education and foreign travel, and for good reason- ask anyone who has worked or studied abroad and they will tell you the experience changed their lives in the best possible way. Countless studies have shown the positive impact of experiences abroad to a student’s academic career, as well as their personal lives and future professional endeavors. However, even with all of the noted benefits of studying abroad, the percentage of students who actually participate is very small (but growing!). As important as study abroad experiences are, there are definitely challenges students must overcome in order to participate. These challenges can end up being too daunting and can prevent student participation.
One group that faces its own unique set of challenges are students in science fields. Research has shown that students in the sciences are less likely to participate in study abroad programs. While common inhibiting factors such as cost, language barriers, and personal safety are relevant to science students as well, they also face specific roadblocks. By determining and understanding these, higher education professionals can begin to address and eliminate them.
1. Science Faculty and Admin Support
Students in the sciences face pressure from faculty and administration to meet the strict course requirements and deadlines for science majors. These staff members might see study abroad as unimportant in comparison to other strict requirements, or may be unaware of options and opportunities for students in these fields. They also might struggle with how to support students before and during study abroad programs.
2. Sequence Classes
Many science courses are taken in series that require one to be taken in order to take subsequent classes. These courses are often impacted and only offered in certain semesters. If a student skips a sequence course in one semester for any reason, they may have to wait until the same semester in the following year to take it again. This can seriously affect when the student graduates. This is probably one of the most difficult challenges these students face, because it can seem like there really is no way around it. It is much easier for students who take these courses to plan ahead. For example, EA staff can reach out to science students in their freshman year, explain the benefits of study abroad, and encourage students to plan out their courses with their academic advisors, including their time abroad.
3. Lack of Options
The majority of students who participate in a study abroad program are from the social sciences. It seems like so many of the programs that the typical school offers include courses in these fields. While it is entirely possible for science students to take these classes to satisfy elective or general education requirements, it would be ideal to offer major requirements abroad as well. EA staff can seek out partnerships with schools and programs that offer science courses. Further, staff can consider partnering with science faculty to create faculty-led programs in specific fields. UC Riverside is encouraging more science student participation by offering faculty led summer programs in the sciences, such as biology in Panama and computer science, electrical engineering, and computer engineering in Switzerland. Another way staff can help science students navigate their options is by creating a way to search programs by major on their website, which is another step UC Riverside has taken to better help students choose their own program.
4. Simply Unaware
EA staff should be more proactive about working with science students, because many times these students will simply assume there isn’t time to study abroad, or there aren’t any programs for them, or they will not have the support they need. Just like any student who briefly considers going abroad before forgetting the idea, students in the sciences might be interested but ultimately think the process is too much work. EA staff, as well as staff and faculty in the sciences, must reach out to these students to give them the information and support needed to make the decision.
Every school’s landscape is different. Above all, it is important for higher education professionals within education abroad to get a feel for the needs of the students on their campus. Society is becoming increasingly interconnected, and it is imperative for students to experience cultures other than their own. The sciences are becoming more globalized every day. In order to be successful in their fields, science students must be culturally competent and globally minded. While studying abroad is certainly not for everyone, participating in a program has benefits that can enrich the academic, personal, and professional lives of everyone. It is our responsibility to make studying abroad a possibility for anyone who wants to go. Further, higher education professionals should do their best to create opportunities abroad for students in the sciences. Perhaps the best way to begin creating such opportunities is to foster collaboration between administration in science and education abroad departments.
Resources: http://www.nafsa.org/Policy_and_Advocacy/Policy_Resources/Policy_Trends_and_Data/Trends _in_U_S__Study_Abroad/
When I first started Study Abroad Careers, my intended audience was the true newcomer - someone who was trying to break in but didn't have the support or resources to fully understand the field. It didn't take long before I realized a significant portion of the blog readers were current education abroad professionals. These people are secretly lurking because they are engaged in an incognito job search or just seeing what is out there.
(Hello, friend! Your secret is safe with me.)
In a recent conversation with Missy Gluckmann, from Melibee Global, I learned they also work with international educators who are well-established in the field. These job-seekers understand the value and benefit of coaching and professional development. They also need to remain anonymous as they reach out for this type of help.
It then dawned on me that while breaking in feels really hard, job 2 onward can be equally challenging. You have the skills and experience down, but you can't really shout "hire me" from the rooftops like you could before. Networking for your next position, while still employed in your current role, takes delicate maneuvering and time. There's another thing...During early to mid-career, you aren't just looking for a job. You are developing a resume storyline. Each subsequent position matters a bit more.
Given all this, in the middle part of your career it's common to feel a bit "stuck". That's why I want to share some information about two career resources that should be of interest to mid-career professionals:
This is ideal for anyone who needs a strategic sounding board, but is particularly useful for current education abroad professionals. Missy provides one-on-one private coaching, tailored to your career development needs. Learn more.
Webinar: International Educators Coping with Stress: Striking a Balance
If you work in study abroad you are no stranger to work-related stress. From managing health and safety, to working in an understaffed office, sometimes we forget to put on our own oxygen mask first. This affordable webinar will help you restore your balance. The LIVE webinar will be held on Thursday, October 27th at 3 pm (EST). All contributions for the session will be donated to the Jane Gluckmann and Carol Rausch Go Global Scholarship (administered by the Fund for Education Abroad). Learn more.
As time goes on, I'll continue to share resources like these and perspectives for mid-career professionals alongside the "breaking in" posts. Just know I realize you are here. Please stick around. And be sure to drop me a line if there is something I can do to better address topics of interest to you as a mid-career professional.
You might remember over the summer I announced how super excited I was to (finally) share the Global Pro Institute with readers because everyone wants ways to break in without grad school. Then I gave you just a short window of time to jump on board with GPI before the enrollment door slammed shut.
Maybe you checked it out, then and thought it sounded cool, but you never pulled the trigger because: Life. That's okay.
Today I received the awesome news that Brooke is enrolling for the Fall 2016 GPI Cohort that begins October 3rd. You have until October 2nd (@ 11 pm CST) to check it out and jump onboard.
What's The Global Pro Institute?
GPI is a 6-week online class designed to teach you about the inner workings of the study abroad field, including how the job search process works from the other side. It's not just resume and cover letter stuff, you'll get the chance to hear from experienced professionals who are working in the field, some in jobs you probably didn't know existed. You'll network with other GPI cohort members (like Simon did). These are the same folks who will one day be your colleagues in the field (!!!) And you will get personalized coaching and feedback from Brooke Roberts, of Inside Study Abroad. The other great thing is that GPI is not just for newcomers. The program is versatile enough for those of you looking to find a better fit within international education.
Here is where I'm gonna be super real with you. This practical (vs. theoretical) foundation is something you will not learn in grad school. No college has a class where you are taught the lingo you need, or understand the difference between a 3rd Party Provider and a university study abroad office, or why you might be better suited to work in one and not the other. To be 100% honest, even if you were to get a study abroad graduate assistantship like I did, it would still take a year (or more) to really truly take it all in.
This is because no one's going to sit you down and really tell it like it is. As a grad student you are likely shielded from some of the political realities of the work. Heck, I was ending the first full year of employment in a professional study abroad advising job before I really truly *got* the full international education ecosystem. Why? Because I did not have anyone like Brooke coaching me.
Ready to become a #GlobalPro?
Whether you want to take your job search to a new level, or you are just curious about the program, explore GPI in more detail and decide if this is the right move for you. The next cohort won't start until February 2017 and this round is expected to fill. So here's where you begin...
Want a FREE preview of the kinds of things Brooke teaches in her Global Pro Institute? You are in luck. She is offering a live webinar this Wednesday (9/28/16 at 8 PM CST) on the Biggest Mistakes in the International Education Job Search. All you have to do is sign up. The first 50 people who sign up can join live. But no worries, the webinar will be recorded so anyone who wants a peek can get it. Just sign up using the button below.
Forget March, this September came in like a lion. The back to school energy on my campus meant busy days filled with heaps of excited students asking questions about study abroad. There were two new peer advisors to train (using some of Abbie's awesome training advice). Then I had a bit of regional travel for a few study abroad meetings.
Just because I was busy tending to "the day job" doesn't mean I've stopped cultivating study abroad job search nuggets for all of you here on the blog. It might be mid-September, but better late than never is my new motto.
Last week, while making that 10-hour roundtrip drive to my meeting destination, I had the chance to take in a new audiobook that fired me up: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (yes, the Liz Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame). I highly recommend the book, even if you don't consider yourself "a maker". Check it out. Seriously. Do it!
In the book, Gilbert shares a great career advice tidbit from Mark Manson's blog where he talks about finding your life purpose. She explains that all jobs -- even what you perceive as the "dream jobs" have a part that sucks. It is 100% true. Every job requires some level of sacrifice So finding the right fit is less about "your passion" and more about what negative things you are willing to tolerate to chase your dream. Or as Mason says,
"What flavor of shit sandwich would you like to eat?"
Wowza! How many ways do I love that?!
Isn't it the truth, though? The downside is ever so important to consider as you pursue a job-- whether it is your first job or your fourteenth. What kinds of sacrifices you are willing to make? Would you take low pay, an undesirable location, a cross-country move, horrible long hours, a title demotion, zero flexibility, abysmal benefits, no travel, too much travel, responsibility levels that induce stress? You get the idea...
Considering the not-so-glam side of a job is a great way to stay grounded in your search.
Our natural tendency is to read a job description and immediately start dreaming about our new life in that perfect position. (This is particularly true if you are already in a job you feel has let you down.) Think about it -- if you are in a job now, surely at some point that job seemed like a perfect opportunity. And it likely was fab. You learned. You grew. You paid those student loans. But here you sit, looking through job postings, hoping to find something your current position cannot provide-- things you need to nurture your "you-ness".
In this process of searching and dreaming it is easy to lose sight of reality. Every job has something that is less than ideal. You probably just don't have the inside information to see it yet. This is an important truth to accept. It doesn't mean you shouldn't strive for growth and possibility in a new role. Not at all. It just means that maybe choosing your next move involves looking at the benefits and drawbacks before you leap. It means you ask more questions of yourself. Know your dreams but also come to terms with what kind of "shit sandwich" you can stomach.
So how about it? What are you willing to put up with to fulfill your ultimate career goals?
Pre-departure orientation for study abroad is one of the most exciting parts of my job. The possibilities are endless. Orientation is an area of my work where I can interject creativity and get to teach fun content that makes a difference in the lives of students. Of course it is also challenging to provide appropriate orientation to hundreds of students going to hundreds of different locations with a tiny staff.
When I debrief with students during re-entry they always have criticism of orientation. It used to bother me, but I've come to realize it has less to do with orientation and more to do with how much they have grown and changed during their study abroad program.
Hindsight is 20/20. Students will simultaneously tell me that orientation was overwhelming with information overload AND say that we did not give them enough information to foresee exactly what would happen through each step of the overseas experience.
This is 100% understandable when you think about it. First-time study abroad is scary. Going to someplace new (alone) provokes anxiety. If I give them all of the details in an attempt to reduce their fear of the unknown, I also create information overload. But if I stick to broad topics they panic that they don't know what is ahead.
There is no perfect orientation. This is something I have come to learn, but it took time. When I first started my study abroad career I tried to create the orientation I wished I had, only to find that it still didn't meet the needs of my students. And as I have interviewed a variety of peer advisors and study abroad career hopefuls, this is a reoccurring theme. Nearly every newcomer says something negative about their study abroad preparation and how it sparked their desire to contribute to the field. [ INTERVIEW TIP: Tread carefully here-- it makes you seem judgemental vs. motivated if you rag on your advisors]
While I've resigned to the fact that pre-departure orientation will never be all that I hope, I have not given up on improving student engagement with the content. My favorite way to do this is through multimedia. You might be thinking, "Wait didn't you say you already have a tiny office?" Yep! There are 3 of us. And I have zero budget. Zero movie-making skills. Limited time...you get the picture...
This brings me to my favorite (free) orientation hack -- YouTube.
I use YouTube videos in orientation to bring things to life and keep the attention of students. There's tons of great content already out there that can be used in orientation. You just have to look.
Sometimes it takes a bit of work to frame the content. For example, I use this video by a study abroad student in Japan to demonstrate the W-Curve model of culture shock and re-entry but always explain that it doesn't matter where the video takes place -- there is commonality in the experience.
I'll show the video first and follow it up with the more technical chart, showing the W curve model (Gullahorn & Gullahorn, 1963) and requisite disclaimers. Then I'll refer back to points in her video where I suspect she was experience the different peaks and valleys of adjustment.
Another example is this video by UCSB I used to use for discussions on cultural stereotypes. It grabs their attention and provokes reflection to hear international students (and returnees) speak about Americans on study abroad. Many of my students haven't considered themselves as "having culture" and only think of study abroad from a position of self fulfillment. Using the clip is a good fun way to provoke dialogue on the ugly American stereotype.
Those are just two examples of easy free ways I spice up orientation with zero time or money resources available. I'm curious to hear from other education professionals on this topic. Surely I'm not alone in using this hack.
Do you ever use YouTube in your orientation?
Are there videos you recommend?
Has anyone found good content on Vimeo? Other sites?
Share your ideas and links in the comments below.
Resumes are hard work.
No one I know actually likes creating and updating a resume. If you are trying to get a job in study abroad, whether that is straight from university or as a career-changer, you might not even know where to start with one. Most people just customize a template or churn out whatever your campus career center taught you, without regard for the specific industry.
The resume you used for your college internship is likely unsuitable for a study abroad position. And the resume you created for a university study abroad advisor position should definitely be tweaked before sending it off to a study abroad program provider.
If you are mid-career, it is just as important to give your resume the attention it deserves. It is probably more painful too! You still need to do it. This is true even if you don't want to leave your job. Once you are working it is fairly easy to let awesome experiences and skills accumulate without writing your accomplishments down. As much as you think you will not forget that killer project you rocked, you will. I promise. You will.
How do you know? Because mine is outdated. Sooooo outdated. I have a publication coming out this month I haven't added. I've been on at least 3 committees that are not listed. I've applied for 4 grants and I'd have to dig to find the names so I can add them. I also need to create a CV version of the resume, just in case. Yes, this is all totally embarrassing for someone who writes about career development. So use this as a cautionary example.
Why keep a resume updated if you are not job searching? Because you never know when you may need to provide a resume with little to no notice. I've had to include a resume with grant applications, my Fulbright application, for a colleague to see an example of an IE resume, and a few times when a "dream job" popped up and I wanted to toss it out there.
Don't go at it alone.
Getting help with your resume can speed your pathway to a job and make it less painful. Seeing different industry examples is vital. International education has buzzwords which signal you are "in the know" (and also words to avoid). If you already have an education abroad career mentor, reach out for a resume critique. Don't be afraid or take it personal. Just do it!
If you don't have someone available to help, or if you are just starting, consider getting your hands on a resume toolkit designed for international educators. Missy Gluckmann over at Melibee Global has an in-depth resource guide that targets resume design/re-design. She gives you a 100-minute webinar, 35 pages of before & after real resumes (my favorite), a resume resource guide, and tips. And it is actually affordable for unemployed folks. Here's the link:
>>>Resume Tips for International Education
There are also a few general tips available on this site in the Jobs section and you can find some resume content pinned to the Study Abroad Careers Pinterest Board.
But whatever you do, don't put it off or time will slip away. Your resume deserves better!
:: off to update my resume ::
When I talk with people who want my job, there are two questions I always get:
What master's degree do I need for a job in study abroad?
How do I get experience when no one will hire me?
To be honest, I struggle to answer that first question. I have a master's degree (and a doctorate) in student affairs & higher education administration. My graduate assistantship paid for my education while providing hands-on work in a study abroad office. Then my assistantship magically turned in to a full-time study abroad job when my boss quit and I got hired. I was a lucky rainbow unicorn. Okay, there was a lot of hard work and strategic networking in there. But still-- to assume you can just roll on up and do the same is not fair. Things were easier 14 years ago.
I know that grad school is expensive. I also know competition for entry-level study abroad positions is fierce. And in case you didn't hear, study abroad jobs don't pay much. Starting annual salary is typically less than the masters program price tag.
So it is problematic for me to make a blanket referral to grad school without also mentioning:
I hate it when I see aspiring educators who paid 40-50k for a masters still struggling to nab a job interview. It is deflating to their spirit-- not to mention frightening when the student loan statements start coming. Sometimes it works out great, but there is no guarantee.
Similarly, I feel bad when someone spends a year (or more) busting tail to break in, only to succeed then hate their job 3 months later. Just because you love to travel doesn't mean you'll love being tied to a desk 12 months/year sending others off on the adventures you long to have.
The work experience question is more challenging. The easiest way to get work experience is while you are still a student, whether that be undergraduate peer advisor or graduate assistant / practicum student. Part-time work and training are more accessible when you are in a university setting.
Yet most of the people I talk to already graduated from university. They have full-time jobs to pay the bills. Or they are unemployed and need something fast. They might have time to volunteer, but they don't have the right connections to get set up with a volunteer position. So while it's easy for me to spout off, "hey, go volunteer to get experience", truth be told, even unpaid work can be difficult to secure on your own.
These 2 frequently asked questions were key motivators for the creation of this website. I wanted to provide a resource to demonstrate there's no one right pathway to a study abroad career. And I wanted to be really upfront about what it means to have a study abroad career. Working in these jobs is not always the dream it seems when you are a program participant. I'll be the first to tell you it is not for everyone or every stage of life.
Why I am telling you all this? Because I want you to know you have options.
Early on in the creation of Study Abroad Careers I knew I wanted to help others find ways around the common roadblocks. I had a few brainstorms and made some notes. But as is true so many times in life, I set it aside and it remained "just an idea". I was busy raising a kiddo, finishing my doctorate, working my day job, and building this website to share with you.
Fast forward to fall 2015...someone else beat me to the punch. Brooke Roberts, from Inside Study Abroad, built and launched Global Pro Institute (GPI). After kicking myself for my lack of action, I quickly got over it and my regret turned to complete and total excitement. Why? Because here's the thing -- it's better than anything I could have created. Honest.
The Global Pro Institute directly addresses 2 common roadblocks: education & experience
I (cautiously) connected with former GPI program participants, saw their progress, and checked out what all was involved. My initial fear was that GPI was just selling "the rockstar dream". But those fears went out the door when I explored the content of the classes and saw how people were inspired to move from dreams to actionable steps.
In mid-April I reached out to Brooke by Skype to see if Study Abroad Careers could partner to provide the class to readers. During that conversation, I realized we are on the same page, working for the same goal. We may have different approaches, but she is exactly the cheerleader job seekers need.
GPI provides everything I don't have time to give you right now. Study Abroad Careers is a major labor of love. And I want each and every one of you to grow and bloom in your careers, regardless of how that happens. I decided my only option was to share information about GPI with readers and let you decide.
Global Pro Institute (GPI)
The 3rd cohort of Global Pro Institute is about to close soon, but there's still time to sign up for this round. Registration ends on Sunday, July 10, 2016.
Here are some things you might want to know about GPI:
Who is the Global Pro Institute for?
Anyone who has a sincere desire to work (or grow) in the field of education abroad. I say sincere because it is a commitment. It is a real class. Brooke has a student affairs background and knows how to design a learning program that is also fun and energizing. The course lasts 6 weeks and is designed to jumpstart you. As with anything, you get out what you put in. So you have to be ready to reflect, listen, and LEARN.
What is included in the GPI package?
And after you complete the GPI class (this part is new):
You can find out all the details on the website HERE And a good way to preview what that really looks like is to search social media for #GlobalPro
How Do I Sign Up?
If you feel like this is something you could benefit from, here is where you can go to sign up:
Click Here to Enroll in the Global Pro Institute
Disclosure: Study Abroad Careers is a GPI Ambassador, if you use our links we get funds to contribute toward our web hosting fees (but, sadly, it's not enough for a pony).
Is GPI for me?
Only you can answer that. It depends on what you want to accomplish, what you already tried, and what you are willing to put into your career development. What I can tell you, is that you won't get any of the same content or experiences in a graduate program, regardless of what you study. It is practical stuff vs. theoretical.
I support GPI because I feel like this is the content and approach I recommend to people through Study Abroad Careers. Do I wish I'd created GPI. Heck, yeah! But I'm also the first to admit I just don't have the time to put together such a comprehensive resource right now. That doesn't change the fact that I still want you to know it is available and to take advantage if this kind of program suits you.
The job search can be daunting. We play the waiting game, cross our fingers, and send thank you emails only to find out that we are not being considered for a position. If you’re like me, you start to think “Maybe something is wrong with me. Maybe I’m not an ideal candidate at all.” These thoughts creep in, but they are not true. We are qualified, hard working, and dependable. It helps to be reminded of this in the face of rejection letter after rejection letter.
That’s where this new project comes in. Kelly and I want to be the cheerleader in your corner. You, the brave job searcher, who has been putting so much into this search. We are thrilled to be doing this project because we know what it’s like to push through the fog, the sleepless nights, and the anxiety inducing interviews. It’s not easy.
If any of this is tugging at you right now, you are who we’d love to send something super special to. Oh, and it is FREE. All you need to do is click the following link to sign up to receive some job search motivation via snail mail.
Click HERE to Get Free & Happy Mail
Thank you for showing up to this process. Thank you for your bravery. Let’s keep working this thing together.
P.S. Feel like you need more support? Sign up for Sinclair.ity a weekly dose of email positivity from Sinclair.
Do you ever stumble across someone in the field doing something truly energizing, and think, "Wow, I love what they are doing". It happens to me all the time. When I come across a higher education rock star, I track them down on social media so I can pin/follow/like and generally bookmark them for my own professional inspiration. That is how first I came across Sinclair Ceasar, creator of www.thesapronextdoor.com and author of Two Thousand Hours: Advice for a New Student Affairs Professional.
Sinclair works at Loyola University Maryland as the Assistant Director of Student Life. He's also a public speaker who conducts university workshops on topics such as community engagement, networking, conflict resolution & management.
You may be thinking, wait-- Sinclair is a student affairs professional, not an international educator. What gives? Well, I strongly believe that international education can be a bit too insular. I try hard to remain connected to other areas of higher education, particularly the good work being done in student affairs. This is how I grow as a professional.
I signed up for Sinclair's email newsletter in June 2015 because I was inspired by "Notes from Sinclair". This is a project where he sends a free inspirational snail mail to strangers who need a pick-me-up. Anyone can sign up (or sign someone else up) and get them on the list to receive a kind handwritten note. Want to see what I am talking about? Just check out #notesfromsinclair
Like most of you can imagine, I forgot about it and moved on. (Sorry, Sinclair). Life got in the way. So it goes. Until one day, as I was writing this post about job search burnout I thought back to Sinclair's "happy mail" project, and his sincere desire to make kindness go viral. I decided to check back in on his blog and sent him some Twitter love
Twitter led to the two of us connecting for an uplifting phone conversation about how we could join forces in supporting Study Abroad Careers job seekers during their long and frustrating search process.
I don't want to give anything away just yet, but I have to share my excitement about connecting with Sinclair, and let you know we have something in the works for you. I am so excited to partner with him to spread his positive energy throughout the education abroad community.
Emerging Educator Spotlight Series
These short interviews feature Study Abroad Careers readers, allowing YOU to share your own career experiences with the community, whether it's a job search, graduate school, or an entrepreneurial journey.
Program Administrator, Summer Sessions & Special Programs, UC Riverside
Former intern, UC Riverside Study Abroad
Bachelors, Art History, UC Riverside
Masters, Art History, UC Riverside
Masters, Higher Education Leadership & Student Development, California Baptist University
(I'm proud to be one of the graduates of the program’s very first cohort!)
During my BA and MA in Art History, I spent the summer studying Shakespeare and the history of London in England. The summer study abroad program I participated in was wonderful; the instructor takes a completely hands-on, immersive approach to learning and teaching. “Class” consisted of walking tours around the city every day, watching Shakespeare plays at the Globe, taking bus and train rides to historical sites around England, visiting museums, and spending time with the professor’s longtime friends in the city.
Q. Tell us about your journey into education abroad work.
A. I recently finished an internship in the Study Abroad department at UC Riverside and started working as a contracted program administrator in UCR’s office of Summer Sessions & Special Programs. My internship was amazing, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity as it gave me the chance to understand what it really means to work in global education on a day-to-day basis and really solidified my desire to break into the field.
Even though I’m eager to move back into the realm of global education, I’m enjoying my current position, as I get to work with both traditional and nontraditional college students as well as take on more administrative, technical projects. I am currently finishing grad school and still volunteering with Study Abroad when I can, along with keeping an eye out for positions that better align with my goals and passions.
Q. What led you to pursue work in study abroad?
A. My obsession with international travel really began in high school, when I was fortunate enough to tour Austria with the chamber choir I was a part of. We sang at a number of concerts, ceremonies, and services in Vienna and Salzburg to participate in Mozart’s 250th birthday celebration. We also got to attend an Austrian high school and hang out with students!
Even at a young age, I had an appreciation for other cultures and a desire for intentional, meaningful travel experiences. This stuck with me throughout college, and when I realized that I want to work in student services, working for a study abroad program just felt right. It felt like a career path that would perfectly blend what I’m good at, along with what I want to do professionally as well as my interests and passions. My internship at UCR sealed the deal.
Q. What part(s) of the study abroad process do you find most interesting?
A. I think the transition that happens in a student when they go from being interested to committed is fascinating. During my internship at UCR I got the opportunity to advise students who had already applied to programs, but also who were at that stage just before committing to going. Talking to these students, telling them about the opportunities we offered and sharing my own experiences and watching their attitudes transform into “yes, I’m doing this” was amazing.
I am also really interested in program sustainability, as well as the collaboration between departments necessary to encourage participation among student groups that have historically lower rates of involvement. I am especially interested in making study abroad more of a possibility for science students, who often face unique challenges that can inhibit participation.
Q. What is your education abroad dream job?
A. Anything that involves frequent site visits! Actually, my dream education abroad job right now would be building a program from the ground up at a campus that doesn’t have one. Specifically, there’s a university that I’m familiar with that does not have its own on-campus study abroad department; the students who do go abroad (there are a few each year) go through outside vendors the school has partnered with. I would love to collaborate and create partnerships with schools abroad and literally build some homegrown study abroad programs for the student body at that campus.
Q. What has surprised you most about the field of study abroad?
A. I will never stop being so amazed by the students who dive headfirst into a study abroad program without having ever traveled before! Seeing students commit to spending months in another country when they might not have ever experienced another culture at all always surprises me. I wish more students had that adventurous spirit!
As I’m learning more about program development and sustainability, I am also very surprised by how much planning and collaboration goes into creating a program. I’ve had quite a bit of experience with the marketing, advertising, and student-centered aspects of program development, but the behind-the-scenes stuff and the sheer amount of work that goes into building a program from the ground up is scary and really, really exciting.
It's the end of May, which means around the world international educators are packing their bags and heading to Denver for the 2016 NAFSA national conference. You've read about the NAFSA conference on this blog and maybe even wondered if you should attend.
Let's face it, not everyone can be there. But I have some super exciting news for you. Next week Study Abroad Careers will be posting video updates from #NAFSA16, providing an insider view of the conference. You'll get to see the NAFSA career center, learn about conference volunteer opportunities, and perhaps "meet" a few people to hear their perspectives on breaking in to study abroad.
UPDATE: Missed our Facebook Live event? No problem.
Check out the videos below.
This year's Forum on Education Abroad conference in Atlanta felt like it was over almost as soon as it started. Abbie and I arrived a day early to take advantage of a pre-conference workshop on digital storytelling in education abroad. The session ran from 8 to 5 and was intense. Time flew by, as it does when you are engrossed in meaningful work.
The session was team-taught by IE pros Doug Reilly and Thomas D'Agostino from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and Joe Lambert from StoryCenter. Joe was a founder in the digital storytelling movement. It was wonderful to have all of them in the room, coaching us in our endeavor.
Before we arrived in Atlanta, the team sent us all an email with our homework-- find a compelling story we wanted to tell, location images to go with the story, and draft a 200-word script. This prep work, while not exactly what you want to do right before you scoot out of the office for a trip, was what made it possible to cram the 3-day workshop into a 1-day session. I started with an article I wrote for this blog. Abbie found a poem she wrote during her re-entry from study abroad in Spain.
The workshop started out with an intensive on digital storytelling principles and a few samples of the art form. We then moved to the story circle phase, where we pitched our script ideas and gave constructive feedback to one another. I cannot say enough about the value of this step. Sometimes we have the kernel of an idea but we don't feel confident about direction or the message we convey until we let others tell us what they are hearing. Having a safe space to do this, and reflecting on the elements of a good story, was a valuable and fun exercise.
As a professional, I write all the time, but rarely (if ever) do I write about deeply personal topics in an emotionally expressive way. Digital storytelling demands this. Somehow limiting our stories to 200 words is a magical formula. It's like poetry. This restriction taught us to be efficient and intentional in our art. You have to find ways to convey a message through thoughtful imagery, words, and tone when all you've got is 200 words. You learn where to cut and where to linger.
The software we used was called WeVideo. It's available free online if you want to try it in the basic version. I found it far more intuitive than iMovie or Moviemaker, but that is just me. It's an easy drag and drop system. You can layer sound and images as well as add in all the fancy effects like other video editing systems.
In the end the technology really takes a back seat to the story. I came into the workshop thinking we'd get a lot of technical training-- and we did learn new things like how different fade effects signal transition or conclusion and ways to layer music. Most of what I learned was how to dig inside myself to find a good story and work hard to shape it into something that draws others in.
At the end of our day we did a little screening party and it was so moving to not only see other people's personal stories, but to acknowledge how far they'd come when just a few hours ago we were in a circle hearing the initial pitches and giving feedback.
On Friday, Tom, Doug, and Joe had a Forum conference session that incorporated our work. They gave an overview of the process to a packed room. They showed a few of our films (Abbie and I made the cut), invited us to speak about how we see ourselves implementing the pedagogy on our campuses, and let us share how it felt to participate in the process. They even added our names to the slide-- so I guess it was not just a workshop but a backdoor to a Forum conference presentation.
It was a strange but rewarding feeling to be able to look around the room and see the response of people watching my story...to see their smiles or hear their gasps and side comments. It is unlike anything I have experienced. Normally when I am presenting my work I am standing in front of a room, too focused on delivery and nerves to really soak up more than a few faces in the crowd. This felt so much less threatening. I can't wait to try digital storytelling with my re-entry students and let them experience the same.
We only had a day so our end products were rough. I'm still a little embarrassed by mine and have so many tweaks I want to make to the images. And I'd love to add a music track. Abbie also feels that hers is just a start so I promised I'd share a disclaimer. She plans to add in more images after a trip to Spain this summer.
But you can at least get the idea of what is possible in a few hours if you let go of perfectionism and allow yourself to reflect on life's lessons:
Abbie's Digital Story
Kelly's Digital Story (adapted from this post)
Emerging Educator Spotlight Series
These short interviews feature Study Abroad Careers readers, allowing YOU to share your own career experiences with the community, whether it's a job search, graduate school, or an entrepreneurial journey.
Specializes in short-term faculty-led and service-learning programs to Colombia
Bachelor of Arts, Sociology, University of Montana
Emphasis in rural and environmental Issues
Graduate level coursework at SIT Graduate Institute, Service Leadership and Management
Emphasis on Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development
Q. What led you to the field of international education?
A. Probably my first experience with civic engagement as a teen in Heart Butte, Montana, really got me thinking outside of myself and exposed to different cultures. My own, unconventional short study abroad experience, sea kayaking in the Sea of Cortez around the Baja Peninsula of Mexico, was my first exposure to experiential education and showed me that learning can occur outside of the classroom. My first international volunteer experience in Trujillo, Peru enabled me to start thinking globally and also more service oriented.
Q. Tell me a bit about your career path.
A. Right after my undergraduate degree, I found myself volunteering internationally in Trujillo, Peru in 2004. After my volunteer time ended, I began teaching ESL at Instituto Cultural Peruano Norteamericano, an institute with the mission of promoting cultural ties between Peru and the United States. I held that position for about 9 months before I left the institution and began giving private English lessons in a smaller nearby beach community.
I came back to the U.S. after 14 months in Peru and was hired to fill in for a teen service trip outfitter. We had one program in Peru and another program in the Dominican Republic. I then found myself hired as an ESL teacher at a non-profit International University in Denver, Colorado.
My most recent position was In-country Director/Volunteer Coordinator for a U.K.-based responsible travel company in Cusco, Peru. We placed travelers with internships and volunteer opportunities in areas such as environmental conservation, social work, marketing, and health and nutrition.
Q. What are you up to these days?
A. I'm in the preliminary stages of developing study abroad programs in Colombia. Through my contacts in Latin America, I’ll travel to the region in late May. First, I will be in Ecuador to attend a seminar on developing International Service-Learning curriculum. Then I’ll depart for Colombia to meet with potential partners, such as educators, NGO's, security experts, journalists, recreational outfitters/tour guides and a handful of other people I've been corresponding with for a long time.
Q. Why Colombia?
A. I'm starting small, with the single country (my place of birth), of Colombia, as I want to be able to dedicate all my efforts and energy to this single project. Colombia is such a unique country with so much to be taken in. I think when people think of South America and travel, perhaps they think of the more common destinations: Ecuador, Peru, Argentina. Or perhaps tend to lump all of South America together. Paint it all with a broad brush stroke; I know I did until I went on to live there later on in my life and really see, despite a lot of these countries sharing a common language of Spanish, just in fact how different they are. Colombia has long been mired in conflict and turmoil. And even today, with popular culture, it can't seem to shake it’s mysterious past. But big, very promising things are emerging in the country. From promising peace dialogues, to very large scale educational initiatives, Colombia is set to take off. Add on to that, just the culture, whether it be the Cafeteros (National Football Team) dancing at the matches, the archaeological sites, to pristine natural landscapes of the Andes Mountains to the Amazon, I feel Colombia is deserving to be discovered. I hope to help facilitate that, through my programs.
Q. What’s the hardest part of this journey? And what gives you energy?
A. The hardest part has been dealing with rejection even before things get underway. I don't believe there is one true template for this sort of thing, I mean there are certainly past models, but I believe there are always new ways to go ahead.
I love talking with other like-minded people who share excitement and passion for international education and meaningful travel. I love networking (in my own introverted way) and hearing about other's stories and paths to how they found their dream job. Growing professionally also gets me excited. I was recently part of a great professional development program called the Global Pro Institute. It really allowed to me to focus on just exactly how I wanted to work in this field of International Education.
I love traveling to remote communities in Latin America and speaking with people whom I may have never interacted with if I had not found myself in this career. I love connecting with students who have also had great study abroad or meaningful travel experiences.
Q. What has been your biggest professional risk?
A. I think my biggest professional risk is what I'm doing right now. That of developing these programs alone. We'll see if it pays off!
Q. What advice would you give to other aspiring international education entrepreneurs?
A. If you have the means to do it, then do it. Hopefully you've developed somewhat of a network/support system that can guide/mentor you along the way but be prepared to run into naysayers but stay the course. We're forever being told of what we can't do so we're not really sure of what we can do.
I'm a fan of asking people to explain things to me like I'm a four year old, because in a lot of ways, I am. I guess ultimately, don't be afraid to ask questions. People who don't ask questions and claim to know everything, make me nervous. As i get older and tend to perhaps take myself too seriously, I also really cherish the ability to take a step back, reassess and then approach things with a degree of innocence and child-like wonder.
My personal advice would be to really show your appreciation to your network and those who guided and acted as mentors for you along the way. I'd rather go just a bit overboard showing my appreciation to those who helped me along the way than to not acknowledge them enough. I've been VERY fortunate to have some great mentors/friends in my corner, and for that, I'm eternally grateful.
If you are new to international education you might be confused by the acronyms or the difference between NAFSA and The Forum on Education Abroad. You might wonder which conference you should attend, if you need to go to both NAFSA and Forum, if regional NAFSA is better, and so forth. Don't sweat it. There is no right answer. Everyone's situation is different. In order to decide what is best for you, start by learning how the two conferences are unique. In that vein, today's post is all about the Forum on Education Abroad annual conference.
[Psst: If you want to learn what it's like to attend NAFSA national conference, be sure to check out last year's posts on Why You Should Attend a NAFSA National Conference and The Anatomy of a NAFSA Conference ]
As I gear up for another Forum Conference in just two weeks (yikes!), I thought I might take some time to share what makes Forum different from NAFSA. Both national conferences have their own vibe. I love each one for different reasons. In my current job, I get to attend one or the other, but not both.
It can be hard to describe, so here are a few ways the two professional development events are different:
The NAFSA national conference covers all of international and global education. The Forum on Education Abroad is solely focused on study abroad. Forum is a chance to be engaged with other professionals who work with non-degree seeking study abroad students (primarily US-based). This means that all of the sessions will be on some aspect of study abroad and exchange. At a Forum conference you don't have to hunt for the study abroad sessions. They are ALL study abroad sessions. NAFSA tends to have more best practices/"how-to" sessions and Forum tends to be more academic/research-driven. But you will find both kinds of sessions at both conferences.
The NAFSA national conference is a huge and high energy event. My last NAFSA national had over 11,000 attendees. Forum conference attendance in 2015 was around 1,200. This makes a big difference in the feel and energy. Forum is more intimate and less overwhelming for the first-timer. I love that the entire Forum conference takes place in the conference hotel, meaning less of your time is spent scuttling to and fro.
NAFSA is a week-long endeavor, with optional pre-conference workshops on Sunday and Monday and sessions taking place from Tuesday to Friday. By the end of the week you are wiped out, having just done 12-16 hour days for 4-6 days. The Forum conference also offers optional pre-conference workshops on Wednesday but the conference is just 2 days: Thursday and Friday. So Forum is about half the duration of NAFSA national and is more comparable to a Regional NAFSA conference.
Whereas NAFSA is jam packed with outside partner meetings to the point where sometimes finding time to attend the sessions you want is a challenge, The Forum strongly discourages these meetings and builds 45-minute breaks between sessions to create time and space for this express purpose. You can attend a Forum conference, have all of your meetings and attend every session. No need to feel conflicted. This is my favorite part.
Your cost of attendance will vary depending on your membership status, number of days you attend, travel distance, and if you opt for pre-conference workshops. Here is a breakdown of the 2016 registration fees (more detail can be found on the respective organization websites).
NAFSA 2016 cost:
Early bird registration: Non-member $925 (FT student $315)/ $555 for 1-day pass
What's included: Access to the Expo hall, all sessions, meetings, plenary sessions, coffee breaks, networking events, career center, poster fair, and the opening reception (includes appetizers and 1 drink ticket)
Not included: Hotel, meals, and any pre-conference workshops you select
*It's worth noting that NAFSA provides discounts if you volunteer over 20 hours in one of several volunteer positions. Not only is this great for saving money, you get to know professionals while working the event. So if your main goal is to break in to the field, this can really pay off in more ways than one. More on how and what you can save here.
Forum 2016 cost:
Early bird registration: Non-member $600 (FT grad student $275) / $300 for 1-day pass
What's included: Access to a small expo hall, roundtable/interactive sessions, continental breakfast/town hall breakfast, coffee breaks, lunch plenary, closing toast.
Not included: Hotel, dinners, and any pre-conference workshops you select
Here is where I feel like NAFSA wins. The Forum timing changes, but is held in either March or April. This happens to be one of the busiest times of the year for education abroad professionals as we prepare most of of our study abroad participants to leave campus. We are right in the middle of things like orientation, registration, paperwork deadlines, etc. Leaving the office during peak time is hard. By contrast, NAFSA takes place at the end of May. By the time NAFSA national rolls around I feel as if I survived the school year and I am ready to reflect and recharge. NAFSA national helps me to remember all the reasons I love my job.
Writing cover letters is hard work. If you are going about it the right way, you are tailoring each one to the specific job. At a certain point it all starts to seem a bit fluffy, doesn't it? When you have cover letter writing fatigue you are more prone to start stuffing in words without thinking about their meaning or how they might be perceived.
Words have different connotations to different people, so there is bound to be a range of responses to what you write in the cover letter. However, here are 4 words I frequently see and explanations of why I suggest you ban them from your cover letter now (including what to put in their place):
I am listing this one first because I am guilty of using the word in my own cover letters. I've described my "passion for advising students" before. It wasn't until I read this great article on the problems with passion talk that I began to question how describing my emotions about study abroad work had anything to do with my ability to meet the expectations of my employer. Do you have a passion for study abroad? Wonderful! That is a prerequisite. But enjoying your own study abroad experience and enjoying the work of administering the programs are two different animals. If you choose to use the word passion, be sure you use it to describe the features of the job itself.
In your cover letter you want to signal you are "in the know" and familiar with the language used by industry professionals. The term trip is generally frowned upon when used to refer to a study abroad program. Instead, use the term program. A trip sounds like a vacation and de-emphasises the academic and programmatic nature of study abroad. Whether you agree with this or not, you will score points by using the common terminology (and might lose credibility for calling your program a trip).
In the case of the word travel, it is not so much the word you should ban, it's what normally follows. Including a summary of all of the places you have travelled is a waste of cover letter real estate. Instead of providing a laundry list of your Eurail whistle stops, only describe meaningful learning experiences abroad. If you have been to lots of places, great. But the important part is to tell the employer why that makes you suited to this job. What did you accomplish during your travels (ex. experiences working alongside different cultures, honing your language skills, fundraising for a charity) and how has that life experience prepared you for this specific job and its duties. Learning how to navigate public transportation and backpack is an accomplishment, but not one that directly relates to most study abroad office jobs.
There are two problems I have with the word immersed. The first is simply that it gets overused. In nearly all scholarship applications, study abroad essays, and cover letters I read, someone drops this word to emphasize the overseas experience as truly foreign. This takes away from its power and starts to generate a little eye-roll after reading it so many times. The second problem is that it comes across as a bit dramatic. Just being abroad, in another country, you are surrounded by difference. Is this how you are using the term immersed? What are you really trying to say? If you mean you lived with a host family in a small town where you did not speak any English for 6 months, and only interacted with host-nationals, describe that instead. And, like travel, tell us how it changed you. How did this immersion impact your worldview, skills, and attitude.
So what do you think? Agree with me? Disagree? Are there others that should be included on this list? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Eventually, all of those résumés you have been sending out will result in a call or email with supremely awesome news-- they want to speak to you about your qualifications for the job. As soon as you are done celebrating, reality will hit and you'll think, "now what?"
Don't panic. Do prepare. Here are some tips on what you can do to get interview-ready.
Don't wing it. Every interview requires preparation. The amount of preparation will depend on the format (phone/Skype/in-person) and the position.
Do your homework. You will need to allocate enough time to carefully review and reflect upon the following:
Don't waste preparation time trying to memorize each program in their program portfolio. This is not expected, nor possible. The interviewer(s) will care about your skill set, prior work experiences, and other soft skills. They will not care how well you spout off memorized facts about their Barcelona program.
Do review the organization website in detail. Things to research on the website:
Don't expect to be asked more than one question about your own study abroad experience. You may not even be asked at all.
Do be prepared to go beyond the standard "it changed my life" if they ask. They will want to hear more reflective accounts of your time overseas. What did you learn? How are you prepared to apply that learning to this job. Focus on that.
Don't forget to anticipate (and practice) potential interview questions. A great place to start is the job description. Review it again and highlight the key requirements. For each requirement, be prepared with a story of a time you took action or demonstrated the skill, and what tangible outcome came of it. Include at least one "I messed up and learned from it" story, in case they ask.
Do write it down. Create a Word document and prepare your stories. The writing activity will help you to internalize the stories so they come out natural when you are in the interview. Think of it as a dress rehearsal.
Don't worry if you struggle to come up with a work-related story for every job requirement. For example, maybe your prior job did not give you the chance to manage others, but the new job asks for management experience. Your lack of experience may have nothing to do with your preparation to take on the new challenge.
Do reflect on ways you can prove this to the employer. In the management example, identify the traits and skills necessary to be a strong manager, and provide a story of how you have demonstrated these in a non-work setting, like a club or organization. This is MUCH better than saying you don't have any experience. Give yourself credit where credit is due.
Don't limit your research to the company website.
Do use LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and other sites to supplement. On LinkedIn, search the job title and company/university name to see if you can locate individuals who held the job previously. (Tip: We advise you do this in private mode) How do they describe the job on their résumé? Sometimes there is a gap between the job description and the employee's description of the job. This can be very helpful in understanding the realities of the role. Glassdoor can provide salary information, employee reviews, and interview experiences for larger organizations. Just take it with a grain of salt, as people who devote the time to fill out a review are more likely to be disgruntled. If the position is at a public university, be sure to check out state salary databases. We talk more about this in our Salary Secrets post.
Don't forget to double-check the interview details before you begin.
Do confirm the time zone, technology functionality (log in to Skype for a test run), and ensure you provided an accurate phone number (and have theirs, in case). For phone interviews use a land line vs. mobile to avoid a bad connection or dropped call. If it is an in-person interview, make sure you have confirmed you know how to get there, anticipated traffic for the time of the day, and planned to arrive early. Better to sit in the parking lot giving yourself a pep talk in the rearview mirror than be unexpectedly late and arrive all sweaty, breathless, and apologetic.
After the interview, remember to formally thank the individual(s). If it was a phone or Skype interview, send an email soon after. If it was an in-person interview, send a nice thank you card as soon as you can. While most people know this, it is easy to forget to follow-up in the post-interview phase. Try to be sincere and personable in your thank you. Mention specifics from the interview vs. using a canned thank you note. Let them know why you enjoyed the experience or what you are most excited about in the role. Go the extra mile. You would be surprised how few people actually send a thank you these days.
All job seekers hit a wall of frustration at some point. It's okay. Maybe you had too many letters that "regret to inform you" that you aren't landing that dream job. Or perhaps you're just emotionally drained from the process of waiting. So what can you do to keep your chin up and avoid a job search rut? Here are a few things to try when the going gets tough:
Always have a pot on the fire
My tried and true technique was to always have an application out there so that when a ding letter came, there was still hope. I know that might sound desperate or like I was tricking myself (I was), but it works. Don't let your opportunities run dry. It makes it so much easier to move forward when you hear the word "no". I even recommend creating an Excel sheet to keep track of each application and the date of submission. Don't get hung up on how long it has been since you submitted your stuff. As long as you are still active in the process, keep it on your list and charge on.
Grab a partner
Like lots of things in life, tackling challenges with a friend can add dimension and remove the feelings of isolation. Find a friend who is also searching for a job. It doesn't have to be a job in the same job sector. Share updates, victories, and different approaches to your search process. Cheer each other on. Meet for wine and whining when you get a rejection letter. Laugh at your interviews gone wrong. Proofread each other's cover letters. Do whatever it takes to lift each other up.
Exchange coffee for a new connection
If you are feeling frustrated, use some of your time to research companies on LinkedIn or scour university staff directories for individuals who have a job you desire. Don't be afraid to reach out and ask for 30 minutes of their time in exchange for a cup of coffee. This method is a great way to network and you might learn about a different pathway or approach for your search. For example, you could hear about positions before they hit the web as a formal job posting. Make sure to check out my tips for informational interviews first.
Maybe this means you bust out a journal and starting writing about your feelings as a job seeker--or you put on some music and bust a move to let thoughts jingle around in your head. It could also mean you simply step away from your web browser and think about things from a different angle. What could you try differently? Are you looking at the wrong type of organizations? The wrong type of positions? The wrong time of the year? Give yourself the mental space to ensure you are being strategic in your search.
These are my best tips. I'd love to hear yours in the comments below!
If you need leads on study abroad job postings, be sure to follow @SAbroadCareers on Twitter where we curate and tweet entry to mid-level job postings that catch our interest.
I often do informational interviews with people who want to find out how they can get a job working in study abroad (which is how this site started). Sometimes when I start asking questions about why they want to pursue a job in a study abroad office, their answers reveal that what they want to do in terms of day-to-day work doesn't always match up to the job description. It can be surprising to learn I spend very little of my time:
* Traveling the world (or the US)
* Leading study abroad programs
* Working with international students
* Interacting with people from other cultures
* Developing new study abroad programs
But wait... looking at your career, haven't you done all of those things?
The answer is YES, absolutely! I sought out special opportunities to undertake those responsibilities in various jobs over the years. And my current position is so varied that those assignments do come up. I do assist faculty members in designing their programs. I have some interaction with our incoming exchange students. I email with my counterparts abroad, across time zones and cultures. And I get the occasional overseas site visit. I love that part!
But the vast majority of my job is working to recruit and prepare American students for overseas study. I do this from a desk on campus. Some days I feel like my job is 99% email!
What does this mean for breaking in?
A lack of awareness regarding how university-based education abroad professionals spend their time can result in newcomers putting heaps of effort into a job search for a narrow position that might not be their ideal global career. International education is a huge field with many diverse career specialties. Study abroad advisor is just one job title. The great news is that there are alternative jobs out there that let you flex your intercultural skills and tie-in your passion for international experiences. So you might consider casting a wider net during your search.
What are these alternatives?
Here are 5 alternatives you might consider:
1. Regional Representative / Client Relations
WHAT THEY DO: Work for a study abroad program provider to develop and maintain relationships with decision makers (i.e., faculty, study abroad advisors, students, parents) at partner universities within an assigned geographic region. The job requires frequent domestic travel to meet face-to-face with partners, conduct information sessions, and attend study abroad fairs. Many individuals work from a home office and travel 15 or more weeks per year. The hours are long and the travel can be grueling -- lots of road trips and economy flights, making it hard to have a pet (or a relationship). There may be opportunities for overseas site visits and conferences. The great news is that a master's degree is typically not required to break in. If you start off in this job it is a wonderful way to network in the field and decide where you'd like to work next.
* You are a road warrior at heart and love to plan travel on short notice.
* You are energized by public speaking and answering questions.
* You love to promote and market study abroad wherever you can.
* Your interest in study abroad is rooted in the desire to travel and encourage others.
2. International Student & Scholar Advisor
WHAT THEY DO: Work with incoming international students and scholars to assist them with all aspects of transition to a US university. Duties may include some programming (orientation/social programs) but typically require immigration advising too. This will require specialized knowledge of SEVIS and the ability to serve as a PDSO/DSO to issue I-20s/DS2019s and a whole host of other acronyms and abbreviations related to the maintenance of immigration documents. As you can imagine, this requires special training in law/policy, attention to detail, as well as superior intercultural communication skills. You can learn the basics in a NAFSA workshop at a regional or national conference. A master's degree is often preferred, but not always required. There are usually more international student advising jobs posted than study abroad advising jobs.
* You want frequent international student interaction.
* You have strong intercultural communication skills.
* You excel at understanding, interpreting, and communicating complex regulations.
* Your interest in study abroad is rooted in the desire to work with people from different cultures.
3. International Admissions Recruiter
WHAT THEY DO: Work for a university, domestically and abroad, developing collegial relationships with secondary school personnel, agents, and funding agencies to build relationships with prospective international students. Recruiters work closely with International Enrollment Management/ International Admissions to achieve enrollment goals and communication targets. Oftentimes they will travel to overseas college fairs in the target regions. Current enrollment trends mean recruiters spend a lot of time in Asia and the Middle East, but target regions depend on the institution. As a recruiter you are the face of your institutional brand.
* You are a skilled intercultural communicator-- bonus for foreign language fluency.
* You love to promote and market study in the US.
* You love long periods of overseas travel and are open to going anywhere, anytime, even if it means you won't have time to explore.
* Your interest in study abroad is rooted in a desire for international student interaction and overseas travel.
4. Program Officer for a Grant/Fellowship Agency
WHAT THEY DO: Manage a caseload of grant applications, from submission, to selection, to placement, and program implementation. Specifics will depend on the agency and the type of placements or grants, but the focus is on ensuring the funding agency and student/scholar needs are both met. Some limited domestic travel may be a part of the job. You could even be called upon to welcome and lead scholars during part of their program. Many of these jobs are located in New York or Washington, D.C. where cost of living is high but international networking opportunities abound.
* You are passionate about citizen diplomacy.
* The idea of working for a international agency on high-impact work excites you.
* You don't mind if most of your work takes place at a desk.
* Your interest in study abroad is about making a change in the world.
5. Faculty Leader
WHAT THEY DO: Faculty leaders are full-time professors who also take on responsibilities to lead and manage programs abroad. They may do this through their home institution, by developing a faculty-led program, or they may teach for a study abroad program provider. In addition to their teaching duties, they take on thankless tasks behind the scenes-- everything from comforting homesick students to health and safety emergencies in the middle of the night. Leading a program abroad seems like a dream from the participant's perspective, but can be equal parts challenge and reward for the faculty member. The upside is that you get to interact with college students and see them grow in so many ways, all while getting paid to travel the world. But the pathway to this position is long (PhD) and requires that you also love teaching and research since the overseas part is limited.
* You have/or are willing to pursue a doctorate in your field of study
* Your true love is teaching and research
* You have no qualms about a 24/7 job with occasional high-stress scenarios
* Your interest in study abroad is rooted in the desire to develop and lead programs
These are just 5 options but there are many more. When seeking out opportunities, keep in mind that the job titles can vary widely. A great place to start your search for alternatives to study abroad is the NAFSA Job Registry where you can isolate your search to different categories.
Hopefully this post helps you to explore not only what might be out there, but helps you to take pause and ask yourself WHY you want to launch your study abroad career.
I used to play a game at the airport on my way to NAFSA conferences. I called it "spot the international educator". It was little things that were a giveaway -- a Peace Corps tote bag, Bjorn/Clarks shoes, wrinkle-free flowing travel clothes, a university luggage tag, a cell phone conversation about an in-office emergency as they were about to board a plane... I know I am ridiculous, but I was good at spotting my fellow IE colleagues!
Obviously, you can't tell by looking at someone whether or not they work in international education, but there are still some things we all talk about, or joke about, because they are shared work experiences. In the spirit of this same fun, here are my top seven signs you are a study abroad advisor:
7. Date Amnesia
When the New Year rolls in you’ve got it covered. You've been writing out 2016 for a good 6-12 months as you work on future program enrollment. Despite this fact, you can never remember what year it is. Sometimes date amnesia is accompanied by complete lack of seasonal awareness. (But you still measure time in semesters)
6. Terminology Aversion
The terms "trip"and "tour" make you shudder and want to stand on your desk chair, asserting "We are not a travel agency!" Similarly, if you had a quarter for every essay where the student wants to immerse or submerge themselves abroad, you'd be able to retire now and go on an actual trip.
5. Travel Warning Twitch
Your friend mentions her upcoming beach vacation in Mexico and your internal work dialogue starts, “Does she know there is a Travel Warning? I wonder if she has insurance with evacuation or global assist? Does her policy cover D.O.S. travel warning countries?”
4. Social Media Spillover
You are cruising your Facebook feed to relax and you see there's been an earthquake on the other side of the world. You you instantly pop out your smartphone to do a locator search for students and go into emergency mode—even when you know there are no programs there. You are just certain the phone will ring, regardless. The 24/7 nature of our jobs (and mobility of our students) mean there is no off switch.
3. Wanderlust-killing Pragmatism
When you hear someone swoon about one day moving to [insert country here] to open a farm to table B&B, you inadvertantly kill their joy with, “You do realize you need a work visa, right? And have you researched property ownership rights in that country? How about tax treaties?”
2. The Box of Bags
They range from the nicer conference bags (NAFSA/Forum) to the nifty canvas totes from partner universities...you have them all. And you can't bear to toss them out. But when it comes to BYO grocery bags, you've got it covered. If you already purged the bags, you likely still have the name badges & flair. You know who you are!
1. A Prominently Displayed Postcard Collection
Admit it...Your heart swoons when a student sends you a postcard from abroad. You've got those suckers pinned up like trophies in your office. You get butterflies when students thank you for your help and even more grins when it's from the student who was always late with paperwork. The fact that they developed the agency to hunt down a stamp and mail you an update from abroad (unprompted) makes you feel like a proud parent. THIS is why we do the work we do-- study abroad changes lives.