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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you have applied for a study abroad job at a university, you probably already know there are hundreds of applicants for each position. You might wonder why you are not advancing, when clearly you are a stellar candidate. (We believe you.) The truth is, sometimes it is not you. Sometimes it is simply the process that allows candidates to filter up or down.
I've come to the stage in my career where I am asked to serve on international education search committees. This has been an illuminating experience, to say the least. On the outside you imagine it being a simplified process-- resumes come in, there is a short-list, and the best candidate is chosen from the pool. Once in the inner circle, you realize it is a complex and multi-phase process, guided by HR protocol and the deeper psychology of elimination. And what seemed like the top candidate can miss the mark anywhere along the way.
During my most recent search committee experiences, I tried to make note of what went on from start to finish so I could share it with all of you. I hope these observations help you to consider how each phase presents its own challenges and opportunities for you as a candidate.
PHASE 1: Resume Review
1) Meet all minimum requirements.
2) Meet as many preferred requirements as possible.
In a way, the resume review is all about the checklist-- you want to hit all of the marks. HR usually has a checklist that follows the posted job description. Don't leave anything to assumption. If it says "fluency in a foreign language", list it -- even if you were a Spanish major.
Search Committee Mindset:
Looking for reasons to eliminate
A spelling error or cliche can get you in the "nope" pile. The same goes for overly long (or short) resumes/cover letters and bad formatting.
Pique their curiousity.
What makes you stand out? They may put you in the "yes" pile just because they want to hear more. Do you have an interesting hobby that demonstrates an allied skill set? Include it on your resume. You might not think your weekly Star Wars podcast is of interest, but it shows you have skills in marketing, writing, communication, and technology. And they will remember you as the "Star Wars Guy/Gal".
Be authentic in your cover letter when describing why you want this job in this organization. Have you been trying to break in for a while? Say so. Describe your efforts (ex. informational interviews, pursuing continuing education, conferences attended, etc.) to demonstrate you are serious about the profession long-term. Show them why you are a good investment.
PHASE 2: Phone/Skype Interview
Tell a compelling story of who you are and what you can do.
Everyone will get the same exact questions during this phase. For this reason, answers will tend to have some similarity among candidates. Your job is to not only answer the questions, but use your response to highlight your unique strengths. You want the committee to have confidence that you are worth the $$$$ price tag for a campus invite.
Search Committee Mindset:
Comparing and ranking candidates
In this phase, resume credentials tend to take a back-burner to soft skills. How well you communicate, and how well you think on your feet, can make the difference in if you secure the on-campus interview. They will be comparing your strengths to all of the other candidates'. Interview order can be important psychologically. Earlier candidates might be less memorable, while later candidates will be sized up to those who come before.
Find ways to share real-life examples of work you've done, inspiring them to think of what ideas/attitude you will bring to the team. Read up on the PAR method before you start your interview.
PHASE 3: On-Campus Interview
Keep your game face at all times.
It is common for an on-campus interview to last all day, through at least one meal, and include both group and individual interviews with multiple stakeholders. It is tiring. Don't let your guard down, even during "casual" times like a campus tour. Don't speak ill of anyone-- especially former employers or anyone involved in the delivery of your study abroad experience.
Search Committee Mindset:
Comparing candidates' weaknesses
In the phone/Skype interview phase, the committee tends to rank candidates based on their strengths, but during the on-campus phase things are higher stakes. Not to scare you, but they are now more sensitive to your flaws. Not that they are looking for you to mess up or trying to break you down, but if something negative stands out in the way you respond or communicate, it will likely be discussed in post-interview deliberation.
After all interviews are complete, each committee member will be asked to rank on-campus candidates in order. Then a discussion ensues where each member tries to persuade the others their top candidate is "the one". In some circumstances, this can come down to pointing out candidates' (real or perceived) weaknesses.
Hopefully, this piece gives you some food for thought as you craft your resume and cover letter or as you pre are for your next phone/on-campus interview. I'd love to hear your thoughts and questions in the comments below-- whether it comes from your perspective as a job candidate or as a person who has served on a university search committee.
Today I got an unexpected phone call. It was a reference check for a former employee who is now a finalist for a position at a top-ranked state university. At first the call went as expected-- questions regarding strengths, weaknesses, collegiality, and if I'd rehire. The last question made me uncomfortable, but it was not a entirely a surprise.
They asked me if I would be willing to provide a "deep reference" for the candidate.
The term "deep reference" refers to someone identified by a primary reference rather than the job candidate. The way it works is that the person listed as a reference is asked to identify an additional reference for the candidate, without the candidate's knowledge. The employer then cold-calls this person to ask questions about the candidate. In research, we call it "snowball sampling", using an informant to refer additional informants. In hiring it goes by a few other names, such as "backdoor reference", "unauthorized reference", etc.
As job applicants, we obviously list references who will say glowing things about us. The intent of a deep reference is to dig deeper, perhaps uncovering something additional (maybe even negative) and to confirm the validity of the information provided on the resume or in the original reference check.
I can understand why an institution would choose to go beyond the names provided. No one wants skeletons in the closet. Hiring someone is a big deal, not easily undone. However, as a reference, I am very uncomfortable being asked to furnish a name and phone number for someone on the candidate's behalf.
That being said, it happens.
So...as a candidate, what can you do about it?
When you develop a list of potential references you will need to have a conversation about your search process. Always have a conversation with your reference, to ensure they agree to serve in this capacity. Do not EVER list a reference without asking, even if you know they'd be fine with it.
You need to formally ask them to serve, brief them on the position, and communicate WHY you want that job. It really does work best if you have a phone conversation. It also helps if you give them an updated resume and a few talking points. For example, it is easy for me to forget what years someone worked for me and exactly what all they did. I remember their work ethic and key projects, but I don't want to overlook anything and appreciate the refresher, especially if it has been a while.
During this conversation you might want to discuss the potential for a "deep reference" check. Discuss alternate individuals who might be able to comment on your work style within that same work setting. Maybe it is someone who worked alongside you on big projects, but wasn't your supervisor. Or it could be a person who was your supervisor, but they left the field since then and your current reference is still in touch. Have this frank conversation with your reference and agree on how to handle the question, should it come up.
It is also possible your reference is uncomfortable providing a deep reference. Talk about it and find out how they plan to respond to the request.
After having this experience, I'm curious...
Current professionals: Have you ever been asked to provide a deep reference? Have you been a part of a search where your hiring manager utilized this tactic?
Job seekers: Are you familiar with the practice of contacting deep references? Do you suspect (or know) unauthorized references were contacted during your candidacy?
Comment below to share your experiences.
Every campus has a different approach to study abroad marketing. But one thing you will find everywhere is some version of a study abroad advisor, at a table, talking to students, answering questions, and handing out print marketing. Websites are great, but we all still revert to the tried and true, low tech, human-to-human interaction because it works.
You might find yourself at the study abroad fair, a table in the student center, or invited to a larger event where study abroad is represented alongside co-curricular opportunities. Whatever the scenario, if you have a study abroad career, you will at some point work a study abroad outreach event.
While you are busy worrying that you don't know the portfolio of programs well enough, there are a few OTHER things you should know before standing behind a skirted table for the first time...
#6 You'll lose your voice talking to students
Bring a huge bottle of water....HUGE, I tell you. Talking nonstop to throngs of eager students and competing with the roar of conversation at nearby tables majorly wears on your vocal cords. If you know me personally, you know I am "a talker". But even my motor mouth gets sore if I do study abroad outreach. When I work an information table I am smiling-- a lot-- and talking-- a lot. Being "on" for several hours can be draining when you are used to office work. No one prepared me for how physically draining it can be. Protip: Consider lip balm and mints along with your bottle of water.
#5 Carrying brochures is a crossfit workout
Rain or shine, snow or heatwave, you will find yourself schlepping surprisingly heavy marketing materials across campus. I consider myself to be a reasonably strong, moderately fit person, with "mom arms" that can carry heaps of stuff simultaneously. But I have pulled muscles hoisting boxes of catalogs and setting up tables for information sessions. Take care of yourself. Don't be afraid to ask for help from coworkers. The rolling suitcase isn't just for site visits. It's your new best friend.
#4 The term "trip" will make you cringe
Every profession has their buzzwords. Study abroad is no different. But we also have words that make us uncomfortable. Maybe it is a silly insecurity, but non-academic terms for study abroad will start to grate on you the way "dorm" makes the residence life folks twitchy.
#3 You'll get way too excited about new Marketing
#2 Program sign-in sheets are never legible
Never. At study abroad fairs or info tables lots of us still tend to go low tech. This means the dreaded "Sign Up for More Information" sheets and a ballpoint pen. If you are lucky you will have some help in the form of a student worker who types up the lists of names and emails the next day. But we all know how handwriting is these days. Prepare for squinting, wild guesses, and deflating bounce backs. Maybe one day study abroad will catch up to the 21st century.
#1 Student enthusiasm is contagious
No matter how tired I am at the onset, I never work an outreach event without leaving on cloud nine. Talking to students about their dreams of study abroad, sharing my own overseas experiences, and seeing those eyes light up -- especially in a first generation college student or person who never thought they'd leave the country-- is the reason why I do the work I do. Let's be honest. Sitting in an office all day, answering emails, shuffling paper, and putting out fires is my daily reality. But the few opportunities I have to directly promote global education on campus helps renew my enthusiasm and reminds me how blessed I am to work in international education.
The first day at any new job is rough. It doesn't matter if it is your first job or you are fifteen years into your career. It is always awkward to find yourself in a new place, with new colleagues and a new office culture to navigate. No matter how well you know your stuff, it can feel scary.
A higher ed colleague recently posted a question on LinkedIn that got me thinking. He wrote...
"Two new staff members started in our office today. What's your best advice for them to be successful?"
The post elicited a great response from his network. And it caused me to think about my own experiences. Since it's the beginning of a new school year, with lots of professionals (and student employees) starting their study abroad careers, here are my tips for how to start off on the right foot:
How rock it
Ask questions - From little things like refrigerator protocol to bigger things, like institutional philosophy, don't be afraid to ask someone who works there. Your coworkers and supervisor are resources. Don't be shy.
Observe - Don't underestimate the importance of "learning through osmosis". Every office has its own subculture. There is really only one way to learn how to fit in-- observation. Are people very social in their work style? Do they keep to themselves? Do certain colleagues have more institutional knowledge? What work habits are valued in the organization? What gets rewarded (or reprimanded)?
Refrain from judgement - Not to make you nervous, but everyone will be watching you closely to get a feel for how you fit into the team. Think positive when it comes to your new role. It is normal to notice differences. But just like the culture shock stage in study abroad, keep an open mind and refrain from making negative statements about these differences.
Get to know people- Both inside your immediate office, and within the larger organization, start to make note of people from whom you might learn. Over time, try to schedule lunch or coffee to expand your network.
How to wreck it
Suggest changes too soon- Day one (or week one -- maybe even month one) is not the time to start suggesting changes. This is especially true if you are constantly referring to what you did at your previous institution. What you currently see as an inefficiency might be viewed differently once you know the lay of the land. Make note of these opportunities and bring them up when the time is right.
Hyper-focus on problems- No organization is perfect. There are always things to improve. Just because things need attention doesn't mean no one sees the problem. Funding limitations, staffing limitations, and institutional politics might complicate progress. When you point out what is wrong too soon, it can come across as a judgement on the work-product of your coworkers. Give it some time and tread carefully.
Launch projects without consultation- While everyone loves a self-starter, you were hired for a specific job. You will have certain tasks to accomplish as a part of a team. Those tasks will have an order of precedence. Don't ignore them in favor of creating your own projects. When you start a new job it can seem slow. People might be taking it easy on you and holding back on assigning important projects until you settle in. If you have an idea, great. But ask your supervisor first to ensure you really have the extra time to devote to a new initiative.
These are just a few tips from my own work experiences. You may or may not agree. It can be a precarious balance between making an early contribution and making sure you understand the organizational culture.
I like to think of the first day at a new job like being in a new country for the first time. Take it slow. Learn as much as you can. And be patient with yourself. Before long it will feel like home.