How can you obtain an internationally oriented career? The first step is to talk with a career counselor, such as those at LSU Career Services. In addition, the following websites can be very helpful:
- Going Global for LSU students
- US Department of Labor, Working Abroad
- American University, Job & Internship Searching
- University of Texas, International Opportunities, Basic Information
- University of Pennsylvania, International Resources
- University of Michigan, Work Abroad
- Carleton University, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs,
- InternationalStudent.com, Country Work Guides
- Transitions Abroad, Work Abroad
- Eurograduate Live, The European Graduate Career Guide
- Monster.com, job listings by country
- OverseasJobs.com, job listings by country
- The Riley Guide, International Job Resources
The following books also may be helpful:
- Nina Segal and Eric Kocher, International Jobs (Basic Books, 2003).
- Richard Bolles, What Color Is Your Parachute? (Ten Speed Press, 2002).
The best way to learn about a specific type of job is to speak with individuals already
employed in that field. Make appointments with friends, relatives, or LSU alumni who
are involved in international occupations. Ask about how they prepared for their careers,
how they obtained their jobs, and what they do on a daily basis.
You can seek an informational interview by phone, mail, or e-mail. If you phone someone directly, be sure to plan what you want to say in advance. Writing a letter or email first has the advantage of letting your contact know in advance the purpose of your call, but you must be sure to take the initiative to follow up promptly. You are the one with the request, so do not expect the person to call you. Do not include your resume with a request for an informational interview because that may lead your contact to think you are hoping for a job offer, rather than just information. Briefly describe your background and goals, along with the questions you hope your contact can address in the meeting. Afterward, don’t forget to send a thank-you note (e-mail thank-you notes are appropriate, though they should be kept formal), and keep in contact with the people you meet.
How to Gain Experience: Internships
Look for internships in your field of interest. They are an excellent way to get your
foot in the door and they provide valuable skills and training that are crucial in
today’s competitive job market. An internship gives you many helpful contacts, as
well as a mentor (if you’re lucky) and a network for subsequent job-hunting. Internships
also are a good way to get a better feel for a career field without making a long-term
commitment to it.
The LSU International Studies Program offers academic credit for internships under certain circumstances.
The Link Between Academics and Careers
There are several things you can do as an undergraduate to improve your chances of
obtaining a rewarding international career. Above all, good grades are crucial for
obtaining a highly competitive job. Academic awards and honors also can help distinguish
you from the competition. Foreign language fluency is essential for many international
jobs. Courses in economics and regional studies also can be very important. Study abroad programs and summer travel can provide valuable in-country experience. Internships, summer
employment, and volunteer opportunities can help fill out your resume and provide
An M.A. or other advanced degree is helpful and sometimes required for many international jobs. Joint degree programs are increasingly popular. Having an M.B.A and M.A. or a J.D. and M.A. may make you more attractive to potential employers. Joint degrees are not for everyone, however, as they usually take more time to complete, cost more, and have high admission standards. See the International Studies Program’s website on international affairs graduate programs for a list of such programs focusing.
Conducting an Overseas Job Search
Finding a good job is always difficult and time-consuming. Finding a job overseas
poses extra challenges, especially since most countries require foreigners to have
work permits, which are usually hard to obtain. Typically you must first find a job
and then ask your employer to apply for a work permit on your behalf.
The following tips will help improve your chances of getting a job overseas:
- Start your job hunt before you leave the United States, establishing contacts and researching potential employers, work conditions, and living conditions in the countries you are interested in.
- Look for a job with an American organization that has overseas operations. After working in the organization awhile, you may be able to transfer overseas within the organization.
- You might also secure a position with a foreign organization that has operations in the United States. After proving yourself here, you may be able to transfer overseas.
- Contact LSU alumni or other people you know who are living or working in the countries you are interested in. This kind of network can be helpful in leading you directly or indirectly to a job.
- Look for opportunities to teach English abroad.
- Look for an internship abroad. An internship will allow you to get your foot in the door. If you prove to be valuable, an employer may be willing to obtain a work permit for you.
The lead time for international jobs is often longer than for domestic jobs. In government jobs, the time between initial application and a job offer may be 12 months or more because of security checks. Jobs with multinational corporations and international organizations may take 6-12 months because of the many levels of approval needed. For other international work, lead times are often 3-5 months.
No matter what field you have in mind, reaching your goal will require a cover letter, resume, and interview. Your cover letter should be interesting enough to make someone want to read your resume, which, in turn, should be impressive enough to land you an interview. A cover letter serves both as an introduction to your resume and as a sample of your writing ability. It has three main parts:
- An introductory paragraph, in which you introduce yourself and state your purpose for writing (include a referral name if possible).
- The body of the letter, in which you mention certain skills you have developed and relate them to the job or internship for which you are applying.
- A closing paragraph, thanking the employer for his or her consideration and making polite plans to follow-up.
For more advice on cover letters, see the following websites:
Ideally, your resume should be no longer than one page, particularly for jobs in the
private sector. For academic or research positions, and in many non-profit fields,
a length of two or more pages is acceptable.
There are a variety of resume formats. You should find one that best highlights your credentials. Definitely include your education and work experience. The final section(s) may include computer skills, languages, publications, extracurricular activities, and any honors you have received. If you are applying directly from school, begin with your education. If you are currently working, begin with your work experience. At the top of your resume, include a physical address, phone number, and e-mail address where you can be reached. Your resume should emphasize your achievements and accomplishments and demonstrate a focus on a particular field. Write in crisp phrases rather than narrative paragraphs. Include part-time employment and internships. References should be given in your cover letter rather than on your resume.
You can also submit your resume to the LSU Career Center for feedback. This is a great way for you to gain expert advice on what areas of your resume need improvement. See also the resume webpages at Monster.com and Riley Guide
For an interview, your clothing should be professional – always err on the side of
formality rather than informality. It is a good idea to arrive ten minutes early in
case you need to use the restroom, get a drink of water, or just examine the atmosphere
of the office. You should practice answers to possible questions ahead of time, although
you do not want to sound rehearsed. Above all, you should be yourself and let your
personality shine through.
The following tips come from Nina Segal and Eric Kocher, International Jobs (Basic Books, 2003):
- Know the Organization. Read what you can about the organization and try to speak with people who know about it beforehand.
- Prepare questions to ask the interviewer. These should be based on your research of the organization. Do not ask obvious questions that suggest you know little about the organization.
- Know what points about yourself you want to make. Carefully review your resume and try to pick out items that are relevant to the job or internship. Don’t wait until the last minute to bring these up. Inserting them in conversation is an art that comes with practice.
- Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses before the interview. You will be asked about them. Remember, some weaknesses can be presented as strengths.
- Expect the unexpected.
- Be familiar with the parts of an interview. There are usually five:
- 1. Introduction, meant to establish rapport and put you at ease.
- 2. Discussion of your qualifications, background, and career goals.
- 3. Discussion of requirements of the job opening.
- 4. Attempt to relate your qualifications to the job.
- 5. Summary/close.
- Remember the employer’s point of view. Emphasize how you can be of use to the employer.
- Be prepared to explain your motivation. If you are honestly enthusiastic about the job, don’t hesitate to express your enthusiasm.
- Don’t ask about salary, benefits, vacations, etc. during the first interview. If you are asked about salary, indicate a range that is negotiable. Know the typical salary range for the type of job and set your figure accordingly.
- Always tell the truth.
- Stress your accomplishments and achievements in past employment rather than your duties and responsibilities. You are not being immodest. You are making it easier for the employer to come to the conclusion that, of their many interviewees, you are the most capable.
- Keep the initiative, if possible, for future contacts. Don’t sit by the phone waiting for employers to call unless they have specifically stated that they will contact you within a definite time frame. Be pleasantly surprised if they do contact you at the appointed time. If they don’t, wait a few days and then call them to determine the status of your candidacy and express continuing enthusiasm for the job.