How to highlight your international experience on your resume

Posted 01 November 2019

With the power of technology, we are witnessing an exponential increase in the interconnectedness between individuals around the world. Cultural barriers are being broken down and international boundaries are becoming less relevant.

The free flow of information and increasing accessibility of resources have fuelled cultural interactions and increased international exposure amongst individuals. To capture this global paradigm shift, the international experience of employees is becoming an increasingly valued asset for companies. Highlighting your international experience and doing so with an articulate strategy will enhance your competitive advantage and accelerate you further in your career journey.

Formulate a unique story

Your ability to story-tell can act as a key differentiating factor for you in your career journey. Reflect on your experience and ask yourself questions such as: What initiated your move to a new country or environment? What were your expectations and goals when you first decided to make the move? Were your expectations met, and if not, what was different and challenging? What insights and skillsets did you obtain through the confrontation of these challenges? Did it help you realise the value of overlooking obstacles for potential gain? Did the cultural exchanges change the way you interact with people of different backgrounds, and how did this expand your world-view? How do you wish to apply the skillsets you gained to contribute to your current workplace and society? How did your international experience enhance your level of tolerance and adaptability? Did it improve your ability to manage ambiguity and accept diversity? Did it help you develop the resilience to stand firm in uncertain and volatile environments?

Reflect on your experience based on questions like these and start making connections between the answers. This will allow you to formulate a story that is unique and authentic, differentiating you from other candidates that may have similar educational backgrounds or technical competencies as you.

Practice being a story-teller

Having the right experiences and competencies is crucial. However, it must be complemented with the right delivery tactics to ensure that your message is communicated in a clear and effective manner. The method of delivery can vary depending on the situation – via a written format, verbal conversation, creative platform etc – so prepare yourself so that you are ready to articulate your international experience whenever the opportunity arises.

Start by condensing your story in a written format and add it to your resume and or your cover-letter. Due to word constraints, it is crucial to be strategic with the words you choose to use. Select key action verbs for each point you wish to deliver and remove any unnecessary words and phrases. Read over the text and repeat the process of elimination until your main achievements and take-aways are communicated in the most concise way possible.

There will be opportunities for you to verbally share your international experience during an interview or a casual conversation. Know your story back to front and be consistent with what you deliver. Keep in mind that the listener does not have the first-hand experience that you have, thus the picture that they draw in their mind will be very different to the one you have in yours. Think of key adjectives and expressions that can help the listener accurately illustrate the situation in their head. This will help them understand the context at a deeper level and ensure that they remain on the same page as you. Additionally, think of key verbs that can help you communicate the actions you took in particular situations. This will help you highlight your achievements and showcase your initiatives. The way you responded to certain challenges or the actions you took in different situations will reveal a lot about your traits and habits.

Undoubtedly, experience is the best teacher. Realise the competitive advantage that your international experience can give you, and don’t be hesitant to share your story to employers. Whether it’d be an experience of success or of failure, reflect on how it affected who you were and have become. At times, failure can play the role of the better teacher. With your widened world-views, your deeper understanding of cultures, and with your ability to accept diversity and differences, you can help your company expand its’ global reach in this age of rapid globalisation.

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