As an international student, you have numerous highly valuable soft skills and abilities. You may focus only on the technical skills you have acquired from your international and current education in the U.S. or Canada. However, to effectively present your strengths to prospective employers, it is important to recognize the skills and abilities that led you to achieve your goal of becoming an international student.
The World Economic Forum issued a report in 2016, The Future of Jobs, that highlights the importance of social skills to employers. The report states, “Technical skills will need to be supplemented with strong social and collaboration skills” (World Economic Forum, 2016).
Most international students and graduates in Canada and the U.S. are hardworking, well educated, multilingual, and well adapted to their new country and culture. As an international student, you can contribute diverse experiences and connections from your country of origin. You also have knowledge and skills not readily available in the local labour pool. You have a proven ability to adapt to new environments. You can meet the demand for a skilled worker that cannot be filled by native graduates alone, and engage a broader customer base. You will aid in creating a culturally diverse organization and representative workforce.
In addition to your technical skills, you will bring significant value to the job because of your international perspective and determination to succeed. Consider a few of the skills and qualities you will bring to work with you every day.
You have successfully navigated immigration, travel, and visa processes. You have organized your finances and housing arrangements and successfully navigated new transportation challenges—possibly in a new language. You may have secured a part-time job and organized your schedule to accommodate work, school, and home duties—perhaps without the aid of nearby loved ones. Employers always need workers who can balance several tasks competently. Employees who have superior organizational skills help businesses avoid wasting time and money.
Living abroad and bridging cultures encourage the development of excellent communication skills. Your ability to communicate effectively will come in handy wherever you work because communication is key in just about every job. The fact that you have adapted to a new culture and communication style demonstrates your flexibility to adjust to various environments.
Many international students can speak two or more languages. Your multilingualism indicates your ability to reach a wider customer base and possibly communicate with potential business partners in their language. Employers will see a great benefit in an employee who can bridge a connection to the global market.
International students have proved their fluency in English by doing well on standardized tests. Most North American colleges and universities require students to have attained a certain level of English proficiency. You should be confident in your English-speaking abilities. Also, commit to enhancing your English literacy or reading skills.
Productivity is critical for employers, and good communication in the workplace is essential to productivity and the efficient functioning of a team.
Not only do you bring diversity to the workplace, you thrive in a diverse environment. Your ability to adapt to and excel in new environments will be valuable to many employers. If you can adapt to a new country and its culture, you can adapt to a Canadian or U.S. company and its work culture and provide a unique and interesting perspective. Employers value a variety of experiences, skills, and perspectives because that variety helps to foster innovation. Diversity can also help employers attract employees that are interested in joining a culturally diverse team.
As an international student, you and your family have worked hard just to be here. You know that you need to make the most of every opportunity. You are motivated to focus and excel at your job. Because attaining a job in your field may be the final goal of a long journey, you will exceed expectations. Employers are often looking for ways to motivate their employees, so when you demonstrate a motivated attitude, you are aligning yourself with their vision and meeting expected goals.
You left family and friends to pursue a better future, so it is clear that you are committed to succeeding. No one leaves the comfort of their own home and community without being committed to a goal. Your passion and hunger for a bright future should make you an attractive candidate, since employers expect commitment and excellence. “Commitment” is usually demonstrated in enthusiastic problem solving and a high quality of work. As an international student or graduate, you are also more likely to stay at your job for the long term.
You are independent and resilient. One can imagine the roadblocks you had to overcome to reach a new country. But those roadblocks also helped to develop in you the problem-solving skills of a mature person. Most employers appreciate maturity, which is typically expressed by punctuality, attention to detail, and sustained focus on the job.
To market yourself properly to employers, it is crucial for you to understand how your journey helped you develop certain skills and abilities. Once you have explored and attained a full understanding of your struggles and the strengths you developed to overcome them, your next step is to craft a résumé that conveys your value to employers. You will also need to prepare for an interview that will help you to persuasively elaborate on those abilities.
It is in the employer’s best interest to thoughtfully consider recruiting international students or graduates and reap the benefits. But how can they consider the benefits if you, as an international student, have not?
In a recent conversation with one of my international students from India, he said, “I always looked at my journey to Canada and living here as something that I had to do. I didn’t really think about how my identity was evolving and all the skills that I developed to find success. The more I thought about my journey and my new life, the better I understood what I am capable of and who I am.”
Know yourself and discover your value.