This article was co-written by USM’s Dr. Stacy Stewart, Coordinator of Career Services for Community Engagement and Career Development (CECD) and Erin Kane, Project Coordinator for the USM Honors – Iceland travel program. Stacy has worked as USM’s career counselor for 3 years and coordinates the annual university job fair. Erin has served on multiple search committees for entry to executive level job openings at the university.
Study Abroad: More than just studying and traveling
Resumes: More than just bullet points and crossed fingers
Fun Fact: In the time it takes for you to read this sentence, an employer has already decided if they are going to continue to read or simply reject your resume. That’s right, about six seconds stand between you and your next (possibly dream) job. We are here to help make sure that your resume withstands the test of time.
If you’re reading this post, you likely studied abroad and, if so, you gained some desirable skills and unique stories that your hiring manager will find valuable. After all, many skills that employers are looking for are already embedded in your study abroad experience. The next step is teasing out those experiences and creating a clean, customized resume to share that information and land you an interview!
The time is on the clock and six seconds starts now. Here’s how we get, and keep, their attention.
Resume Bloopers and Blunders:
Be aware of the Top Six and know the Quick Fix
First we start with the basics: common mistakes. The Career Office at USM sees thousands of resumes and subsequently thousands of mistakes that could ultimately keep you from your well earned interview. Here are the Top Six mistakes that we see and how to fix them.
1: Ineffective visual format & font
• The quickest way to fail the six second test is to submit a busy, ornate resume that’s hard to read and/or is organized in an incoherent manner. On the other hand, a nearly blank resume with minimal information and sparse descriptions is just as ineffective.
• Remember, hiring managers will see hundreds of resumes for the same job opening. Think customized, clean, and concise.
• Font matters! Use a clean visual format and a crisp, easily readable font. Think sans serif such as Calibri, Tahoma, Trebuchet to name a few. Times New Roman is out!
2: Submitting Resume Clones
• If each job description is unique, why submit the same resume?
• Create a Master Resume and use it to craft a customized resume (1-2 pages in length) for each job application and incorporate keywords from the job description.
♣Hint #1: If you are in college, that implies that you went to high school. Take your high school education information off of your resume.
♣Hint #2: If you are referencing a particularly lengthy job description, copy and paste the text into a word cloud generator (tagcrowd or wordle are great). The most frequently used words (translation: desired skills and values) will appear in great big words in the cloud. What kind of job description do you think produced this cloud:
3: Not Giving Yourself Enough Credit
• Think your entry level experience is irrelevant or unimportant? Think again! That entry level job demonstrates valuable skills. Don’t assume an employer will just “know” based on the job title. If you don’t tell them, they won’t know!
• Many skills are transferable. For example, you don’t just serve food at a restaurant. You communicate with guests, manage multiple tasks and priorities at the same time, work with a diverse population, navigate and resolve challenging situations, work independently and in a team setting. ALL of which are transferable to ANY position to which you apply.
• Feel stuck? Connect with one of our CECD staff for help or use online resources such as O*NET to help you brainstorm descriptive statements for just about any type of job.
4: Using an Objective Statement
• This is an antiquated (outdated) resume component.
• Replace ye olde Objective Statement with a modern Professional Highlights headline. Customize this section to reflect the required qualifications outlined in the job description. This is your chance to prove (in the first six seconds) to the employer that you 1) read the job description and 2) are qualified for the job.
5: Narratives and Speeling (see what we did there)
• Too often, we see vague narratives instead of descriptive bullet points. Remember, they have sixty other resumes in queue and you only have six seconds.
•Grammar, tense, punctuation, and spelling errors. Ding! Your six seconds are up.
• Write brief, descriptive statements of what you learned and how you did something, not just what you did. Use action oriented verbs over “I” statements (see the words in bold).
“Worked at a summer camp” becomes:
…Encouraged campers to develop their own activities and leadership skills through group discussions.
…Managed the daily recreational operations for 100 campers.
…Supervised 20 junior staff counselors and encouraged their growth and development.
• Consult CECD staff or check O*NET to assist with developing these statements.
• Have CECD staff or a friend review your resume for clarity and accuracy. Typos and grammatical errors will stand out to someone who has not been reading and rereading the document.
6: References to References
• Another antiquated resume component. Employers know to ask for this information if they need it; there is no need to use up resume space instructing them to do so with ye olde available upon request line.
• Keep this information in a separate document and ready to go if an employer asks for it.
Whew! You made it. Now, for the fun part.
Thinking About Your Study Abroad Experience
Now that we made it past the first six seconds, it’s time to think about your hard earned study abroad experience. Hopefully you kept a journal or took lots of photos to help jog your memory.
Here are some common strengths gained from study abroad followed by some of the most valued skills desired by employers:
- Benefits of Studying Abroad:
- Enhance Your Global Awareness
- Develop Your Leadership Skills: complex decision making, task prioritization, time management, and problem solving.
- Experience Personal Growth
- Self reliance
- Learn a language
- Academic growth
- Common Skills Desired by Employers:
- Recognizes and respects different perspectives. Open to the ideas and views of others.
- Ability to make decisions and solve problems.
- Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work.
- Flexibility: Adapt successfully to changing situations & environments.
- Manage time effectively, prioritizing tasks and able to work to deadlines.
Well now, wait a second. Some of the skills desired by employers sound a lot like those gained while abroad. Convenient, eh? This is why it is so important to use descriptive language in your resume instead of slapping down the words “Study Abroad in [Country]” and hoping that the recruiter can read your mind or just “know what you mean”.
It’s time to brainstorm and think about your time abroad and translate it into relevant work experience. No need to overthink this, there are resources to help! Consult the CECD office, O*NET, and Google if you need inspiration. When you’re ready, move on to the next section. We’ll wait.
Format and Incorporate Study Abroad Into Your Resume
First things first, not all abroad experiences can use the same format style in your resume. The format relies heavily on what type of study abroad you participated in: short term, semester-long, or multi.
• Short-term travel
Add to your education section under the school/college that you currently attend.
• One location: Semester or more abroad
Add to your education section under the school/college that you currently attend.
•Multiple study abroad locations
Create a Study Abroad Experience section after your education section
Congratulations! You have now incorporated your study abroad experience into your resume! Remember to update your resume regularly as you continue to travel the world and collect new experiences! Just don’t forget to send us a postcard.
Additional Resources: (links will open a new tab)
USM CECD – USM Office of Community Engagement and Career Development (coverletters to interview techniques)
O*NET – Detailed descriptions of the world of work for use by job seekers, workforce development and HR professionals, students, researchers, and more!
Glassdoor – “Reading reviews and seeing what it’s really like from the inside is priceless.”
LinkedIn – LinkedIn operates the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with more than 500 million members in over 200 countries and territories.