How to Leverage Your International Internship in Your Job Search


8 minute read

Experience the U.S. with InterExchange and highlight your experience!
Experience the U.S. with InterExchange and highlight your experience!
Image courtesy of InterExchange

An internship in the U.S. is an incredible learning opportunity that should significantly advance your future career. Gaining unique professional, personal, and cultural experiences is probably the main reason you decided to participate in the first place! Now that your program has come to an end, it’s time to take a look at your experience to determine how you can use it to develop your career; you’ve certainly learned new skills that will benefit you in your job search!

Reflect on Your Experience

Start by reflecting on your internship or training experience. Which skills have you developed further? What are some entirely new skills you have learned? In which type of company or job could you apply these skills?

It may be easy to think of the hard skills you’ve gained. Hard skills are technical skills that are needed to excel in an industry or job. For example, being able to code is a hard skill that is essential for a computer programmer.

However, don’t forget about all of the soft skills you may have acquired or honed while in the U.S.! Soft skills are non-technical, transferable skills such as time-management or collaboration. Soft skills aren’t directly work-related and you gain them through a variety of experiences, like interning abroad. Below you’ll find examples of some soft skills you may have honed during your program. Consider adding some of these to your resume or mentioning them in a cover letter.

Flexibility and adaptability

While living in a new country and culture, were you able to be flexible and adjust to the unfamiliar norms and customs of the U.S.? Did you immerse yourself and assimilate into the U.S. workplace culture? What are some examples of how you adapted to life in the U.S. despite the differences that may exist between the U.S. and your home country? What did you learn from that experience?

Resourcefulness

Emilie learns to multi-task in her internship!
Emilie learns to multi-task in her internship!
Image courtesy of Emilie H.

Were there times when you did not understand how to do something or was there a process that varied from what you were used to in your home country? Did you use the resources at hand to make the best of these unfamiliar situations or new processes at your internship? Did you ask questions? Follow through on assignments that were brand new to you? How did you find answers to your questions or learn what to do in these situations?

Language skills

During your internship, did you communicate in a language other than your native one? What was that like at first? How are your language skills now compared to how they were at the start of your internship? Did you learn vocabulary or communication skills specific to your industry? Not only should your English language skills have improved (or industry-specific vocabulary, if you are a native English speaker), but this also demonstrates a willingness and drive to learn.

Cross-cultural communication skills

The U.S. workplace can be incredibly diverse, with a wide variety of races, ethnicities, religious and political backgrounds, genders, ages, and levels of professional experience.

Did you correspond with and work alongside a diverse group of Americans on a daily basis? Did you learn about the numerous cultures represented in the U.S. and feel that you became adept at working alongside this diverse population successfully? What examples can you share of how you overcame cultural differences to complete projects or reach specific goals?

Open-mindedness and sensitivity

Were you exposed to ways of thinking or personal viewpoints that differed from your own while training alongside Americans? Did you deal with co-workers or clients from diverse backgrounds regularly? How does this make you a stronger professional? Did you take advantage of the opportunity to ask questions and learn about these differences and respect these differing viewpoints?

Patience and resilience

Living in a new country and culture can be challenging.

How was your ability to deal with setbacks or unpredictable situations? How did you manage stress in this unfamiliar environment? What is an example of a time you were met with conflict and how did you resolve it? Did this help improve your problem-solving skills?

Independence and self-confidence

As you navigated living in the U.S., you had to rely on yourself to find answers to your questions and solve problems.

Did you take risks? Welcome challenges? Do you feel that the experience helped you to become more confident in your ability to thrive in an international environment? Have you learned more about your field so that you could speak professionally and confidently in a future job interview in your home country?

Sam poses with her colleagues during her U.S. internship.
Sam poses with her colleagues during her U.S. internship.
Image courtesy of InterExchange

Sell Your Experience

Once you’ve reflected on the skills you’ve gained while in the U.S., it’s time to consider how to present your experience to potential employers. Rather than simply telling future employers the skills you’ve learned, think about specific examples from your life or internship that demonstrate that you have each skill. Providing solid examples will have much more of an impact in cover letters, resumes, and interviews than simply stating that you possess certain skills; you want a potential employer to visualize how you’ll put those skills to use at their company.

For example, maybe you want to show that you are adaptable and able to handle changing priorities at a job. You may want to think of a time that something didn’t go as you expected but you were still able to complete the task successfully.

Soft skills may be more difficult to measure than hard skills, but they’re just as important to employers. They show that you are a well-rounded candidate that is able to be successful in the workplace.

Resume

An international internship has given you an edge - a unique set of skills and a global perspective. How do you write your resume in a way that highlights your recently acquired international experience?

Make sure to check out our resume guide for some of the basics like tailoring your resume for each position and using language directly from the position description. Then use the skills and examples you considered above to highlight how your international training experience will benefit employers. Give the section about your international internship a global emphasis and take into consideration cross-cultural business skills and language acquisition.

When including examples of specific roles you had while in the U.S., try to be specific but also concise. For example, instead of listing project management on your resume, you should include something such as “Developed an international marketing project that increased online visibility by X%” Employers want to know details about your experience and that you will make similar, meaningful contributions to them.

Cover Letter

In a cover letter to a prospective employer, you will want to articulate your international experience and describe the unique skill set you developed, especially to highlight anything that may not be immediately apparent from your resume. Making that link between your newly obtained experience and why you would be a good fit for the company is crucial.

Describe in the letter what you did in your internship/training position at your host company and how that relates to the responsibilities of the position for which you are applying. Did you collaborate with an international team? Learn a new computer program/software that has only been used in the U.S? You are unique in having been exposed to a new technology and can share your knowledge with the company. Both of these are potential examples from your international experience that will make you stand out to the employer.

You have just returned from a very exceptional, career-enhancing experience. It’s important to make your international internship a focus, since it will likely set you apart from other candidates in the applicant pool. Don’t forget to check out our cover letter guide to help get you started.

Interviewing

Show, don’t just tell. Though it’s important to highlight the skills and qualities obtained while abroad, it’s essential to share specific examples of how you have done so. When interviewing, make sure to draw upon specific experiences to show what you have learned and accomplished.

For example, you could say you were able to solve problems quickly and resourcefully; you would want to support that with an actual example of a time where you were able to solve a problem. Perhaps you honed your language and communication skills. Can you describe a particular scenario or responsibility in your internship that allowed you to do so? Were you able to correspond in English with clients? Help the company improve its cross-cultural knowledge? Did your supervisor increase your communication-related responsibilities over time?

Many common interview questions can be answered in a way that showcases your recent internship in the U.S. If you are asked about a challenge you faced, you could mention how it took some time to get used to the office environment in the U.S. since it differed greatly from the business culture in your home country. Mention how you were able to adapt and perform well in an international environment and build meaningful relationships with your American colleagues.

Keep in Contact

While you work to market your U.S. internship to employers, do not neglect those connections you made while on the program. It is important to remain in touch with those who have trained or supported you during your internship. Supervisors, colleagues, and friends may be able to provide career advice, help you network with other professionals they know, or write you a letter of recommendation. If you enjoyed a friendly relationship with your American colleagues, they’ll certainly want to hear about your ongoing career successes!

Whether you add them on LinkedIn or stay in touch through email, periodically remaining in contact with the people you met will serve you better than having to reestablish the connection when you need them for something in the future.

We hope your internship in the U.S. has been enjoyable and beneficial and we hope you will carry the experience with you as you embark on your future career endeavors. Completing an international internship provided you many opportunities to grow personally and professionally, so make sure this shines through in your job search.

Allison

Allison joined the InterExchange team in 2011 and holds a B.A. in International Affairs and an M.A. in Higher Education. She oversees the daily operations of the Career Training USA program where she has the privilege of working with students and professionals from around the world pursuing U.S. internships and training programs. Allison is originally from Massachusetts and studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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