An internship in the U.S. is an incredible learning opportunity that should significantly impact your future and career prospects. The professional, personal and cultural experiences you would gain were likely some of the reasons you decided to participate in the first place! Whether you are mid-program or ready to launch your post-program career, you should read our tips and strategies for making the best use of your experience.
Highlight Your Experience
No matter what stage of your program you are in currently it's good to reflect on your internship or training experience. What skills were you hoping to develop further? What are some entirely new skills you have learned? In which type of company or job would you be able to use these skills? What are some concrete examples of how you have learned new skills? Rather than simply telling future employers you have the following skills, think about your answers to these questions and use those examples from your personal experience to show them.
Here are some examples of skills/qualities you may have attained in the U.S. that employers usually look for in an employee.
Flexibility & Adaptability: While interning/training and 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. culture and workplace? 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: 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/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/political backgrounds, gender, age, and levels of professional experience. Did you correspond with and work alongside a diverse group of Americans on a daily basis? Did you learn there are a wide variety of cultures represented in the U.S. and feel that you became adept at working alongside this diverse population successfully? Do you have examples of how you overcame cultural differences in order to complete projects or reach specific goals?
Open-Mindedness & 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, clients, etc. 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 & 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?
You will need to use your own examples of these skills/experiences when applying for positions upon returning to your home country. Really think about what your internship and, more importantly, your experience living internationally has taught you and how you can use these examples to demonstrate that you would be an asset to a future employer.
Keep in Contact
While you work to market your U.S. internship as a way to stand out 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. Stay in touch through LinkedIn or other websites to make the most out of your new international network.
Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Ani is a fan of exploring new places through photography and the local cuisine. After earning her BFA in photography from NYU and gaining communications experience at International Planned Parenthood Federation, she joined InterExchange in 2012, and worked as the Marketing Producer until 2016.