Give your studies a global dimension

 Do you have what it takes to compete in a global market of today? Not sure what else you can do to develop your global competencies? Check our tips and advice on how to give your studies a global dimension and gain that edge over other graduates.

Now more than ever, it is vital that you make the most of your studies to develop the so called global mindset really sought after by employers in today’s challenging and highly globalised job market.

Whether you are an EU/Overseas student already studying internationally in the UK or a HOME student considering a career abroad after graduation, there are many ways you can increase your global competences and create an outstanding personal brand to impress future recruiters.

Give your academic work an international angle
Regardless what subject you are studying, there are simple ways on how you can make your studies more international.

Talk to your lecturers and tutors about the teaching and research they do. Many of them are engaged in international partnerships or writing on topics of global relevance. When choosing your modules, consider those with international and intercultural perspectives and try to cover these angles in your assignments and dissertation.

Where possible team up with students from other countries and cultures during class discussions or group projects. If your course is ‘with a Year in Industry’ consider an international placement or one with a company with global links.

If you are a postgraduate student, join any relevant international research networks or organise a conference that would bring students from other countries to share and discuss the research you are all involved in. Last but not least, follow global developments in your subject by reading international journals, magazines or expert blogs.

Go on a semester or a year abroad

Speak to your tutor and the International Office at your university about an opportunity of studying and/or working abroad for a semester or even a whole academic year.

Opportunities are endless and depending on your university’s international partnerships, they can range from Erasmus+ in Europe (both study and internships), working as a Teaching Assistant abroad with British Council, studying in the USA or Mexico or even doing an exchange at one of the satellite campuses of your university.

You don’t necessarily need another language to take part (as many courses abroad are also taught in English) and there is lots of support available to help your brush up on your language skills before and during your year abroad.

Studying or working abroad will equip you with amazing new skills, such as intercultural communication, planning and organising and resilience. It will also give you a fantastic opportunity to make new friends all over the world, as well as gain new perspectives on your studies and potential future career. Finally you’ll come back more mature and confident and with a clearer idea of what you like and don’t like doing after graduation!

Employers value the ability to adapt to new environments and practices, as well as people who can communicate effectively with others across different cultures and languages and your experiences abroad can provide evidence of the qualities they need.

On your return, make sure to come and speak to your careers service. The advisers there will be happy to help you articulate and present your international experience in future applications and interviews. They also organise regular workshops and events that bring along international companies to campus, so make sure to attend them, ask questions about international and intercultural opportunities and grow your networks.

Get involved with volunteering

If your course does not allow you to go on a year abroad, consider taking part in volunteering. Volunteering with local and international organisations gives you the chance to contribute to the community, improve your CV, develop new skills and have fun.

Volunteering can be a great way to gain global experience by taking part in diverse projects, from helping people to learn English to supporting local immigrants and refugees or participating in intercultural mentoring schemes.

Check out your careers service’s website to find out more about the voluntary organisations they are working with and how you can get involved. Or if you have a particular idea in mind, why not starting your own student-led project overseas?

Join a society and meet students from other countries

Through your university’s Students’ Union you can meet people from many nationalities, learn about other cultures, take on new challenges and get work experience by holding a position of responsibility in a society.

Participating in university life and the local community will enrich your time at the university and make you attractive to employers as it suggests that you can make a valuable contribution to the workplace too.

Student groups and societies welcome all students and are a great opportunity to widen your social circle, learn a new language and get familiar with different customs.

Learn another language

Ability to communicate effectively in more than one language will greatly enhance your career prospects in a global job market. It will help you develop your cultural self-awareness and give you insights into other countries and cultures. Employers value graduates who can interact confidently with diverse people personally and professionally.

Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters confirms:

“More and more employers are looking for graduates with a global mindset. This means an ability to work across different cultures and borders, an awareness of the global forces affecting organisations and the diversity of thinking to tackle challenges in a global environment. If you can also communicate effectively in more than one language, you will be well placed to make the most of international opportunities.”

Learning a new language can be sometimes  added as a new module or a pathway to your degree, or taken up university’s languages centre. Check your university’s website for more details or discuss options available to you with your personal tutor.

Inspired by any of the ideas above?

Take action – visit your careers service’s website, research your options and book a careers guidance appointment to discuss your next steps.

The post was written for the Midlands International Group by Gosia Mobbs (University of Leicester), 28 June 2017.

 

Networking and your Personal Brand.

There is a lot of information out there about ensuring you network effectively. I wanted to present some of the issues international students may face and propose practical ways to overcome these difficulties. However, firstly I want to talk about the importance of “Personal Branding” in all your networking endeavours.

Why Network?

Networking can be so useful in supporting your future career. It can be used to:

  • Gain careers advice and sift through potential options.
  • Obtain a realistic picture of a profession.
  • Understand an organisation’s culture and whether you are a good match for this.
  • Open up opportunities for personal development.
  • Provide introductions to useful contacts.
  • Build mutually beneficial relationships, perhaps creating a coach or mentor.

Networking is not about asking for a job! Instead it is a chance to make connections, have useful conversations, gain insights and to build your on-going relationships.

Before you start networking

It’s really important to understand your own “Personal Brand”, prior to undertaking any networking activity. Tom Peters first coined this phrase in his 1997 article “A brand called you”. This article emphasised the importance of being able to promote ourselves professionally, clearly and confidently. He said:

“Regardless of our age, position or the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies. Our most important job is to be Head of Marketing for the brand called you!”

This emphasises the need to firstly understand and then confidently promote ourselves to the world around us.

In order to do this you need to understand what is unique about you. A useful video resource to help with this is “Creating your Personal Brand” by Lida Citroen (2015). Lida explains that a Brand is an “expectation of an experience” and personal branding is about how we make people “feel” about being around or working with us. With this in mind the intention is to create a positive feeling from others based on our interactions with them. This could be through producing an excellent piece of work ahead of time for example or doing something for another person with no expectation of reciprocation.

To start this process of personal branding, firstly we should stop and take stock. We need to take an inventory of our skills, experience and interests. This could involve asking ourselves questions like: Where do I want to be? What inspires me? What is unique about my experiences so far? What are my talents and skills? What skills do I need to work on?

As an international student one major advantage you have is your increased cultural awareness and possibly your ability to speak different languages. There will be other unique qualities you have too!

You can also understand how you are currently seen by others through requesting 360 degree feedback. Be open to this honest feedback from people who you currently interact with on a regular basis and then start to think about how you want to be seen by others.

Once you have answers for the above, you can start to build a strategy to take you to where you want to be. This will involve building influence with others through your actions.

Lida explains that “Credibility” (which you need to build your personal brand) comes from understanding and having a clear set of values and acting on these to increase your personal influence.

Credibility = Values + Action

You can then define your target audience. These can be broken down in to three categories but each of these can be equally useful in the longer term:

Decision Makers – Those who make hiring decisions or have a decision making role within businesses.

Information sources – Those who have insights and information about a role, organisation or specialism. They can add value to your existing knowledge base.

Supporters – Those who support and encourage you. They may be known as a “critical friend”. They could be an official or unofficial mentor/coach.

Remember

Networking is about creating win-win situations, therefore it is important that where you can you offer support and help to those you need help from. Be genuine and build your personal brand around your real strengths this will ensure you are authentic which in turn should ensure your networking is meaningful and long lasting.

Challenges for International students

International students often face challenges when approaching networking for the first time. Some common challenges have been addressed below:

  • I’m not from the UK and therefore I have no established networks in UK industry

Every university in the UK has a Careers Service which all have strong links with industry partners across the UK and beyond. This means that you don’t need to already have an established network in the UK. There are a range of activities you can get involved with to ensure you can build a wide range of contacts in multiple industries. Here are some examples:

Most Universities offer mentoring schemes with former students, now Alumni, who offer their time to support you in developing your network and career. Some will be working in the roles you will want to undertake so can be really invaluable contacts. Contact your careers service to find out more about this. Most University careers services will host employer events during term time each week to provide industry and recruitment insights. This is a great way to network, ask questions and connect with people who are wanting to hire students and graduates.

  • I’m not used to the formalities involved in UK business and industry so I’m afraid I’ll make a mistake in dealing with new people.

Most university Careers Services across the UK provide events to support you in how to network effectively and at careers fairs, staff are on hand to talk you through appropriate behaviour and etiquette if you are unsure.

  • I’m not an extravert so speaking to strangers just doesn’t feel natural and I just don’t know what to say.

Everyone is in the same position as you and although some people may be naturally extravert people or come from a much more extravert culture, there are ways you can increase your confidence. Seek out support from your Careers Service. They will help you to create an “Elevator Pitch” to clearly, concisely and confidently present yourself to others. They may be able to talk you through UK customs and culture in order to help you feel more confident in speaking to potential employers or business connections.

  • I don’t see the point in networking, I just want a job.

Generally, networking undertaken by students, is done to increase their chances of gaining employment. However, stating this outright when you meet a new connection can make people less inclined to help you. Networking is about creating “win-win” situations. This means creating mutually beneficial relationships where you can help each other. Rather than seeing networking as a way to get a job, instead try to ensure you understand the business or the role you are wanting to work in. Being helpful to people can help to create a good impression, supporting others whilst also gaining invaluable experiences which you can later draw from perhaps in interviews or in your CV. You may even be able to use this connection as a reference in the future and it could lead on to more useful contacts which could eventually lead you into the perfect role.

What do employers want?

I recently asked a range of high profile employers to explain what they felt demonstrated “good networking” skills. Here are their responses:

“Making a good first impression is really important. One way you can achieve this is through networking. Proactively engaging with employers on campus, at their office, or through your online profile not only means you’ll learn more about their opportunities, but you may also get the chance to meet your future colleagues. At fairs make sure you give a firm handshake, ask questions and demonstrate positive body language such as eye contact’’. From Charlotte Robertson, Student Recruitment, PwC

“Something we really look for is a student that has prepared in advance of the event, either by reading up on the companies attending via the promotional literature, or even just googling them in advance to research whether it’s definitely a company they would like to learn more about or apply to. Also somebody that comes over and introduces themselves and shakes hand always goes down well.” From Harriett Cormack, CEB Global

Article written for the Midlands International Group by Teresa Corcoran – Postgraduate Careers Consultant (Business School) at the University of Nottingham, 26 June 2017. This blog follows on from an earlier blog about networking by my colleague Ben Simkins who is a Careers Adviser at Keele University (Link to Ben’s blog: Here ).

References

Citroen, Lida “Creating your Personal Brand” (2015) Link: Here

Peters, Tom “A brand called you!”(1997) Link: https://www.fastcompany.com/28905/brand-called-you

What is networking?

Networking for International Students

Image: CC0 – Public Domain.  No attribution required

You might have heard about networking and how important it can be in helping individuals achieve their professional and personal goals.  But what exactly is it? Networking is the idea that through the personal connections we make with individuals we encounter we can develop mutually beneficial relationships.

Remember networking is not just about what we can get from other people, just as important is how we can help them.

What are the potential benefits of networking?

Networking is all about making contacts.  Making contacts can improve your employability.  The “graduate jobs formula” below illustrates the impact that making contacts could have on improving your employability.

Employability = Qualifications + Work Experience + Skills x Contacts (Redmond, 2010)

Your contacts could help you with:

Insider info; want to impress an employer with your commercial awareness? Having an employee of a company you are targeting for job applications as a contact could provide real insights unavailable elsewhere.

Heads up on upcoming opportunities; often employees of a company will know about opportunities for work and work experience before they are advertised.

A good word in the right ear; making an application? Want to increase the chance of being shortlisted for interview?  Using contacts within the company to provide recommendations for you could make a difference.

Recommendations and endorsements (LinkedIn); LinkedIn allows you to collect recommendations that are much like references and also gives the opportunity for other people to endorse the skills you have listed in your profile.  Using your contacts in this way can help you to develop a more impressive online profile.

Practical help; there are numerous ways in which your contacts can support you with practical help.  For example, to arrange work experience or advice about a tricky application question.  Consider your network, what practical help could these individuals offer you?

References; want a great reference? You could ask a contact in your network.

Personal Introductions; sometimes it’s not the people you know, but the people that they know that can help you.  Your contacts can be helpful in supporting you to develop your network.  Maybe they can’t help you but they know someone who can?

Six Degrees of Separation– Frigyes Karinthy (1929)

The theory that because we are all linked by chains of acquaintances that we are all just six introductions away from anyone else on the planet!

“Proof! Just six degrees of separation between us

After checking 30 billion electronic messages, Microsoft researchers say the theory stands up” – The Observer, 2008.

Consider…what do you want to achieve by networking?

Networking, the basics

A good general rule for networking is to treat every encounter with someone as an opportunity to create a new contact.  Consider who you have in your network at the moment (everyone has one), your family, friends and acquaintances.  This is the starting point from which you can build.

Do not be passive, identify and seek out opportunities to grow your network; for example, your University Careers Fair and employer presentations (to network with graduate employers), social events (to network with your peers).  Check if your University offer networking training or opportunities to meet with Alumni or employers.

Think about the positive impression you want to make; effective impression management can be the key to creating new contacts.  The following are viewed as good practice in terms of meeting new people;

Principle 1: Become genuinely interested in other people

Principle 2: Smile!

Principle 3: Remember their name

Principle 4: Be a good listener.  Encourage others to talk about themselves

Principle 5: Talk in terms of the other person’s interests

Principle 6: Make the other person feel important.  Do it sincerely.

(Carnegie, 2006)

Networking via social networks

LinkedIn is an online professional networking tool and available in over 200 countries worldwide, with over 450 million members.  This makes it the world’s largest professional network on the internet.  It is a great way to not only make new contacts but also to maintain and manage your existing network.

Check if your University offers LinkedIn workshops or training.

To sign up to LinkedIn visit: https://gb.linkedin.com/

For an introduction to LinkedIn and how it can used visit: http://tinyurl.com/m9whhq7

For a more detailed guide to LinkedIn visit: https://university.linkedin.com/linkedin-for-students

Top tip:  you will usually need an email address to connect with someone through LinkedIn.  Ask people you meet in person (that you would like to add to your network) if they would connect with you via LinkedIn and if so, ask for their email address!

References:

Carnegie, D. (2006). How to Win Friends and Influence People. London: Vermillion.

Redmond, P. (2010). The Graduate Jobs Formula. Surrey: Trotman Publishing.

Ben Simkins, Careers Adviser, Keele University