Students who decide to leave their home countries to attend college in the United States share a desire to succeed that transcends their fear of the unknown. That courage and determination is important for success in college and in the “real world,” after graduation.
If you’re going to study in the U.S., think about how you can use that experience to develop qualities that appeal to employers. Regardless of whether you stay in the U.S. after graduation or return to your home country, you can develop skills that appeal to employers everywhere.
What employers want
As international students search for U.S. scholarships and grants, they find many awards are based on more than just grades. According to “Passport to American Education,” by HCC Medical Insurance, volunteerism, leadership and communication are all abilities that help students get scholarships. Those same qualities can help you get a job, too.
Developing leadership qualities
Good leadership depends on your ability to interact respectfully with other people and motivate them to achieve a common goal. That’s why joining a sports team or social club can be a great way to begin honing your leadership skills.
When you’re part of a large group, there will be times when the group needs to reach a majority opinion about something — for example, when to hold a fundraiser or what your goals are for the next quarter. Express your opinion and explain how you made your decision — that’s the first step in inspiring others to share your point of view.
Take advantage of any mentoring opportunities at your school — you can learn from a mentor and become one yourself. Volunteer to be a club officer, too, so you can learn more about the administration of a group.
Tip: Make a note of your accomplishments in extracurricular activities. You may be talking about those experiences in a job interview someday.
Why communication matters
Public speaking and leadership go hand-in-hand — think of a renowned world leader and his or her ability to speak with authority and passion. Great leaders need to be able to speak confidently and honestly in order to inspire trust. The same is true in your everyday life, so college is a great time to think about how you can be a stronger communicator.
Take more writing courses than you’re required to take, and learn how to compose an effective email. Employers look for candidates who communicate clearly, concisely and respectfully, and these classes can help get you there.
Volunteerism and character
Volunteering is one of the best ways to expand your professional networks. You’ll meet other like-minded people who may someday be in positions to offer you a job. Plus, volunteerism shows employers that you’re a team player who’s willing to make sacrifices. In fact, a survey via the social network LinkedIn a few years ago found that 41 percent of employers place equal value on employment history and volunteer history, with 20 percent saying they made a hiring decision based on volunteer activities.
The fact that you were willing to take a risk and travel to the U.S. for college will give you an advantage in a competitive job market. But college offers many opportunities to develop the other skills that employers look for, too. So focus on getting good grades, but strive to be a well-rounded person.