Presenting Your Experience

You might have achieved great things studying abroad but it is not the same as job experience. When it comes to your résumé or a job interview, your international experience can answer many of the questions that employers and human resources people ask when they are looking for job experience.

Employers may be looking for certain qualities that can be demonstrated by your international experience such as:

  • initiative,
  • engagement in your occupation,
  • knowledge of how the field works,
  • ability to work with others and adapt.

By demonstrating your abilities and experiences in practical terms, you will be able to provide evidence of the qualities that people look for as ‘job experience.’

ePortfolio night

Portfolio Building

Portfolio building focuses specifically on translating skills, experiences and achievements into forms that are recognised on résumé, in job letters, and during interviews. Remember that ‘Portfolio’ is a metaphor as well as a physical object. The idea is that you create some coherent, evidence-filled account of:

  • what you can do
  • your passions and interests
  • your aspirations.

You may not need to make a physical object like a portfolio because you can capture your experiences in job applications and your résumé. However, if you are in a field like design, marketing, photography or writing you will need a ‘physical’ portfolio. The key to any portfolio is:

  • memorability
  • coherence, and
  • achievements.

Your résumé

To help you highlight your international accomplishments on your résumé, it’s useful to think about three different elements:

  • projects
  • specific skills related to your profession
  • ‘soft’ employability skills.

What past students say

  • Ekta

    Ekta’s job-relevant skills

    Ekta is a recent medical graduate. While studying she undertook three international experiences, to the USA, China and Ireland. At the time of the interview, Ekta was working at an intern in a large regional hospital in Australia. Here she talks about some of the different kinds of ‘soft’ and professional skills she developed during her time abroad.



What concrete projects or assignments did you do overseas that might be examples of the kind of work you can do?

You don’t need to include every assignment. Consider the major ones, especially if they were ‘international’ in any way for example:

  • Did you give a presentation in class?
  • Did you do locally-based research?
  • Did you organise an activity?
  • Did you put on an event of any sort?

Not every one of these will be appropriate for your résumé but if you can think of a couple of examples, this will make your résumé more concrete.

Professional skills and knowledge

What specific skills and knowledge are important in your chosen profession or career path? Which ones have you developed and how? Which projects or assignments that you completed overseas could you use to show your expertise in these areas?

‘Soft’ employability skills

Refer to your Employability Skills Worksheet here in either Ms Word or Adobe.PDF format, and use the examples you listed to build your résumé. You may be able to include the skills under specific class projects or in the context of other experiences you had overseas such as internships or volunteer work.

Don’t forget the importance of communication skills. While studying abroad you’ve had to learn to communicate more carefully, to be aware of how you communicate. You’ve had to work with people who are different to you, so you should be better at teamwork. You definitely demonstrated initiative by simply choosing to go outside your comfort zone to international.

Reflect on your experiences and how you demonstrated the employer-ranked soft skills and personality traits, including:

  • Verbal communication skills
  • Strong work ethic
  • Teamwork skills
  • Analytic skills
  • Initiative

Sample resume entry

It is useful to highlight your student exchange or other international experience as a separate entry under an Education heading on your résumé with its own title. The separate section can highlight the international experience, especially when it is particularly significant.

Building your résumé

In the video, Greg Downey talks about building your résumé by exploring concrete examples of what you have done during your international experience.


How would you record your international experience on a résumé?

Writing a cover letter

In the video, Greg Downey talks about the key features of writing a cover letter.

The things that are easiest to read are NOT what you write most quickly. Re-read everything you intend to send. The point is to edit and polish.

More is not necessarily better. Focus on the most relevant experiences that show you in the best light. An unfocused résumé can be hard to follow.

A cover letter goes with your résumé. It is designed to:

  • introduce you
  • demonstrates your awareness of the opportunity
  • hook the reader and prompt them to pay attention to your résumé

Woman reviewing letter

Because your résumé tends to be standardised, the cover letter allows you to tailor your response to the nature of the vacancy and how you see yourself fitting in. Where possible, it’s useful to Google the organisation’s mission, vision or values and use those words in your letter.

An example

When searching for an organisation’s values, you might find something like this on their website:

To achieve our goals, we need to model our values everyday in every way.
Our values are:
  • Our customers come first
  • We take pride in our service
  • We support each other to get things done
  • We constantly strive to improve.

In your cover letter, you might be able to use those words in a sentence to link your experiences to their values. For example:

Value statement

In some situations, you may not want to refer to your international experience, or refer to it less. On the other hand, if the job specifically says that there is an overseas affiliate or clients, you definitely can bang the drum harder about your international experiences.

When writing about your experiences, it’s useful to break an example into 3 phases. Move your mouse over each phase of the graphic to find out more.

blackboard thoughts Thought #1 Thought #2 Thought #3


How would you re-create your international experience in a cover letter?

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