Claire Guy is an Employability and Careers Consultant working with postgraduates in the Business School. She is currently developing a range of resources and support specifically for international students.
As an international student, there’s a lot to think about and lots to do. You’ve been saving, planning, and packing for as long as you can remember and now you’re far from home, adjusting to a new style of teaching, possibly even in a language that isn’t your native tongue. Wow – You deserve a huge round of applause for all you’ve achieved so far.
Perhaps you’re looking forward to things calming down with less on your mind, and the chance to focus on your studies. It might surprise you that we are already asking you to think about your future and to start preparing for a career after your studies. It might feel a little overwhelming! But what if I could give you 5 tips which won’t take a lot of effort, but will make a huge difference for your future success?
“What if you could focus your time on the 20% of possible actions that will give you 80% of the impact for career success?”
You may have heard of the 80:20 rule, or the Pareto Principle. Developed by an economist in 1895, the rule demonstrates that 80% of your outcomes come from 20% of your time and effort. Let’s apply this to your time at Exeter and your future career. What if you could focus your time on the 20% of possible actions that will give you 80% of the impact for career success? Here are 5 simple things you can do that bring huge results!
1 Immerse yourself in cultural learning: Employers worldwide are realising that diverse workforces are great for business. They want to employ people who think differently and approach things from a range of perspectives. Diversity brings a huge range of benefits such as increased innovation, creativity, and happier employees. International students like you naturally bring culturally diverse perspectives but you can add even more impact, when you combine this with combine this with cultural intelligence. Cultural Intelligence is the ability to relate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations. It’s about crossing cultural boundaries and thriving in multiple cultures. Someone who has cultural intelligence is not just an observer of different cultures – they are able to culturally adapt and work together with people across a variety of cultural contexts. This cultural intelligence will impress UK employers, employers in your home country and anywhere else in the world you choose to go! The University of Exeter is a proudly international institution, with staff and students from more than 130 countries giving you endless opportunities to interact with different cultures. We know that this can feel scary and that it can feel more comfortable to make friends with other students from your home country but if you make the effort to interact in and out of class with a range of people you will really reap the rewards. Imagine applying for graduate roles and being able to talk confidently about your cultural intelligence and diverse perspectives! Say yes to as many opportunities to mix with others as possible.
“The University of Exeter is a proudly international institution, with staff and students from more than 130 countries giving you endless opportunities to interact with different cultures.”
2 Develop skills outside of your studies: Whether you plan to work in the UK after your studies, or return home, employers will want to hear about the skills you have developed whilst you were a student at Exeter. In fact, if you plan to remain in the UK to work, it is important for you to know that many UK employers value skills over and above your academic achievements. In fact, growing numbers of graduate employers are removing academic grades from their entry requirements as they have found that skills are a much better predictor of a graduate’s ability to perform well in a job than their academic grade. Employers don’t mind where your skills come from so you have lots of options: pick from volunteering, joining a society, taking part in a sport, getting a casual / part time job, or doing an internship. If you have limited time available, you might want to be strategic about which skills you need to develop and focus on activities which target those skills. Carrying out a “skills-gap analysis” will help you be strategic- a) study a career profile or search graduate vacancies that interest you and b) make a list of the skills needed. Then c) assess your own skills. Focus on developing the skills that you need for the career(s) / vacancies that interest you, but which aren’t very strong yet! Don’t forget to be mindful of your visa in terms of how many hours a week you can do certain activities. If you are considering taking up volunteering or unpaid work please refer to the International Student Support pages to check what is considered as volunteering or voluntary work.
“Whether you plan to work in the UK after your studies, or return home, employers will want to hear about the skills you have developed whilst you were a student at Exeter.”
3 Be informed: If you plan to stay in the UK after your studies to work, you will need to understand how the job market works in the UK. There are likely to be differences between the UK and how things are done back at home. For example, the graduate recruitment cycle in the UK starts early. This means that jobs which start in June / July or August open for applications in the previous September and close between Nov-Jan. So, if you want a place on a graduate scheme, you will need to be ready to apply almost a whole year before your course finishes. It may be that CVs, application letters, video interviews and other parts of the application process are different from what you may have experienced in your home country. That’s why Career Zone is available for you, with lots of virtual help as well as help in person. We can help teach you all about working in the UK, as well as helping on a practical level. You may find our bespoke programmes, India Career Ready or China Career Ready helpful too.
“If you plan to stay in the UK after your studies to work, you will need to understand how the job market works in the UK. There are likely to be differences between the UK and how things are done back at home.”
4 Build networks: If you follow the advice here so far, you will meet a lot of new people! Keep in touch with them, you never know when you may be able to help them or they may be able to help you. The people you meet now are the ones who are or will be in a position to help you out professionally in the future. You are connected through your shared experiences, which means they are much more likely to want to help you, especially if you have been helpful in the past. Students often feel that they don’t have much to offer anyone at this early point in their career, yet doing small, helpful things can really have an impact for others. Promoting projects and events that other people are organising or involved in, introducing people to one another, or sharing your experiences can be so useful for your peers. Sharing that you were rejected for a role you really wanted because you didn’t complete an online test within the required 5-day period for example, might help someone else to avoid the same mistake. The more helpful you can be, the more you’ll be seen as a valuable connection. LinkedIn is a brilliant tool to keep in touch with your network.
“Students often feel that they don’t have much to offer anyone at this early point in their career, yet doing small, helpful things can really have an impact for others.”
5 Improve your English: If you follow tips 1-4, your English will already have improved a lot! It’s worth knowing that UK employers expect very good spoken English from international applicants, so if your English still needs some improving, INTO at Exeter offer lots of support.