Why is it so hard to land a job in study abroad?

career in international education
So Hard to Land Job in Study Abroad - Inside Study Abroad

Welcome to #NOTATNAFSA week which is one of the more surreal moments in my international education career. Like many of you, I spent over a decade conditioning myself to spend Memorial Day in a huge expo hall with 10,000+ of my comrades in global learning.

But here we are. Zoom is the hottest reception and global mobility is at a stand-still. But that doesn't mean your career development has to be!

One topic I've presented at numerous NAFSA events is how to break into the field and land a job. I've had standing room only crowds attend these sessions.

Which begs the question: Why is it so hard to land a job in our field?

That's what I'm tackling in today's post.

I know first hand how competitive it can be to land a job in this space (and even more challenging as the field enters a period of hyper-disruption and uncertainty).

As each year passes I hear more and more crazy stories about the number of applicants received for open positions.

During our "how to land a job" workshop on Thursday, we'll share how to make this process a LOT easier, but I think it's important to first understand why it's so challenging to break into the field.


Reason #1: Low Barrier to Entry

This might seem counterintuitive since I know many of you are going to tell me that "you have to have a master's degree to get a job" but stay with me. When it comes to the work we do in international education, there isn't a standardized technical education requirement, exams to pass, or certificates to receive that magically make you qualified to do the work.

Unlike becoming an accountant, lawyer, or doctor, we don't have specific "qualifiers" such as certification and licensing exams that make you a clear "yes" or a "no" when it comes to doing this work professionally.

Of course, we have our own set of "recommended" skills/education/experience such as advising, earning a master's degree, and time studying/living abroad, but it's still possible to work in international education without those.

And because it's not standardized, what one hiring manager says is an absolute must another will say isn't necessary at all.

(Example: I can name 10 friends in the field right now who ALL disagree on the importance of a master's degree in our field. 50% say don't worry about it. 50% say definitely do it. It's a crapshoot.)

As a result, almost anyone with any background can submit an application for a position.

Which leads me to Reason #2...


Reason #2: Huge Number of Applicants Per Job Opening

Since there's such a low barrier to entry for many entry-level jobs in our field, it results in a massive number of applications received for each open position.

This can be incredibly overwhelming for the hiring manager or committee. Believe me, I've been on both sides of this. As an applicant, competing with those fresh out of undergrad AND those with a Ph.D. plus years of experience can be a tough process to crack.

And as a hiring manager, sifting through hundreds (yes HUNDREDS!) of applications to find that one person (or a handful of people) who could be a good fit/value-add for your office, mission, team, etc., is tiresome and overwhelming.

In the Global Pro Institute, we outline our strategies to make this a non-issue for top emerging professionals. We break all the rules to circumvent this issue. ;)


Reason #3: More and More People Want Passion-filled Work

Now more than ever, people of every generation and all walks of life are looking for opportunities to do work they love promoting and supporting ideas that spark their purpose and passion.

Most of us don't want to be selling mattresses. (And hey...there's nothing wrong with selling mattresses...especially if it's something you're passionate about! A good night's sleep is hugely valuable to your health and happiness. My point is you have to be passionate about it!).

We want to work for causes and missions that nurture our souls and make the world a better place (yes, it's a little cheesy, but cheesy isn't always bad).

Working in international education is the best of both worlds for most of us in the field or trying to break in. We get to spend our days working with potential participants, developing programs, establishing systems/procedures, marketing/promoting, researching/teaching...and so much more...just to make meaningful international experiences more accessible to more young people around the world.

It doesn't get more cheesy and meaningful than that.

More and more people are willing to leave existing careers, jobs, and fields of study to break into a field and industry that centers around something that is deeply meaningful to them both personally and professionally: travel.


Reason #4: Loving Travel Isn't Enough

I've worked with a LOT of aspiring international educators over the years and the number one thing consistently hurting their chances of landing a job in international ed is that they think passion is enough.

I will be the first to tell you that PASSION is the first thing you need to be successful professionally in international ed. BUT it can't be the only thing you have going for you.

Reading through resumes and cover letters, doing informational interviews, and during my coaching sessions, I hear things like "Passion for study abroad" and "Love to travel" over and over again.

That's great. Passion is necessary. But to land a job in this competitive job market (with so many applicants) you have to level up and show that you have the skills and experience to back up your passion.

You have to demonstrate your ability to DO THE WORK of international education.

I expand on this in our How to Land A Job In Study Abroad workshop.

Of course, these aren't the only reasons landing a job is so tough. Moving forward, we aren't going to focus on why it's tough.

Instead, we're focusing on hacking the system and landing a job you love.

We're going to find the shortest distance between point A and point B.

I can't WAIT to bust through these barriers during the "How to Land A Job" workshop. 

Not sure if this workshop is right for you? Here's what we're covering:

  • What you need to land a job in study abroad and international ed
  • Biggest mistakes you're probably making in your job search
  • The #1 thing you should be doing during the pandemic to land a job in IE
  • Where you need to be hanging out to maximize your job search
  • Number one places to find open positions in the field
  • And so much more!




3 Secrets To Build Your Study Abroad & Global Education Career...

Watch our free workshop on launching and leveling-up  your career in global programs - and learn how I went from intern to executive in just 4 years!