Claire Guy is an Employability and Careers Consultant at the University of Exeter. She runs careers workshops for international students and co-ordinates India Career Ready.
As an international student you have worked so hard during your studies. You have adapted to UK culture, developed your language skills, and taken on academic challenges. Surely employers in your home country will be fighting to offer you a job?
While it is true that many employers see the benefits of a UK education, you will not be the only overseas-educated student returning home. The competition may be tougher than you expect. You may need to do more than show your degree certificate and watch the job offers coming in!
Here are our top 10 tips for international students who plan to return home after their studies:
1 Stay connected to the job market in your home country
It can be tempting to focus purely on your studies in the UK and leave your job search until you get home. This might mean a few months between arriving home and starting work though. The job-hunting process often takes longer than you might expect. It’s unlikely that you will get the first job you apply for. Would you be happy with this? Could you support yourself financially while you look for work at home?
Most students would rather have a job waiting for them after finishing their studies. In today’s virtual world, job searching at a distance is possible for international students. You will need to know how and when employers in your country typically recruit. For example, in the UK application season is October to January but in China, there are two periods, September to November and March to May. Employers in Malaysia tend to recruit all year round. What is the schedule in your country?
The following websites contain useful information about employment around the world, as well as country-specific job vacancies.
- Graduate Jobs | Overseas | International | Careers | GradlinkUK
- Working abroad | Prospects.ac.uk
You should also pay attention to any channels specific to your country i.e. Weibo / LinkedIn
2 Don’t forget connections at home
Your friends and family are a huge source of support- tell them all that you are looking for work. Ask them to help by introducing you professionals who might be able to give advice about working in your country. Tell them to let you know if they see or hear of opportunities.
At Exeter we have strong alumni networks of graduates from most countries. Many of them are keen to support current students too – why not reach out to alumni in your region through one of our groups?
You could also connect with professionals working in your sector via LinkedIn. We have written a super guide about using the alumni networking tool. Have a look at industry-related groups or country specific events too.
3 Make the most of your time in the UK
Most international students would love to find a UK internship. However, internships are competitive and usually need to be applied for months in advance. UK internships mostly run over the summer and so may not fit with term dates if you are a postgraduate student. This means that you may not be successful in getting an internship. The good news is that there are lots and lots of other alternatives to internships which will still help you tell a rich story about your time in the UK.
By getting involved in extra-curricular activities, you can show your ability to fit in, add value to wider communities and work on social issues that may be relevant to employers. At very least, you will have fun and build a network! If you’d like to find out more about ways you can develop during your studies, why not come along to our workshop Maximising Your Time as an International Student in the UK or see our advice on the Career Zone international student pages.
4 Think about what makes you unique
Your improved English language skills are important but you have so much more to offer.
- You are a self-motivated, risk taker
- You can adapt to new environments and learning situations
- You are culturally aware
- You have a greater understanding of how Europeans do business
These qualities are so impressive to employers. However, you need to explain them clearly because they will not speak for themselves.
Try asking yourself these questions to reflect on what you have learned:
- What has surprised you most about the UK?
- What things have you found most difficult? (Tip- difficulty is where we usually learn most!)
- What were you hoping to gain or develop by coming to the UK that you couldn’t get in your home country?
- How was your education at home different to what you’ve experienced at Exeter?
- How are you a different person now?
5 Be prepared to describe your skills and learning
Employers in your home country might not understand why they should hire someone with a Exeter degree or realise the quality of the education you are gaining. It is up to you to explain to them why you are the perfect candidate and why your studies have made you a great future employee. Would you know how to explain your degree to employers in your own country?
Think about how you will explain your studies so that employers at home can understand it. How was it different to studying at home? Did you experience new methods of teaching? Simulated business projects or work-based assignments? Group work? Critical thinking? How would you describe your course to show your new learning, ideas and professional development?
6 Get ready to describe the University of Exeter
Employers in your country may not have heard of the University of Exeter, so it’s up to you to explain how reputable it is. What facts, figures or league table positions could you include in your descriptions? What might you say about your course, professors or college? Make sure you have something ready to tell employers in your home country when they ask about the University.
7 Have a clear and positive answer prepared to explain why you have returned home
Returning home after studying abroad can sometimes raise questions. Employers may wonder why you didn’t stay in the UK. They may think you were not good enough to find work. Make sure you explain to them that you made the choice to come home. Although some of your reasons may be because of family or friends or lifestyle, try to answer in a way that benefits the employer. Be positive in your explanation, for example:
“I couldn’t wait to bring home my insights into European sustainability in business to Thailand, particularly around the use of plastics. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere other than Thailand and as the world’s 6th biggest contributor of ocean waste there is a lot of work for us to do! I really want to be part of that.”
8 Be realistic
You may not find an employer who wants to pay you a higher salary simply because you have a British qualification. Feedback from some employers around the world is that returning students can sometimes be over-confident and expect better opportunities than home educated students. Sometimes your UK education may really show the benefits when you start to apply for promotions, so be patient.
Talking to Exeter alumni or other professionals in your home country will help you to have realistic expectations.
9 Be prepared for reverse culture shock
Do you remember how you felt when you arrived in Exeter? I bet it was exhausting! Trying to get everything done, learn new things and speak English all the time.
Going back home might feel the same. You will be different and so will your friends and family. Life will have moved on at home. However, they may have little understanding of how your time at Exeter has changed your outlook. Be prepared for things to feel a little difficult and be kind to yourself in the first few weeks.
10 Stay in touch
As a graduate from the University of Exeter, a forever institution, you are not only entitled to all of the fantastic resources that the alumni office can offer, you also have access to the Career Zone forever. All of our graduate Career Zone support and resources are now housed in one central location for you to access from your home country.
For more help with taking your UK experience back home, come along to our workshop on the topic which runs several times each year, and is bookable on Handshake. We run a series of workshops specifically for international students on other topics too.