Campus Career Services: A Student Affairs Office Rarely Visited by International Students

In  the Journal of International  Students, , five co-authors try to assess why international students graduate without ever  visiting their career service offices, and why they have little of no knowledge that such an office even existed on an American campus when they were deciding to study in the U.S.  Both raise important questions!

Of interest to me in my ongoing analysis of the linkage between study abroad and student career development, the authors found that “few studies directly explore international student career development.”  This strains credulity when we currently have more than a million international students on our campuses.  If ever there was a cohort which was  concerned about the return on their investment to study in the U.S.(since they’re paying full tuition)  this is it.

This survey was conducted by the International Student Services Committee of the National Career Development Association (  They sampled students, career development professionals and employers between 2012 and 2015.

I’ve known for a long time that when families start the process of exploring where in the U.S. their child “should” enroll (perhaps true for Canada, but, I have no direct knowledge  of this being so), whether they have a career center or any kind, how its’ staffed, and what the rate of employment (overall or by major) is after graduation (or whether the campus posts such information at all) — these are not among the primary considerations for most families.

The key findings or take-aways from this survey are as follows:

  • There is a “gap in knowledge” among international students, career service professionals and employers regarding work authorization “options” in the U.S. More than 50% of employers who responded said this lack of knowledge was a “major obstacle” for hiring international students
  • “Cultural differences” were an obstacle cited by career service professionals – especially student cultural adjustment and language proficiency.  Other reported challenges included “helping students manage expectations from their families back home and a lack of “culturally sensitive” career assessment tools
  • On the other hand, employers and students were not as concerned about cultural factors impacting their job or internship searches. They cited the “professionalism and career orientation” of international students as positive cultural factors in hiring them.  They also cited that hiring such graduates “enhanced diversity in the workplace and showcased a commitment to diversity.”
  • As one might expect, both employers and career service professionals cited the difficulty that international students have in intervieiwing, communicating in English, and awareness of non-verbal behaviors as negatives
  • International students, in general, had a lack of understanding of hiring requirements, specific skills required and thus, were unable to articulate their strengths as a new hire (of course, here, I’d add that this is often an issue for American students as well).
  • Not cited, but, a question which I’d like some data on, is how many campuses – with articulated internationalization policies – recruit new career service professionals with international experience (therefore bringing the advantages of having had to make cultural adjustments, struggle with a foreign langguage, etc, to their work on campus with international students).

Conclusions in this study are, to me, quite obvious. Campuses need to build closer partnerships with employers, share more information about the strengths of their international student community, identify specific skill sets in demand in their local/state economy, develop a deeper understanding of the employment preferences and professional goals of their international students, and in particular, become more cognizant of all the complexities of obtaining work authorization for their students (and assist employers gain this same level of understanding).

New Research: Study Abroad Fosters “Clearer Sense of Self”

Two points to make: First, this study,, appears in the Harvard Business Review which is not where I’d expect to find research  on this topic; second, the five co-authors tested their hypothesis that “living abroad will increase self concept clarity across six studies involving 1,874 participants.”

I was interested in their finding that participant self-discerning reflections “are a critical ingredient in the relationship between living abroad and self-concept clarity.”

The authors discuss how their findings have practical import for MBA participants in relation to their post-graduation career direction and alignment of their sense of self with how others see them in the workplace.

Their summary:

  • Depth, Not Breadth, of Living Abroad Experiences Matters Most
  • A Clearer Sense of Self Leads to More Congruent Feedback, and…
  • Clearer Career Direction

I like the linkage between the development of sense of self and increased capacity to discern and navigate one’s career direction and preferences after graduation. It’s not easy for any student, grad or undergrad, business or history major – and so, as I’ve been advocating, deeper preparation, purposeful design, structured reflection, and longer time abroad, all combine to strengthen a students’ ability to make meaning of and maximize the impact of living and studying abroad.


Research Finds Campus Career Services Valued Mostly by Minority/First Gen/Nontraditional Students

Findings from a 2017 Strada-Gallup student survey provide a perspective on which students appear to derive the most benefit from their campus career service offices:   The survey results are based on responses from over 32,000 currently enrolled students at 43 public and private four-year institutions.

A critical factor impacting a students’ decision to go to college is employability. Whereas, 73% of incoming freshmen/women between 2000 & 2009 said this was true, between 2010-2017, this number jumped to 86%.  How well do campuses meet these high expectations?  It depends…:

  1. Student confidence in their workforce preparation differs across majors:  STEM majors – no surprise- are the most confident that they’ll find employment; yet, students in education, social work & criminal justice report the highest confidence they’ll graduate with the skills and knowledge needed for successful workforce outcomes.
  2. Nontraditional students (those aged 24 & older) feel more prepared than traditional students:  Evidence of their confidence is that 7 in 10 chose their major prior to enrolling.
  3. Students who received career-specific support feel most prepared: And this reflects initiatives on many campuses to begin career planning activities in the first year-or even before arrival on campus.  As is the case with successful career integration initiatives for students going abroad, a holistic campus approach to preparing students for successful post-graduation employability elicits confidence among students that they will succeed.
  4. As has been shown in other studies, only 39% of students in this survey had ever visited their career service office. Surprisingly, only 35% of seniors had done so.
  5. However, students who were most satisfied in the guidance they received from career services were from underserved and underrepresented student populations.
  6. Sadly, in my opinion, only 28% say their academic advisors were very helpful in identifying career options or even graduate degree programs (30%).

The good news in this survey, from a Global Career Compass perspective, is that career services is so highly valued by students with the least personal and family resources. This may bode well for efforts to boost the numbers of these students in study abroad programs.  That is, IF career advisors are well trained to build a strong case for the employability benefits which accrue through international experience. And IF campuses provide the necessary financial support to make it possible for these students to even consider going abroad. 

“Top Concerns” of Institutional Members of Forum on Education Abroad in 2017 “Survey of the Field” (…and mine)

Here is the survey:

What I found of interest – and much concern- was the finding that only 17% of respondents are “very concerned” about career integration; and 25% are, in fact, “neutral” about this as a concern.  I’m not sure what the meaning of neutral might be, however, it obviously could mean that this cohort of  respondents has no opinion. That’s disconcerting to me.

For over a decade, I’ve been advocating and presenting the case for greater “integration” of advising services for students going abroad. So have many other colleagues, including the staff of the University of Minnesota Center for Learning Abroad, who, along with CAPA, have sponsored two Career Integration Conferences bringing together staffs and leaders of study abroad offices and those from career services.  They’ve placed a lot of excellent resources on this topic at:

Similarly, I was surprised to also read that only 32% of respondents were “very concerned” about curriculum integration.  I’m not sure why an academic institution that sends students to study abroad (or to hold international internships or perform service-learning) would not be concerned about how such experiences are integrated with a students’ curricular requirements.

And lastly, there was the finding that the top two things which have the greatest impact on efforts to increase the number of students who study abroad are – financial aid & marketing.  No surprise.  But, I was surprised to learn that “documenting the impact of education abroad to make the case for internationalization” had a LOW impact.  I’d have imagined that making this case would be a very high priority for senior administrators and for faculty.

And so it goes (thanks Kurt Vonegaut)…

Resources Supporting Student Integration of Education Abroad Experience With Career Planning

Since I began writing and speaking on this topic about thirteen years ago, there has been an uptick in research – both academic and by large companies – and by several large private study abroad organizatons, to examine and reflect upon the importance of not merely viewing international experience as of intrinsic value to students.  That there could also be extrinsic value attached to study-internships-or service abroad that advanced a students’ employability.

These selected resources are important because they directly address how campuses and organizations can assist students to “see” the value-added benefits of their decision to go abroad.

We know that employers don’t view education abroad, by itself, as providing a graduate with some inherent advantage -they want and even insist, that students tell a meaningful story describing how their international experience has taught them how to be more culturally agile, more empathic, more linguistically competent (and confident), among many other important related intercultural skills and competencies.

These resources can help students make meaning of, and maximize the learning outcomes, of their education abroad experience(s):

NAFSA: “Incorporating Education Abroad Into Your Career Plan” (2018) by Becky Hall & Kimberly Hindbjorgen

This is a useful booklet written by two experienced members of the outstanding career services team at the University of Minnesota.  UMN sits, in my view, at the top of the pyramid of campuses in the country when it comes to having a sophisticated policy in place for fully integrating student experience abroad with their career development. They, along with CAPA, have co-sponsored two important Career Integration conferences (2014, 2016) bringing together both education abroad and career service professionals to discuss best practices.  For a compendium of  valuable resources, visit the Career Integration page of the UMN Learning Abroad Center at:

Student Guide to Study Abroad & Career Development (2011, rev. 2013), by Marty Tillman

This pamphlet was written expressly to be read by students.  It was my attempt to  emphasize that students needed to make a purposeful decision to go abroad to maximize the benefits of their international experience. I discuss whether employers value study abroad, how a student can make a purposeful choice to go abroad, how to take advantage of career connections while abroad, marketing the experience upon return to campus, and finally, becoming adept at articulating what they learned when meeting with employers.

NAFSA Study Abroad Career Plan & Education Abroad Office Inventory (2013), by Vera Chapman, Curtiss Stevens & Martin Tillman. Created to support the webinar which the three of us conducted: “Helping Students Translate ‘study abroad’ for the Job Search.” Recordings of the webinar are available for purchase from NAFSA: Association of International Educators. 

Campus Best Practices Supporting Education Abroad & Student Career Development (2014), by Marty Tillman

A sample of campuses around the United States who have developed successful models to further integration of their student advising practices, together with other innovative approaches to assist students maximize the advantage of their international experience. Other campuses demonstrate success in building bridges between academic departments and student affairs offices.

If your campus or organizaton has developed an effective resource that you can share with colleagues, please reply here (or to my Twitter feed where this post will be linked)!




A brief, but spectacular, clip on closing the employability gap for students studying abroad – at 2016 IIE Generation Abroad Summit

I liked the innovation at the 2016 IIE GenerationStudyAbroad conference for these 6 minute “talks.” I know there is greater attention to closing the so-called employability gap and I also believe more campuses need to purposefully craft policies to succeed in doing so…

Global Career Compass

I do love the brief but spectacular segments on the PBS News Hour!  

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An Update & A Promise…

Hello followers one and all.  I’ve been quiet for awhile. However, I have been more active on LinkedIn and continue to report out interesting research and thought-pieces on my Twitter feed (are you there?).  I was recently pleased that Global Career Compass was identified as one of the Top Twenty Blogs on International Education by Feedspot:

Of course, as with so many friends and colleagues, our political culture has been sucking up a lot of air – and energy. So has the news of mass murders in cities and schools, attempts to deport the DACA kids and their parents, roll backs to Obamacare & threats to all manner of aid to the poor and the elderly, challenges to “real” science and analysis of climate change, appointments of unqualified judges to courts —–I just can’t go on with this list.

I hope to march in  DC on the 24th with what I imagine will be tens of thousands of high school students and others fighting against the direction the NRA keeps  pushing for in the Congress and state legislatures.

I’m also now finishing what Ihope will be an important book chapter updating the field about current research trends and national inititatives to  link learning abroad and employability (Routledge to be published later this year -stay tuned here for details).

So my promise is that I’ll continue to write more frequently in 2018…

On the Importance of Linking Internships With Employability

Career Integration: Reviewing the Impact of Experience Abroad on Employment (No.2), by the University of Minnesota Learning Abroad Center & CAPA. See this volume – and No. 1 (2014) – at Publications || || Learning Abroad Center.  The two volumes are outcomes of conferences held in 2014 and 2016 bringing together several hundred senior international officers, employers, recruiters, faculty, and education abroad and career service staff.

I regret that the title refers to “employment;” the research in the field, both within the US (note the recent IIE survey published in 2017) and internationally, reports how the accrual of essential skills and competencies through education abroad contributes to student employability  – not their actual success in becoming employed (this is a data point, of course, of interest to career service offices).

These two volumtes present brief essays focused on the changing narrative around the value-added of international experience. This more inclusive framework includes the impact of such experience on student employability (not necessarily on “employment,” which is somewhat mis-leading in the title of both volumes).  All authors come to the same conclusion:  an education abroad experience, purposefully designed to maximize critical learning outcomes, which focuses on the need for students to strengthen essential qualitative and quantitative skill sets, provides an unparalled opportunity to strengthen student employability upon graduation.

Taken together, the two volumes offer important perspectives on how education abroad impacts student employability. While there may be some in our field who deplore this linkage, mistakenly thinking it is about the “vocationalization” of the collegiate experience, I have advocated, for over a decade, that assisting students in understanding how their international experience supports and strengthens their employability is the right thing to do.  It is, in fact, a moral imperative for campuses committed to internationalization.

My Point of View on Study Abroad and Its Impact on student Career Development & Employability …

I hope you enjoy watching these presentations which deliver my point of view – well known if you follow me here or @tillman_marty – on a topic which continues to resonate on campuses and with private organizations in the international education field.  This year, the political turmoil in the United States and within the EU over “Brexit” promise to fuel ongoing concerns about a downturn in global student mobility; this, in turn, will impact – perhaps tamp down – the expansion of opportunities for students to build their employability toolkits.

Impact of Learning Abroad on Student Career Development & Employability

 Panel Discussion: IIE Survey of Impact of Study Abroad on U.S. Students (2017 IIE Generation Abroad Summit)

The session analyzed findings of the IIE study, “Gaining an Employment Edge: The Impact of Study Abroad on 21st Century Skills & Career Prospects” showing that study abroad contributes to the development of transferable skills and positive employment gains, with the impact varying according to program characteristics, study destinations, and the students’ goals. Download the full report here: Panelists: Christine Farrugia, Deputy Head of Research at IIE; Marty Tillman, President of Global Career Compass; Ann Hubbard, VP at AIFS Study Abroad; and Maggie Becker, Director of Career Services at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

 A [Brief But Spectacular] 6-Minute Talk:

“Closing the Employability Gap for Students Studying Abroad” (2016 IIE Generation Abroad Summit)

This was an innovative approach at the second IIE Generation Abroad Summit allowing many points of view to be shared with participants.

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