When you study and intern abroad, opportunities will constantly be presenting themselves for you to grow professionally. The overarching benefits of picking up new skills will serve you in the years to come.
In an article written in 2018, LinkedIn Business shared their findings from hiring and recruiting data that they pulled between January-September 2017 (which was billions of data points) to identify the most in-demand hard and soft skills for 2018 and on. From this and several other sources which produced similar data, we’ll take a look at six of the professional skills you need to succeed this year and some of the ways studying and interning abroad can play a role.
There’s no way around it; if you’re not tech-savvy already, this should be at the top of your learning wish list. Even if you are, it’s time to think about taking your skills to the next level. Of the top 10 hard skills pulled from LinkedIn’s research, every single one of them involves technology. This focus doesn’t limit you to the tech industry when it comes to a career. In fact, it will only increase your value as an employee on a number of very different pathways, from finance to healthcare to marketing and beyond, as technological advances continue to reshape, or at least leave their mark on, most fields today.
Study abroad tip: Push yourself to learn new tech skills while abroad even if you’re not signing up for tech classes. Explore new programs that will stretch your limits when you’re creating presentations, for example, and observe ways that tech is used differently in your host city. If you’re interning with a company where employees are using a program you’re unfamiliar with in their work, ask to shadow one of them so you can learn.
The list of other hard skills that are most valuable in 2019 will vary depending on your field, but the best approach is a combination of strong hard and soft skills. In fact, 57% of 2,000 leaders that LinkedIn surveyed said that soft skills are even more important than hard skills—Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg included.
The rest of our list features some of the key soft skills to work on:
Leadership actually encompasses many other soft skills from problem solving to active listening to managing time and managing stress, etc... In fact, all of the other skills on this list also contribute to great leadership. Simply put, leaders are the people that inspire others and make things happen smoothly, and leadership skills can be put to work anywhere, from leading a country to leading a group project to leading a sports team. Leaders are in high demand.
Study abroad tip: Practice being an active leader by developing the right mindset and the confidence to go with it. Study abroad is the perfect time to do this as exploring a new city often requires one person to step forward and make things happen for the rest of a group. Ditto to planning trips, submitting quality team projects at your internship placement, and planning a Thanksgiving dinner with friends away from home.
3. Collaboration and Planning
Collaboration starts with willingness to participate in an activity as a team, a commitment to keeping up your responsibilities to the others, and being open to the ideas and suggestions of your teammates. Sharing and collaboration come into play everywhere these days, from the group force that goes into crowdfunding projects to everyday sharing of photos and files to the simple action of splitting an Uber.
Study abroad tip: Work together. When you’re living in another culture, you can learn so much from sharing stories and ideas with friends, internship colleagues, and classmates whose backgrounds may differ vastly from your own. Be open to new ideas and share yours too.
4. Critical Thinking
Many other soft skills come into play in critical thinking also. You need creativity, resourcefulness, the ability to find connections between ideas, and know how to evaluate and analyze information. It can come through a combination of observing, reflecting, reasoning, and looking back at past experiences. It means thinking deliberately. It’s a skill that allows you to ultimately make better decisions and have a more concrete understanding of the way things work.
Study abroad tip: Hone your critical thinking skills abroad by seeking out information and embracing learning opportunities in and out of the classroom and especially while you’re at your internship site, by observing your new surroundings, questioning any presumptions and stereotypes, and reflecting at the end of your day on what you’ve seen and learned.
Sometimes life simply doesn’t go as planned. How well and how quickly can you adapt and adjust your schedule to make room for whatever has suddenly taken priority? Are you flexible? It may not always be that circumstances have changed for a negative reason either. It may mean knowing when to make your own decision to change circumstances yourself in order to take advantage of an opportunity that has suddenly emerged.
Study abroad tip: When you study abroad, opportunities will constantly be presenting themselves (an invitation to work on a cool project at your internship? Last minute invitation to meet a local friend’s family?). You may find yourself encountering plenty of roadblocks too (train cancellations, lost luggage, language barriers, etc...). Be mindful of how you react and challenge yourself to become more adaptable.
6. Communication and Networking
More than 80% of employers believe that effective communication skills are essential for candidates. There are many different facets to the word communication: from clear spoken communication, to body language and the unspoken way in which you present yourself, to the ability to be concise with written language and knowing how to write appropriately for the specific platform you’re working on. It also involves extended skills like listening, delegation, storytelling, languages, etc... Great communicators and networking to build relationships that lead to new opportunities go hand in hand.
Study abroad tip: If you’re studying abroad in a country where English is not the first language, make a conscious effort to learn as much of the local language as possible. Whichever language you study abroad in, make a point of listening, especially while interning with locals where you’ll often pick up on cultural nuances. Continue to consciously work on written and verbal communication skills and take advantages of the many networking opportunities that a semester or summer abroad undoubtedly presents.