Emerging Practitioner: Build your Humanitarian career  Online course

Translate Your Skills To An International Career

Saturday, Aug 25, 2018
by Humanitarian Institute

Skills Translation

In the midst of a meaningfulness crisis? Seeking purpose? Decided you want to make a career change?

Whatever your motivation you're going to need a new and targeted resume to build your international career.

You sit down to update your application documents, and it isn't long before you feel paralysed. You realise you have very little idea how to translate your experience and skills in a way that will grab the attention of an international hiring manager.

But rest assured, you can transfer your competencies to the international realm.

Here's what you need to know.


Begin by reading the position description for the role that you want and ask yourself "What criteria do I already have?" We're assuming you're not a recent graduate applying for the Head of a UN agency. If the level of role feels somewhat similar chances are good that you've already got some of the skills and qualifications required.

Focus on the requirements that you meet without a doubt.

Maybe you have 5 years of management experience under your belt? Or, maybe you're a skilled presenter as the job requires? Put those things on your list. It will arm you with the things that you want to draw the most attention to in your resume.

Zoning in on those qualities that make you an great candidate helps you present yourself as a seamless hire... even with less traditional experience.

Quantify Results

Employers everywhere—regardless of industry—appreciate an employee who's a great return on investment.

Therefore, its critical to highlight and quantify the results you've achieved in past roles. This is VERY important when you're changing careers, as your targeted employers care more about what you've accomplished, and less about how you did it.

You are an investment, present yourself as such.

For example, Bobby has worked in healthcare administration, and is aiming to make a change by applying for an program support role with a large global NGO. He knows that his experience in broad administration in a complex field such as health will benefit him. But he's never worked in community development before and is unsure nervous about his perceived lack of quals.

Here's a bullet from Bobby's current resume:

Responsible for planning, facilitating, and evaluating the annual hospital gala event.

To focus on results, Bobby should quantify and also link it to larger, organisational goals. For example:

Strengthened the hospital's relationship with 500+ prospective donors, board members, and other stakeholders by coordinating and executing the annual gala.

Numbers draw parallels in the hiring managers mind and also paints a picture. Each of which is important to ensure you stand out among the tens if not hundreds of competing resumes.

Draw Parallels

When applying for an international job, your duty is to make your previous experience relevant.... write for the hiring manager, not yourself.

This means that you need to connect the dots for the reviewer. Your resume content MUST bridge the gap between what you possess and what the role requires.

This also means cutting things that won't be applicable. Then, challenging yourself to relate your existing experiences to the international field and the criteria of the job to which you're applying.

Think soft / higher level skills: negotiation, cross-cultural communication, adaptability, critical analysis, and so on.


Emphasize Your Soft Skills

Too often we glaze over soft skills. Thinking they are unimportant. But research suggests that these are the key elements that employers are frustrated by. That is, they can't find candidates with enough of them!

So we know they really carry weight in your job search.

Think about it this way: Would an international humanitarian organisation want to hire a representative who wasn't a skilled communicator under pressure? Probably not.

Soft skills matter.

This is good news for you.

As they are the easiest skills to transfer from role to role and industry to industry. Things like time management, problem solving, leadership and critical reflection are desirable and required across the globe.

While your resume can't be filled with only these soft competencies, drawing attention to them helps fill in gaps and present you as a well-rounded and qualified candidate... even if your experience is a little out of the box.

Making the change to an international career can be challenging. But your competitors are mostly lazy. Put in the effort. Think laterally and put these tips to good use and you will jump ahead of the pack.

The fact is everyone transfers at some point in their career - it's possible.

Place your emphasis on your passion as well as the critical skills (technical and soft) things that you bring to the table.

Do that, and you're sure to catch the eye of a hiring manager who understands that you don't need to be predictable to be qualified. 

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