The Role of Career Counselors in Global Education

by Satomi Yaji

The past decade has witnessed a spurt in global interactions among career counselors. Over the course of the last few years, I have had the opportunity to meet career development professionals from overseas at conferences. The reverse is also true. Career counselors from the U.S. go abroad to help support the evolution and progress of career development. Moreover, this trend is evident among the college student population. An increasing number of higher education institutions send their students to foreign countries and have even established overseas campuses. Given this situation, the question is ‘How can career counselors better assist students in attaining a global perspective?’ I believe the answer goes beyond promoting study abroad programs. This article attempts to address this question.

A typical college campus has the following five student populations:

  1. Students interested in internship/study abroad programs
  2. Students interested in working abroad in the future
  3. Students who have not considered any of the above
  4. Global Nomads – This population has spent their pre-adulthood years outside their home country because of the family’s work circumstances
  5. International students.

The first two populations occasionally overlap, implying that students with overseas internship/study abroad experience wish to work in a different country in the future. Many students opt for the study-abroad program to get a first hand experience of the culture and/or learn/hone the language. At the same time, I have come across students who were unable to participate in the study-abroad program but hoped to gain some overseas experience after graduation. The third population is students who have not thought about working overseas, with reasons ranging from the fact that they do not think it is necessary to they are not aware that it might be an option. Through some education and support from career counselors, however, some of these students may move into the populations 1 and 2. Global nomads are more often than not eager to attain work experience outside the United States based on their personal preference. Interestingly, some of them do not see ‘work-abroad’ from a ‘domestic-international’ perspective as they do not specifically perceive any country as their ‘home country.’ Finally, international students are a little different from the rest of the groups in that they are already experiencing a foreign culture. My experience and surveys indicate that many of them are interested in working in the United States upon graduation. This population often needs realistic career plans including where they intend to be in the long run.

Given the fact that many students are attracted to work abroad programs after graduation, I suggest two factors to consider while working with them. First, it is vital to identify the purpose behind the students’ intention to participate. I have encountered several instances where a student has a latent desire and makes a brief mention of it before backing out on the premise that it is unrealistic. My reaction in such situations is to ask them to talk more about it. Resultantly, some students feel like exploring more possibilities, while others decide that their motive can be fulfilled by a vacation or study abroad program, while yet others react by opting to think more on the subject. I have spent a substantial amount of time with students exploring the possibility of working abroad and its impact on their careers.

On the other hand, many of the students I have worked with first thought of teaching English abroad for a year or two regardless of their majors, which is actually not a bad idea. Yet, the student should be encouraged to explore several options before making a decision since students are sometimes unfamiliar with the several possibilities available. Therefore, the second factor is to identify their career plans upon completion of the program. Depending on their future plans, career counselors can assist students in carefully selecting the kind of job they would like to pursue.

To positively increase global awareness on the entire campus, some programs facilitated by career counselors would be helpful. These could include:

  • Panel discussions with alumni with a first-hand experience of foreign assignments as well as students with work or volunteer experience outside the country
  • Employers’ presentations on global perspectives
  • Pre-departure and re-entry workshops for study/internship abroad participants in collaboration with study abroad offices.

To elaborate on the pre-departure workshop, career counselors can provide education on maximizing the study abroad experience through internships, volunteering and extracurricular activities. Similarly, upon their return, the re-entry workshop will help students bridge their experience to something beneficial for the future. The main reason for making this suggestion is that I have realized that many students underestimate the impact of their experience abroad and do not count it towards the future. This does not mean there needs to be some connection between the work/volunteer abroad program and the future career path upon graduation. However, the overseas experience helps students become more sensitive towards cultural differences, enhances their comfort zone in dealing with ambiguous situations, and increases their ability to accommodate conflicting perspectives. These are examples of the strengths students acquire. They can go beyond, “I completed a study/internship abroad program.” Furthermore, some of the above programs, coupled with interactions with individuals of different backgrounds, will help students develop similar qualities, regardless of their participation in study/internship abroad programs. If global education is the direction your campus is moving towards, career counselors can play a great role.

Satomi Yaji, NCC, GCDF
I am currently the Assistant Director for Career Planning at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Career Services. I completed MS in Counselor Education with an emphasis on counseling in a higher education setting at Syracuse University, followed by a career counselor position at Syracuse University’s Center for Career Services.

Satomi Yaji
512 Goodell Building, 140 Hicks Way
Amherst, MA 01003
Tel: (413) 545-6264
Fax: 413-577-0426
syaji@acad.umass.edu, www.umass.edu/careers

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