The Tuesday Q&A: Do I Need International Experience?

Question:

I know that a lot of business schools require or favor applicants with international experience. The problem for me is that I don’t have a lot of traveling experience and I’ve never left my country. Will this be an issue? Will I have to defend this?

Answer:

Let’s break it down: International experience is important for both US and European programs. But it’s important… differently. And, to take it one step further, it’s important differently for different KINDS of applicants.

So here goes: If you’re a US citizen applying to US schools, it is certainly nice for you to have international experience. Brings some diversity to the table and shows how you can handle working with people from around the world. And those are good things. That being said, it isn’t a deal breaker if you don’t have it… unless you are applying to specifically Global programs (like Wharton Lauder).

Now, if you’re an International applicant targeting US programs, international experience IS important, because the adcom needs to see that you know what it is like to interact with people from cultures other than your own. That you’ll be able to make the transition to the US successfully, and it won’t be a totally overwhelming (and paralyzing) experience when you do. And, of course, that you can work with people from other cultures because when you get to bschool (and into business), you’ll be doing just that.

Now, for European programs, no matter who you are, it’s hugely important, and they’ll look at international experience a lot more carefully, because they are more international and many of the recruiters are looking for that sort of profile.

So… what happens if you are missing this? Well, you’re gonna have to dig deep and find SOME way to prove you’ve got it.

Have you worked with teams in other countries?
Worked on projects that were based in other places?

Those experiences can work just as well as actually GOING somewhere, so long as you case it right. And if you don’t have even that… it’s time to talk to your boss and see what you can do. Even offering to take on and lead a project pro-bono. [Come on, who is going to say no to that?] The goal is to do SOMETHING to get that experience onto your resume and into your essays. (And THAT, by the way, is yet another reason why we tell you to start your application early, folks.)

So get out there and get…international.

Cheers,
Jon Frank

 

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