TRANSLATING EXPERIENCE ABROAD INTO U.S. JOB SKILLS

Once the adventure of teaching abroad is over, and the question becomes: How best to market the experience?

College career advisers say taking time off shouldn't hurt job prospects. ''I don't think it puts a student at a disadvantage,'' says Jim Laden, director of career services at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore. Given that most careers span about 40 years, he says, taking yourself out of the job market for a few years shouldn't set you back.

Advisers say that to be marketable, you need to be able to translate the skills you learned abroad into those American employers need.

Such skills ''can be translated pretty effectively into the workplace,'' says William Klingelhofer, director of the international experience program at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

Today, organizations want new hires ''that are adaptable, that are flexible, that can go into new situations, adjust quickly, and perform,'' explains Karen Stauffacher, director of the career center for the School of Business at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. You can't teach English overseas without acquiring some of those skills, she notes.

Still, some returned teachers find the job hunt less than easy. Glenna and Bob Harris of Portland, Ore., went abroad right out of college and did additional work in both management and human resources at the school in Japan where they taught. But when they returned to the US, they were told they needed more work experience.

''We kept hearing, 'Wow, this is a great experience you've had in Japan, and you've got a lot of skills, ... but you haven't done anything here,'' Mr. Harris says.

To help with the job search, talk to people in positions you are interested in so you'll know how to translate your new skills better, says Susan Musich, coordinator of the Peace Corps returned volunteer services.

Darcy Jameson found a job shortly after she returned from teaching, but says she had to work at it. ''I spent a couple of months doing a lot of informational interviewing,'' she says. She also spent a lot of time thinking about her interests, career goals, and how she was going to translate what she did in Costa Rica ''into a discussion of skills that I was bringing to an organization here.''

''Slowly,'' she explains, ''some conclusions emerged. And right about when that happened, I got a job.''

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