• Tech Talk: International Students’ Use of Social Media and Technology

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
    April 17, 2013

    by Shannon Kelly

    Shannon C. KellyHow often do you find yourself meeting with a student from a foreign country? As the number of international students in the United States continues to rise, so does the pressure on these students to secure a job, as well as on us to help navigate the challenging search they face in today’s economy. Whether they seek a position in the states or back home, social media and technology are tools to understand hiring policies, learn trends in the international job market, identify international employers, and connect with alumni abroad.

    Sounds fairly straight forward, right? Not necessarily. When you meet with an international student or present to a student group to discuss how technology can help them, you want to make sure your advice is not lost in translation. Whether you review their profile on LinkedIn or Google+, discuss one of the many tools other Tech Talk columnists have shared, or give a personal branding workshop, there are several areas to consider. Here are a few considerations I have found helpful for these conversations and workshops:

    • Culture—What are the cultural norms for the student’s home country? For example, is he or she comfortable “marketing” themselves? Does the student like to draw attention to his or her accomplishments? This is crucial to a personal branding strategy, where a student should highlight his or her unique qualifications and experiences on various platforms, like Twitter or a personal website. The idea behind personal branding is to set oneself apart from the crowd, to reach out to employers and alumni in one’s field of interest. In certain cultures, however, values of modesty and indirectness conflict with promotion of oneself. As a result, a student may not be comfortable highlighting an impressive internship on LinkedIn or questioning a thought leader on Twitter to spark a conversation.
    • Customize—How can you customize established programs to address cultural differences or communication barriers, or incorporate native platforms, such as Viadeo or Renren? An advisory board is extremely helpful in this area, especially one focused on technology. I have a social media advisory board with several international student members. They review our social media platforms, as well as write for our department’s blog. They also discuss their use of networking platforms that I, as an American, have never used. Their stories and insights help other international students and our department. For example, we have a special introduction to social networking workshop for international students, and include the basics of Facebook. It’s easy to assume everyone is on our well-established platforms, especially Facebook. In reality, though, some students may have never used them before coming to this country.
    • Collaborate—What departments specialize in international student relations? Which degree programs have the highest international populations? What student groups have international members? Connect with these organizations and offer custom appointments, i.e. LinkedIn profile reviews and programs to discuss use of technology in a professional capacity. Orientations are an ideal opportunity to help students acclimate to the different technological and social media standards; this is especially true for one- or two-year degree programs, in which students hit the ground running.

    The job or internship search for international students is complicated. Social media and technology can help mitigate the complex process, but there are important factors to consider. How have you addressed the needs of your international students and their use of technology in a search?

    Shannon C. Kelly is an associate director at career services at the University of Pennsylvania. You can follow her on twitter at @shannonckelly or www.socialatedu.com.

Tech Talk: International Students’ Use of Social Media and Technology