When applying for jobs in the UK, how can candidates with limited local experience turn their international background into an advantage?

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    • #8193 0 Likes | Like it

        My name is Ghiyath, and I’m from Syria. As a refugee who has rebuilt my life in London, I understand the power of storytelling. For over 20 years, I’ve crafted award-winning creative campaigns for global brands and participated in many international awareness campaigns in environments and public health. Now, I want to use my skills to bridge cultural divides and promote tolerance. I’m experienced in data-driven storytelling and managing diverse teams. I believe in human-centered design that fosters understanding and inclusion.

        My question is: When applying for jobs in the UK, how can candidates with limited local experience turn their international background into an advantage?


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      • #8438 1 Likes | Like it

          It sounds like you have some great experience. My advice would be to look at the person spec on the job description and think about specific examples that show you have the skills or experience required. Many people (including myself) won’t mind where you gained that experience, as long as you can clearly show that it’s relevant for the job.

          You can also highlight the additional benefits that international experience give you, such as a good understanding of other cultures and cultural sensitivities, speaking multiple languages, and an ability to work with people from lots of different backgrounds.

          If you don’t have any UK experience, it might be worth mentioning in a covering letter or CV that you live in the UK and have the right to work here, to avoid hiring managers making any assumptions that you are still living internationally.

        • #8444 1 Likes | Like it
          Ciara Devlin

            Hi Ghiyath, I couldn’t agree more with Rosie.

            You sound like you have a really impressive background. Data-driven story telling, managing diverse teams and use of human centred design are all really sought after, relevant skills here in the UK. When applying carefully consider the essential criteria and use the cover letter to show tangible examples of how you meet it. If you meet any of the desirable criteria, make sure to indicate that  too.  Employers want to see clear evidence of your experience and how it meets what they are looking for, as set out in the JD. Having an international background should only enhance that experience. Good luck!

          • #8467 0 Likes | Like it

              Hi Ghiyath,

              Your experience sounds great!

              One thing you could consider is including details in your CV about any international projects for global brands where you have collaborated with teams in the UK. For example “Worked with the UK-based team on X project or campaign for X brand.” Specificity is always great to help bring to life your experience for the recruiter viewing your CV.

              Another approach to consider could be finding structured volunteering opportunities, where you can build your experience working in the UK in a formal setting. For example, Breaking Barriers is an example of a charity where there are volunteering opportunities.

              I hope this is helpful, and good luck in securing your desired role soon!

            • #8478 0 Likes | Like it

                I love your reference to storytelling. Recommend Bob Garmston, ‘The Astonishing Power of Storytelling’ as a great book to build on your thinking. Without question, there can be a prejudice in the UK against ‘foreign’ experience. I think back to my own mindset before and after working in Asia for 12 years and I see how my own understanding totally changed. So I think it’s a good idea to try and build bridges in your storytelling between the things you know and the things you see here…you might need to make the connections for people here, who might not see them otherwise. I’ll take one example – work ethic. The work ethic that I encountered in Asia was far in excess of anything I’ve encountered in the UK. So, as an example, telling the story of ‘getting the job finished’, taking personal pride in doing a good job and serving clients or customers, going the extra mile to make a customer experience positive – all of these things would be good ‘bridges’ to help UK employers understand that they had an excellent worker on their hands. It might seem obvious but it’s not always obvious in this culture.

              • #8485 0 Likes | Like it

                  Dear Ghiyath,

                  Building on the excellent points made by Rosie and Ciara, here’s my perspective:

                  Focus on your strengths and unique experiences to make your application stand out. The trick is to find the best place in the application form to link your expertise to the job description and person specification. Here’s how you can leverage your international background to your advantage using a strength-based approach:

                  •  Storytelling expertise: Your award-winning creative campaigns for global brands demonstrate your exceptional storytelling skills. Identify the key requirements in the job description that relate to storytelling, and highlight specific projects where your abilities led to successful outcomes. Discuss how you can apply these skills to create compelling narratives that bridge cultural divides and promote tolerance in your new role.
                  • Data-driven insights: Emphasize your experience in data-driven storytelling and how you have used data to inform your creative campaigns. Look for opportunities in the person specification that value data-driven decision-making, and provide examples of how you have leveraged data to create impactful and targeted content that resonates with diverse audiences.
                  • Diverse team leadership: Your experience managing diverse teams is a valuable asset in today’s multicultural work environment. Find the relevant criteria in the job description that focus on leadership and teamwork, and highlight instances where you successfully led and motivated teams from different backgrounds. Discuss how you fostered collaboration, understanding, and inclusion among team members.
                  • Human-centered design: Your belief in human-centered design shows that you prioritize understanding and empathy in your work. Identify the parts of the person specification that value user-centric thinking, and provide examples of how you have applied this approach to create campaigns that effectively connect with and engage diverse audiences.
                  • Adaptability and resilience: Your personal story of rebuilding your life showcases your adaptability and resilience. Look for opportunities in the job description that value these qualities and emphasize how they have enabled you to thrive in challenging situations and how they will contribute to your success in a new role.
                  • Global perspective: Your international experience has given you a unique and valuable perspective. Find the relevant criteria in the person specification that appreciate cultural awareness and global thinking, and discuss how your understanding of different cultures and your ability to navigate cultural nuances can contribute to creating inclusive and impactful campaigns.

                  When crafting your application, use specific examples and stories that highlight these strengths, and make sure to link them directly to the requirements outlined in the job description and person specification. Show how your international background has equipped you with a diverse skill set and perspective that will enable you to excel in the role and contribute to the organization’s goals.

                  Remember, the key is to make it easy for the employer to see how your international experience directly relates to the role and makes you an exceptional candidate for the position. Consider reaching out to a career advisor, a mentor in your field, or a trusted colleague to provide feedback and guidance on your application before you hit the submit button.

                • #8521 0 Likes | Like it

                    Hi Ghiyath,

                    I would agree with the other responses to this. Attending an interview in the UK is similar to sitting an exam. Most employers will ask questions directly related to the skills and experience they have listed in the person specification. So you can guess what questions might come up and prepare suitable answers based on your experience. This is really helpful when you are nervous as it means you don’t have to search your memory from five years ago to come up with a good answer and even if the exact question you prepared doesn’t come up, you still have a list of examples to use.

                    I have interviewed a lot of people over the years and usually, the candidates with interesting or unusual international experience really stood out, so as Amir has already commented, I see this as a real advantage.

                    Good luck!

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