A Career Development Profile for First-Year International Students

A career development profile for first-year international students

Highlights of the Research:

  • New research finds a strong link between career choices and high earnings, prestige and rapid career advancement for international students in the US.
  • The authors suggest that international counselors need to adopt a new career counseling model that considers different cultural, extrinsic values and factors affecting international students’ career decisions.

The research “A Career Development Profile of First Year International Students within the United States” by Professors Duffy and Lucas of the University of Maryland provides a general view of career decision status and work values of first-year international students in comparison with American students. The factors considered are based on the five Career Decision Profile subscales and 13 work values such as “career decidedness, choice comfort, self-clarity, indecisiveness, and choice of importance between international students and American students.”

The research results showed that international students reported significantly higher levels of career decidedness and choice comfort but significantly lower levels of career choice importance. The research pointed out two possible causes:

  • Almost half the sample is Asian/ Pacific Islander, an area where career decisions involve considerations many factors including “family expectations, social class level or the need for the country’s economy”.
  • In many countries outside of the U.S., the educational system require students to choose a career path very early on in their schooling.

It indicates that international students place more value on extrinsic rewards associated with future careers such as high earnings, prestige, career advancement  and meeting family expectations rather than on the career choices themselves than their American peers.

Considering these cultural differences, how can institutions adjust its career support services to international students?

1. Take a preventative approach

The authors suggest that international counselors take a precautionary approach that better prepare international students to understand the American culture of self-reflection and exploration of career options through college years. It plays importance on counselors’ gaining a thorough understanding of both students‟ cultural assumptions and their potential career related concerns.

2. Focus on intercultural competence and job search skills

The authors recommend the content of these counseling sessions should combine emotional issues with a focus on extrinsic career values such as future earnings, prestige, and career advancement, as well as practical skills including study skills techniques, assertiveness training, interviewing skills and resume writing.

3. Be creative with limited staff time and resources

The study suggests small international group counseling as many international students may be reluctant to seek help on their own. Speaking to a group about their shared concerns or challenges allows them to see the “universality of their experience” and address the topics more efficiently.

4. Be proactive in outreach

Due to the different in cultural values, international counselors need to be proactive in reaching out to students who may need university support. A proactive approach includes outreach through on-campus flyers, internet, campus offices, residence halls, academic classes as well international student organizations.

What have you tried in any of the four areas? What practices could you share with us? Please leave a comment below.

About Di Hu

Co-founder and principal coach at interEDGE.org, an initiative of DrEducation, to offer online training solutions to institutions to support academic and career success of international students. Follow her on @CoachDiHu

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