International Students: Unlearn Your Cultural Conditioning for Career Success

Here is  one question I often get asked by international students:  “ What else do I need to learn in order to be more competitive as a job candidate?” Many, maybe including you, have also asked the same question, jotted down answers in a list and set ambitious goals to accomplish the learning.

Learning is important, but have you thought of unlearning?

We enter this world as instant and constant learners. Long before we enter the first class at preschool, we have already acquired tremendous knowledge and information about this world. Our acquisition of knowledge continues to expand as we grow and be exposed to people and our surroundings. It happens inside one’s school, in one’s neighborhood, one’s family, and numerous communities or groups that one may be a part of.  While it helps us become informed and intelligent, it also starts to shape the programming of our mind;  even more, influence our behavior and attitude every minute.

The programming of our mind is cultivated by the culture we grew up with and the environment we live in. Without our awareness, we become culturally conditioned. It creates rules and guidelines for everything we do. You gradually grow into a proper and competent adult in the culture of your home country. However,  the challenge appears when we travel abroad and mingle with people who are distinctly different from us. As international students, you continue to follow these rules and guidelines that were formed in your home country to your life in the U.S. – in your classroom participation, in your conversations with professors and American classmates, during networking, and at a job interview.

The illiterate of the 21st Century are not those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”― Alvin Toffler, Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Power at the Edge of the 21st Century.

We focus on learning but it is the unlearning that unlocks our mindset and changes our perspectives. Unlearning is never easy. You will face internal resistance as you are challenging the ways your mind has worked over the past decades.  However, unlearning is incredibly rewarding and liberating because it unleashes the ties around our mind.

For career development, unlearning is even more important than learning. Learning soft skills is helpful but it is only limited to adapting your techniques.  Unlearning your culture conditioning shapes your mindset, expands your fixed perceptions, breaks down your limitations, and grow your skills from their roots. Hence,  unlearning leads to deeper learning.

As you focus on learning, don’t forget to unlearn.  Here are a few examples of what I suggest international students unlearn for career success.

interEDGE - Unlearn Cultural Conditioning for Career Success.png

What is one thing you think international students should unlearn for career success?  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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