Beyond The States
Beyond The States
The Soft Skills You'll Learn Just by Living Abroad

How much active parenting should we do for our teens and college-age students? How much does a parent’s “help” prevent teens from developing the skills they need to become independent and successful adults? How do we know when and how to step back?

In today’s show, we have the best guest for that matter! Jenn is joined with Nanette Ripmeester, a Global Labor Mobility expert, with over 25 years of experience in advising employers, universities, and governments. The two discuss how soft skills that students gain by living and studying abroad directly relate to their maturity, independence, and ultimately, employability. Tune in and find out more!

Podcast Transcript –

Intro: You’re listening to the Beyond the States podcast with Jenn Viemont. Did you know that you can go to Europe and get your entire degree taught in English for less than one year of tuition at many American schools? Jenn will take you on a deep dive into the many benefits and options around English-taught higher education in Europe, helping to make the possibility less foreign.

Jenn Viemont: Welcome to episode six of the relaunch of the Beyond the States podcast. So as some of you know, Sam is currently staying with us, my 20 year old son’s Sam, this semester, while he’s waiting for his student visa to the Czech Republic to be approved. He’s doing online classes and staying with us here in North Carolina. So over the last couple of years, at different points during lockdown, he also stayed with us in Portugal. And it’s been really interesting, looking at the differences, and how 1821 is such a funny age in this country. You know, people can vote, they can be called for jury duty, they can join the military, they can even buy a gun in many states, but they can’t buy alcohol, or tobacco. And furthermore, only 24% of Americans are financially independent by the age of 22. So I think this dichotomy can make it hard for those of us who are parents of kids this age, I mean, do I even call them kids? How much active parenting should we do? How much of what we do to help us like air quotes here, prevents them from developing the skills that they need to become independent and successful adults, whatever success may mean to them. So as I mentioned, we moved back to Chapel Hill, North Carolina recently, and I was listening to the UNC radio station. And they were talking about this recent event that was organized by the Carolina parents association. This blew my mind like PTA for college, I had no idea that there was such a thing. I do feel like at some point, we have to step back as parents, but how do we know when and how do we know how. So today we’re going to be talking with a global labor mobility experts about the skills that students gain by living and studying abroad that directly relate to employability. A lot of these are what are known as soft skills. So whatever the reason, these skills are not being found in US graduates, a quick Google search will lead you to all sorts of studies on this. These are skills like adaptability, communication skills, problem solving skills, the ability to navigate unfamiliar situations and circumstances and many more. So the good news is that you’re absolutely going to gain these skills when you live and study abroad. And that’s what we’re going to talk about with Ninette today. But that said, I can tell you that if you’re going to go to Europe as an 18 year old with none of these skills, then the learning through mistakes, which can be really kind of painful, is going to be much more prevalent. So let’s look at this a little bit. Cultural Awareness is one of those areas, one of those soft skills and the skill. This is related to that employers are looking for, as you know, comfort working around people from all different types of background and not just comfort, because you know, employers don’t really care if you’re comfortable, but an ability to effectively communicate meaning listen, to speak, to communicate with, you know, that whole process of communicating with people who are from all different types of backgrounds. Cultural awareness can play out in a number of ways, including expectations around things like punctuality, either the presence or absence of it, depending on the country you’re in, not just in terms of when things will start, but also in terms of things like email responses, and not just around when you should expect a response, but the timeframe in which you’re expected to respond. Having cultural sensitivity means knowing that your own frame of reference on this isn’t the universal one. And that you should look into the expectations around this, regarding the country, or the culture, or whatever that you’re dealing with. So it can also play out in how you interpret tone and communication. And whether a tone is different to the one than the one you’re accustomed to, is interpreted as rude or hostile, unenthusiastic, angry, indifferent, and when maybe that’s not the case at all. I think I’ve talked about meeting I hadn’t a Estonia, where I sat there the entire time, thinking that they actively disliked me and I and that they thought the meeting was a waste of time to later learn that it wasn’t the case at all, where I talked about Bruno, the man who hopped us in Portugal with so many things and he was on a call with somebody, you know, advocating for us just what seemed to me like yelling. And when I questioned him about, you know what they said that made him so angry, the angry I wasn’t angry at all, I was just having a conversation with them. So these were both instances of me laughing at the kind of cultural awareness that was needed to read those situations. The other way this can be evident is through expectations of the university. Because guess what, there’s no parents association, European universities. In fact, in Sam’s first two years at two different schools, I never had any communication from the school, the 18 to 21, age is less of a gray area there, those students are seen as adults and, and they’re expected to seek resources and help as needed themselves. This can be jarring for parents who are accustomed to being much more hands on, and also jarring for students who maybe haven’t had the chance to gain confidence in their life skills. So regarding cultural awareness, most kids who are seeking College in Europe would probably call themselves culturally sensitive. And most do have this broad and general level of it. But what else can they do? You actually don’t even have to leave the country to gain some aspect of this. I was thinking about when I was growing up. And the laws in Illinois were such that you had to be 21 to wait on tables at any restaurants to serve alcohol. So my first waitressing job was a 24 hour diner, because they didn’t serve alcohol. It’s called Nikki’s diner. And it was on the corner of Broadway in Belmont in Chicago. And the waitress thing is probably the hardest job I’ve ever had in my life. This particular job was a favorite, I mean, talk about a diverse clientele. The bottom was cups of coffee would get a lot of people who were down on their luck in there for hours. There was also a home for mentally ill men nearby, some of whom were regulars. We get young couples coming in for Saturday brunch, because who doesn’t love a good skillet, we get, you know, drunk people coming in at three in the morning after night at the bars, and a group of about 20 people who came in every Sunday at midnight. So the regular Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, I really don’t see diners like this anymore. It was there was this culture of talking to the customers, you know, you’re walking around with a coffee pot much of the time, sort of like the show Alice. Anyhow, this experience really helped me become comfortable with all sorts of people and develop communication skills that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to in my life outside of the job. In terms of preparing for moving out of the country. Once a student has decided on school in the country, it can be really helpful to dig in and learn about the habits and cultural norms and other things in a day to day life that might be different. Learning about the different phases people often go through when they move abroad can also be helpful. There’s a honeymoon stage when many people first get abroad, and it’s common. But the problem is often followed by this sort of frustrating stage. It’s often called the culture shock stage. But some might see it more as just feeling homesick, or feeling really overwhelmed by how much effort so many things take when you’re new to another country. So just by knowing that these different stages are normal, and that they’re expected, can kind of help you get through to the next stage, which is adjustment and adaptation. Knowing as a parent that this is normal can help you be less inclined to kind of get pulled into the muck with your kids about it, when they do call you and talk about how frustrated they are discouraged, they are homesick they are you can listen. And you can remind them that this really kind of sucky stage is normal, and it still sucks. But you can encourage them to stick it out and use and find resources to help get them through it. So many of the other skills that will help them succeed really just involves us as parents to take a step back and not try to fix everything for them and allow for the learning that happens with mistakes. Sam is my oldest and poor guy, I learned from a lot of my parenting mistakes that I made from him. I often found it easier to do various things myself, be it cooking, taking care of bureaucratic things, you know, staying on top of his grades and missing assignments and such. And due to this dealing with a lot of the expectations in Europe has been harder for him. That said he has definitely had the opportunity to learn from his mistakes quite a bit. 

My daughter Ellie is a senior and she’s doing a lot more of these things herself. As I think about it, I really didn’t even need to push her on it. When she had an issue with an assignment. She always just kind of went to the teacher without me needing to tell her to do so. She recently got a job and sent me the email about the logistics of this cookie store that’s just opening. So they have a whole team of new workers and they were sending out the information the new workers needed to do. So I emailed her back to find out what we needed to do about her food safety permit and I’m not she had already taken care of it for school uses PowerSchool. I’m sure many of you are familiar with that. So that parents can stay on top of grades and things like that. And Sam was appalled to learn that I hadn’t even created my account for access, since I checked his very regularly when he was Ellie’s age. Now, some of this can be chalked up to kids having different personalities. But I do wish that I had provided Sam with more of these opportunities in high school, even just like gaining confidence cooking, you know, he subsided basically on pasta for the last two years. It’s not too late, though, you know, he’s home for the semester. Now, Holly’s waiting for his visa. And he’s cooking once a week. And he’s handling the student visa and no certification process, mostly on his own now, but he does have help. There’s we have a specialist from a place called pecks, Pat’s. But it’s not me doing it. He’s working with Tatiana, to go through this whole process himself, which is no joke. So what are some of these tasks that you can start delegating to your teens while they’re still in high school tasks that will lead to the skills that will help them once they get there? How about finding plane tickets for your next trip. And when you do go on that trip, whoever it might be having them meet you someplace using public transportation on their own. That process in itself is a fantastic learning experience, whether it’s in a different US city or even better in foreign city, any bureaucratic process, it can take the lead on, be it gathering everything for their driver’s license, or applying for or renewing their passports or opening a bank account on their own. All of these are things that are going to help them when they’re trying to do similar tasks in a foreign country as well. These aren’t really soft skills, but they are the skills that will reduce the learning curve, while they’re in fact learning these skills, which will help them not only with employment, but in life in general. So let’s take a quick break and talk about employability. 

Testimonial:  Hi, I’m Maclan and I’m in my second year studying at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Before I began my degree, my sister started university in the Czech Republic, which inspired me to explore my options of going to school in Europe. But I was still lost at what exactly I needed to do in order to attend university abroad. This is where Beyond the States stepped in. My sister had previously worked with them. They built a best fit list of universities for her to consider. Over time, Beyond the States has expanded its options. I was able to take advantage of the personalized approach to explore what I found most useful. I was a part of the first On Your Mark master class where I learned what I found to be most exciting to study, where my interests aligned, and what universities I was most interested in. Before the master class, I was lost and overwhelmed with what to focus on. Beyond the States gave me a sense of direction. Before, I was only following my sister’s path. Through their help and support system, studying in Europe was able to become a reality for me. The class is offered three times a year and fills up every time. Check the show notes for more information and to sign up for the next session.

Jenn Viemont: So today we are talking to Nanette Ripmeester. She’s a global labor mobility expert and the founder and director of expertise in labor mobility. Nanette has over 25 years of experience advising employers, universities and government around issues pertaining to international graduate recruitment, international labor, mobility, and the practical aspects of living and working abroad. She’s written extensively on international job hunting, co authored over 40 books about working internationally and international career guidance, and has written numerous articles on the topic as well. Wow, that’s a lot. Thank you so much for being here in the nets.

Nanette Ripmeester: I’m enjoying it already right now. Thank you for inviting me.

Jenn Viemont: Excellent. I was wondering to first you can tell me a little bit about the work that you do with ELM.

Nanette Ripmeester: What we do with ELM is that we have a model that’s called Making mobility work. So we try to come up with as practical possible solutions that people experience when they want to go abroad, either for study or work purposes. And then that’s where it’s where we work, and we try to connect the education to the job market.

Jenn Viemont: So you work with all components. It sounds like you work with the students with the businesses with the government, just all Pro? Yeah.

Nanette Ripmeester: I have the company nearly 30 years and I’m always getting taught by people who pretend to know that I should focus on one of the three parties. But I think the good thing is and the pandemic has proved that once again, in working with the sweet parties. I get a really full picture and me and my team can make sure that if we talk to students, we know what employers are looking for and if we work with employers You know how they can connect with students in a way that students recognize the message. And the government institutions, of course, need to be aware of both parties, and need to understand how to support labor mobility in a global scale, if they want that.

Jenn Viemont: Interesting, interesting, because how can you really advise any of the parties without knowing fully about the other party?

Nanette Ripmeester: That’s absolutely true. Yeah. Interesting.

Jenn Viemont: So, um, as you know, we work, I work with American families, especially American families who listen to this podcast. And I often meet parents who are around my age, middle aged parents to underestimate things. And they’ll say, okay, so how is my kid going to come back to the US and get a job if the employers never heard of, you know, this university in Europe, and I often respond to them that the labor market is much different now than it was 30 years or so ago, when many of us parents were entering. I do talk about the soft skills students gained by studying abroad and globalization. But since you work with companies around this, can you speak to why companies are interested in employing new employees from around the world are maybe how the labor market looks different now than it did 30 years ago.

Nanette Ripmeester: And the nature of the labor market has definitely changed in 30 years time. And I think there’s also a difference between European parents and American parents were European parents are less helicoptering their children. And I don’t want to say that that is a bad thing. But let’s face it, the kids are growing up, and they’re able to make choices of their own at some point in life, no matter how difficult that is, I know as a mom myself, but the good thing about going abroad is you gain a lot of skills. And that experience while you go abroad, helps you to put into words that you have gained those skills. And it’s exactly those skills that employers are looking for. If we look at research, and if we work with employers, and we ask them, what are the kinds of skills you’re looking for? We’ve done for instance, a project where we asked students, what have you learned when going abroad? And we, at the same time as employers, what are the skills that you recruit for in recent graduates, and we looked at an overlap, and we came to a list of seven skills, which we put in a competence booklet. And that list shows that, for instance, intercultural understanding is a key one. And what better way to show that you’ve gained that intercultural understanding by having spent some time in another country, so it’s not so much that the US employer will recognize that particular university in Europe, they may or they may not, depending on their own sort of scope and their own traveling, they might have studied at that. So sometimes, you might be surprised how well informed recruiters are. But what the recruiter is looking for is evidence of certain skills. And when young people finish their education, they very often have very great background, an epic academic background, but they like the experience that people look for. Hence, we very often see in job adverts that they’re looking for two to five years experience. And of course, if you’re just graduating, you don’t have that two to five years experience. I want to say to the young people listening to this podcast, don’t let that stop you. Because those two to five years is just a barrier to make it more complicated and to reduce the numbers. And I want to say to the parents who listen to this podcast, allow your kids to gain examples where they can really showcase that they have these experiences. Things that people want to know is what recruiters like to know is can you work in a team? Do you have good time management skills? How do you respond under pressure? A question like, tell me something when something went wrong in your life? And it’s not that you want to hear as a recruiter, gosh, what went wrong? And then have to, you know, giggle about that? That’s not the whole idea of the question. The question is trying to understand how does a young person respond when they’re under pressure when things don’t go as planned? And often going abroad provides all of these kinds of experiences where people learn things. They’re very often the first time away from their parents living on their own, they suddenly have to deal with day to day things. Day to day struggles like you know, when do I do my laundry? And how do I make sure? Well, I buy enough food and not too much food. But also, gosh, this university does things differently than my home university did. How am I going to respond to that? How am I going to deal with that? So you learn many, many things in a very playful and safe manner also in that sense.

Jenn Viemont: While you have so many great points, I was thinking, initially, what you were talking about, about intercultural sort of understanding, and how different that is when you live somewhere versus when you travel somewhere, I think a lot of people might say, Oh, well, I’m well traveled, I have an inner cultural understanding. But when you live somewhere for a number of months, it’s really different is incredibly different. I was also thinking about, I have a half brother, who’s 20 years younger than me. So it’s been interesting watching his journey. And he went to an American University and did a semester abroad in Denmark. And it was not with a Danish University, it was with some little institution or something that hosted just study abroad students. So it was very much a little bubble he lived in without entering, you know, without encountering a Danish University. And it was so funny, even though he looked at this bubble, he was in a dorm just with other American students using classes just with other American students in this building with just another American students. Sort of like a tourist for three months, when he got back to school, all the study abroad students did an acclamation or re acclamation class and my brother, my I have a brother, who’s my age, and we just laughed and laughed about this, like, what do you need to re acclimate to, when you’ve been in an American bubble for three months? So I do think that just the real difference of dealing with a European University, dealing with the bureaucratic systems of another country, you know, you can’t use it to the bureaucracy in your own country. It used to it’s a pain to go to the DMV, or to do this or that or the other, but dealing with it in a new country.

Nanette Ripmeester: Yeah, I think it’s a great advantage to be able to speak English. So all the American students have that as a, you know, something that is really useful in the rest of their lives, even if they want to live somewhere else. But if you go to another country, and even if it’s English, English, British English, you might be surprised about the things that are being said occasionally. Or if you go to Ireland, you might not understand the English that’s being spoken there. But if you go to a non English country, you’ll find that a lot of people will be able to speak English. But they expect at some point that you would at least learn a few words in their language. And even without being fluent in a language, you pick up things around people doing things differently. And I think that is so interesting. I’m myself from the Netherlands, I’ve traveled a lot. I’ve worked and lived in other countries as well. But I know sometimes really simple things can be so complicated. If I go to my neighboring country, Germany, you think like, well, it’s not very far, the Germans and the Dutch are very much alike. If you’re trying to board a train, gosh, the first few times, I was really, really impressed how different the train system is. I missed my connection, simply because I was completely lost. And I speak German, by the way, in not understanding how they would announce where the train leaves from, from what track. So it’s the things that you take for granted. That make you think, like, wow, how can public transport be so complicated suddenly, and it’s making you also appreciate what you have back home more so than you may normally do? And it’s the little things that make you aware that yeah, things can work differently. People can do things differently and still reach a great outcome. And all these little experiences together, help you to build that intercultural confidence that is so good to have nowadays.

Jenn Viemont: Absolutely. And you were talking about the American helicopter parent, and even those of us who aren’t helicopter parents, I like to think I’m not one. But I know that more than other cultures, I do have a tendency to kind of check myself about wanting to protect my kids from adversity. And it’s so important for me to check myself on that because I’ve looked at times my son, when he was in the Netherlands, went to the American Embassy seven times before he successfully got his passport renewed. There was nothing I could do about that, which was great because if I had been with him, I would have been inclined to like go through every document and you know, make sure he hasn’t All right, maybe, you know, wake up in the morning and I wasn’t able to do any of that. And it took him seven times. And the lesson he learned from that is invaluable. You know, my daughter in Austria didn’t realize that you had to validate your train ticket before getting on public transportation and was stopped by plainclothes guys who you know, insisted that she paid them 100 euros and these weren’t like scammers. These were like true Austrian plainclothes police. And you know, she’s crying in the train station. And anyway, they ended up letting her go. But that was a really valuable lesson too. traumatic for her. But it didn’t kill her. It wasn’t this horrible, horrible event that she’ll be scarred from. She learned something really important from it.

Nanette Ripmeester: Yeah. I understand a little bit of helicoptering myself, and I refrain myself from it as good as I can. But I remember my daughter when she was pretty young, 16 or 17, to the US for a summer course. And she brought her visa with her. But she didn’t bring the invitation letter, she almost got sent back. And I have to admit, I did check with her what you need to bring. But it didn’t occur to me that you had to bring the invitation letter, not from the university because she did have that one. But from the embassy saying, Please come and pick up your visa. So my husband and I got in the middle of the night, dodged time a call from our daughter saying Help. SOS it’s really scary. They all look like terrorists, I have to lie. And we were like, Oh my gosh, this doesn’t sound good. It wasn’t as bad as it sounded like them. But I think she learned Check, check, double check. And when things go wrong, how do you come up because she missed her connecting the car that we booked, she was too late at the uni to collect her bedding. So everything that we prepared went one down the drain. And as a parent, you think like, oh, gosh, this is horrible. I have to protect my kid. But I talked with her recently about it. And it’s a couple of years ago now. And it was a learning experience that was so strong. If I would have traveled with her, she would never have had that experience. Because I would have tried to protect her from everything, which sounds like a nice thing to do. But in the end, if she’s going to work at an employer, I won’t go into the HR office, and I won’t go in with meetings with her NSA, don’t be nasty to my daughter, because she’s a very sweet person, that’s not going to work for the rest of their life. So better have them learn those lessons in a relatively safe environment, because the university that they go to knows that they’re coming, they will check at some point have they arrived, I know for American standards to European University sometimes are a bit more laid back in that whole process. But in the end, they do check, they make sure everybody has arrived. And they’ll do a lot of support if they see something goes wrong. But in the initial stage, they’re very often let the students just find out for themselves.

Jenn Viemont: And your daughter’s experience speaks to some of the skills you were talking about with time management, with problem solving skills. I mean, all of those came into play. And I will say it is true, you know, between my son’s experience and our many, many beyond the state’s members. It’s definitely true that there is not so much hand holding from European universities. But as there are in the US things are not spoon fed to you. You have to seek out the help if you need help. But that can be really positive too and teach a lot of lessons. It’s hard. But as long as the supports are there, there have been instances I’ve seen where just because it’s an issue with the program or administration at a particular place because no place is perfect. The supports aren’t there. And the pandemic has certainly messed things up. But that said students learning how to get their needs met is an important skill, not just having them proactively met.

Nanette Ripmeester: Yeah, no, no, do have something to do. I once did a session, which was really structured around a discussion item also like, should we spoon feed our students? Or should we let them experience ourselves and I can understand from a parent perspective, you think like, well, the spoon feeding is great, because everything will be taken care of. I tend to within boundaries, though, but I tend to go more for the  let them experience things themselves. And yes, things will not work out. But the interesting thing is if you talk to the students later on, because a lot of my work is talking to the students. And if we ask them, What are the biggest learnings? It were the moments where things didn’t work out as planned and where they had to think outside of the box where they had to come up with solutions. And if you then talk to the employers on the other hand, these are exact need the skills and the examples that the employers would like to hear? And it’s, as I said, it’s not because they want to hear, gosh, tell me about story where things went wrong, but it’s about telling me how you soft when things when things didn’t work out as you had initially planned.

Jenn Viemont: So before they get to the recruiter, how can the,y you know, these skills are graded, and I talked about them a lot. I was reading the study you did, and I saw so adaptability is communication skills. It’s teamwork, it’s creativity, it’s problem solving skills, it’s professional and career orientation, and it’s productivity, and all of how these come about from studying outside of your home country.

Nanette Ripmeester: So how can students make sure that their cover letter or their resume before they get to those conversations with a recruiter indicate that they have these skills? Oh, that’s a great question. Because people always think about the interview, the job interview, but to get to the job interview, your resume and your cover letter have to be in such a shape that you get invited. So I think if you look at the resume, don’t leave off. That’s the first thing: don’t leave off the experience that you had abroad. Because sometimes students think like, Well, why would I put it there, because I’m not sure what I should say, then learn to talk about it. I’ve heard numerous students say, oh, it’s been great fun. Which is great. It’s nice that it was great fun, but that’s not going to give you the job. So make them understand those skills that we talked about proactivity, career orientation, team management of time management, team building, if you think about those skills, think of examples, and then try to put them in words. So if you describe, if you have little descriptions on your resume, where an employer can find these skills, I literally think that Americans are much better at flaunting their skills than Europeans are in general. So if you see an American resume, you have the words demonstrated, achieved, performed, include them in a link to the experiences you’ve had abroad, and where you had to build those skills. Make sure that in your cover letter, you explain those skills and relate them to the prospective job you’re applying to. So the resume is more showcasing you’ve got them. And the cover letter is more linking what you’ve showcased in your resume to the skill linking that particular skill to the actual job at hand. So if it asks for teamwork, because that’s one of the Well, I think every job wants somebody to to some extent some teamwork skills. So if they mentioned that, make sure that you repeat the word and say why you believe you’re good teamwork. If you find it scary to say about yourself, while you’re a good team worker, talk to your parents, let them be incredibly proud of you, notice the words that they use when they describe you and talk about you, and use those in your resume in your cover letter.

Jenn Viemont: It seems like if you’re talking about your study abroad experience or your, you know, your studying abroad, I’m thinking about like problem-based learning, which is used at some universities. And so you could even put underneath your academic experience, participated in problem based learning, using teamwork with you know, teamwork and through group work with X number of different nationalities. And this is something you help students with, right? You guys work with students? Wonderful. Yeah,

Nanette Ripmeester: Yeah, it’s not just, it’s not just of course, that going abroad will teach you all those skills, it’s going abroad is an easy one to teach a lot of skills in one go. But if you have work, integrated learning, if you’ve done any side jobs, communities, community involvement, there’s so many ways of building the skills that people look for. And make sure that you think about those skills and put them in your resume and have them resonate with the job in your cover letter.

Jenn Viemont: So we’ve talked about students and what they gain from these experiences. And the other piece of your work, as you talked about is working with universities and employers and I was reading through some of your information. And of course, it talked about the importance students place on employability when they’re looking at universities. So I’m hoping you can tell us a little bit about how students can assess for this particularly in places like Dutch universities, which of course you’re familiar with, where the norm is to go from your Bachelor’s to your masters. So if a student is trying to look at bachelor’s degree program Samsung wants to assess employability they’re not going to get the employability stats like they might from, you know Toulouse business school. So what should they be looking for?

Nanette Ripmeester: First of all, I think universities across the globe, but certainly in Europe need to pay more attention on how they train employability skills, and not just, you know, a nice website where you have a list of employability skills, but literally how you’re going to provide your students with the learning that helps them gain these skills. I think as a student, what might be a good way to do is to look at alumni and their stories, and find out where people got to what kind of jobs they’re doing. Within the whole job search process. LinkedIn is a particularly important one. So you might want to check out if you’re keen on a particular university or particular program, look what alumni from that university or that program you can find on LinkedIn, you might want to connect with them and start building your network that way. But it will also help you to see this is they’ve done exactly the same program, as I’ve done, and they’ve come to find this job. It is not always such a one on one relation, of course, because a lot of the programs people follow don’t have a direct relation with the field that people end up in. So sometimes it’s a bit more digging that the student will have to do, there’s getting more and more rankings that show employability standings. But as with every ranking, there’s sometimes a bit of a bias. And it’s only listing the big universities where it’s very often the smaller programs in very specialized programs and have a very good connection to the field that people graduate from, you might not find that university or that college within a ranking, but there still might be the best one for that particular field.

Jenn Viemont: I think you made a really good point about it being about skills. It’s not just about connecting you to employers, it’s about helping students develop the skills they need to get employed, which I think we often don’t think about, we just think about the career office and their, you know, connections and thinking about a couple of schools in particular, Toulouse Business School, which I just mentioned, they noted that they, you know, years ago, they had this great career service program, and students, of course, didn’t take advantage of it. So they built it into the curriculum, you know, they’re now required courses, which is awesome. I think many of us with – I have a 20 year old son who doesn’t think he needs help with anything. So to make them take that help is great, or Utrecht University builds a lot of those skills into their programs, which are great. And so maybe that’s an important piece of it, as well as looking at the curriculum and how those skills look into curricula.

Nanette Ripmeester: Look at curriculum, and I think what more and more universities start to understand is that having employability skills built into the curriculum is what matters most to students. Because employability doesn’t mean just a job at the end of your education. It means having the skills that will help a person maximize their talents for the rest of their life. So that is how you build through employability. And if you do it, right, it is setting them off for the start and for the rest of their career. So I think it’s a very important part. And I think institutions would do really good if they built it into the curricula instead of just having a workshop, a career workshop towards the end. I don’t want to say don’t do the career workshop, because I’m involved in many universities where we do career workshops. So yes, please keep them coming. But I think building employability skills into the curricula is much more helpful. And I think it’s also a trait of young people, you don’t need help you know, everything you find out, that is part of being young, where you think, you know, you can conquer the world. That is what you need to have that feeling because that’s part of being young, would being young is all about. But even for those people who have that feeling, I think it’s important that they know, they need to learn things. We, for instance, have developed an app called Career Professor dot works and it drains intercultural and employability skills through gamification. So people like your son who might not want to go to careers office, but might be keen on playing a game and trying to beat somebody else in a score. So that’s why we developed this because that will help students to understand those skills and understand that people in different countries do things differently and that it’s just raising the awareness. What are the things people look for? What are employers looking for? Is this different in Denmark versus Australia? Is this different in France versus the US? And having them think about it’s not so much about getting the answer right or wrong, although we let them think it’s, it’s what matters most. But it’s about thinking about the answers that will help people to get ready for the next step after graduation.

Jenn Viemont: Interesting, interesting. So, I’ve already decided, by the way, in two years, I want you to work with my son when he’s looking for a job. That’s great. I mean, I think it is important to recognize that there are certain people who have expertise in different areas, you know, we hired somebody in Portugal to help us with the visa process and all of that we’ve hired somebody in the Czech Republic to help Sam with that, you know, there, there are people with expertise in certain topics, and I am a big advocate of outsourcing to those different areas. So, if you’re working with the students, and they say, Okay, I want to work in Europe, or there are some countries in which it’s easier for non EU students to get a job than others.

Nanette Ripmeester: Well, the first thing is a myth that there’s something like a European work permit, we don’t have a European work permit. So you will have to get a work permit per country in Europe, the different from the US. I sometimes have people saying, oh, but it’s really, really difficult to work in Europe. Well, for European, it’s very difficult to work in the US. So it balances out in that sense, is it easier in one country than another? What the European institutions and particularly the European governments have understood at some point is, if you want to retain certain talent in your country for a while, it helps if you give those people the opportunity after their study, to stay. There’s different times that the different countries have it ranges from the possibility to stay one year up to the possibility to take two years, and everything in between. But the countries in Europe have realized that it if you want to retain talent, give them the opportunity to stay after they graduate,

Jenn Viemont: You’re talking about – sorry to interrupt, you’re talking about the job seeking visa.

Nanette Ripmeester: Seeking, or the job seeking students to allow job seeking students to stay in the country they studied in the European country case study, then, now I can sense that some of the people, the parents mainly listening to the thing like oh, well, then we find out which country doesn’t have that opportunity. So my kid has to come back. But the good thing is to set their mindset is that research also shows that young people usually do this for a couple of years, and then move back to their home country. So it’s not that they’re gone forever. It’s just that you give them the opportunity to experience a bit more what working in another culture is like? And then is it easier in one culture than another? Or one country? It depends very much which sector you’re targeting. So it’s more sectoral than it is based on a particular country.

Jenn Viemont: That was actually my next question is what industries are the best for, again, non-EU students who want to work in the EU?

Nanette Ripmeester: Well, the best, I think what in most cases we Lake is IT skills, technical skills. So if you have a technical background, that will make it slightly easier to find a position here, because not all countries train enough mechanical engineers to just name something. So I think it and technical backgrounds help. A word that does work very well, not just in Europe, but I think everywhere around the globe is data, data analytics, data management, big data. So if you have anything in your education that has trained you for working with big data, that’s for sure. An additional thing. And then it depends very, very much. I’m involved with a rather small scale university but highly specialized that trains people in the performing arts. Well, even for surface artists. There’s work if you have a right education, is that the most easy field? No, but if you’ve done it, and you’re good, the chances you get a job are very, very high. So it depends very much then on which sectors you you aim for.

Jenn Viemont: Excellent. I know what school you’re talking about that interested me very much to see a bachelor’s in the circus arts. It’s great, no idea that existed

Nanette Ripmeester: And the students are very, very Lucky that graduate from it because they have very good labor market perspective, and shelfmark perspective. So interestingly enough,

Jenn Viemont: Isn’t that interesting? So I’m gonna go back to the jobseekers visa for a minute because I know that there are a couple of countries that are particularly generous with this. So the Netherlands being one where students can return up to three years after they graduate, isn’t it and stay for a year, I believe?

Nanette Ripmeester: Yeah, it’s you can return. Indeed, after I think three years and you can stay for one and a half to two years depends a little bit, I’m not entirely sure if it’s one and a half year or two years, but you can look for work for an extended period after your graduation.

Jenn Viemont: And is it my understanding that during that time, the work that they received during that year and a half, they don’t have to have a work permit?

Nanette Ripmeester: No, it’s the work permit is part of the whole process.

Jenn Viemont: So they don’t have to convince an employer to say, Oh, will you get sponsorship from me. So theoretically, a student doesn’t have that obstacle or a graduate doesn’t have that obstacle. And they can potentially get a job in their field without having to get a work permit, the employer says, Oh, this person’s great, and then decides to sponsor them for the work permit after a year.

Nanette Ripmeester: They don’t have to sponsor them for the work permit, they can just hire that person, and you have the possibility to work. In the Netherlands, the Netherlands is pretty generous. And the other good thing is, most people hear speaking, they show it shouldn’t be a real issue in that sense. Also, the Czech Republic is the other one I can think of off the top of my head that’s very generous in that graduates from a Czech University have access to their labor market for the rest of their life. Without the whole work permit issue. Of course, we stopped to have a residence visa, but your employer doesn’t have to sponsor you. If you graduate from a Czech University.

Jenn Viemont: Are there other countries you can think of off the top of your head that are?

Nanette Ripmeester: If I think about one of the big countries Germany is a good one, you have two years possibility to work after graduation. And it’s a job market that offers numerous opportunities. So in that sense, it’s a good one. And I think employers are also not afraid of going to go through with asking for a work permit once that period is over. So that’s a positive thing as well. 

Jenn Viemont: Of course, you have to deal with their public transportation.

Nanette Ripmeester: Yep. That’s definitely true. Because the trains are perfectly on time. The Germans are very English in that sense. So their trains are on time.

Jenn Viemont: The Netherlands, I felt the same way. I love the punctuality. I love countries with punctuality. And that was very difficult for me and Portugal. It’s interesting how much you know, going back what you learned about yourself and what you learn about the things that are important to you, when you’re living in a culture that doesn’t have some of those things anymore. The growth in learning that occurs is just tremendous.

Nanette Ripmeester: It’s personal growth, and it’s making you reflect on your own behavior, your own thinking, your own biases, and it tells you a lot about yourself. So it’s an experience that yeah, that is something to treasure for life.

Jenn Viemont: So what is the biggest mistake you see when a student shows you their CV?

Nanette Ripmeester: The biggest mistake? Well, first of all, in the US, you talk about resume in Europe, we talk about a CV, that is one mistake. Well, mistake difference. In Europe, a lot of the CVS have a picture. And for instance, I remember it was years ago, I was working with a recruiter and a Dutch recruiter, and he said, Wow, what person is this? There’s no date of birth, no place of birth. I’ve got no indication of age, I have no picture. Is this a real person? Or is this a fake application? And I was like, No, it’s an American application. And they are not supposed to say what age what what nationality, and all the things that you don’t want to see, you know, you’re not, you’re not supposed to say I’m a woman. And that’s all the things we just would love to know. That’s why we love the picture because it gives away so many things about a person in one go. So that is a very, very big difference. And now there’s not every country in Europe has a CV of has a picture on their CV. Most of the Nordic countries, the Netherlands, Germany, France, it’s a highly debatable thing because as you as Americans will understand, that picture tells so many things about a person should we keep that the southern European countries are a bit more relaxed. You can do yes, you can. You don’t have to. Officially the UK is no longer part of Europe as such. And they’re also not that keen on having a picture. So in that sense, it maybe makes sense that we have that they’re outside of the EU right now.

Jenn Viemont: So interesting. So look for sort of the cultural expectations in terms of what personal information to include on a CV. Yeah.

Nanette Ripmeester: And like what I said, What I love about an American resume is the strong words that you see in there. If you do that in, well, most of the European countries, people will start laughing because they’ll go like, yeah, of course. Oh, come on. You’re you’re you’re just graduating, you can’t be this great. Tune it down a little bit. So there’s a cultural difference in how we value certain things, how we, and it also differs between the European countries so that it’s not one tip, one layout I can give you for the whole of Europe, there’s differences there as to maybe differences within some of the European of the some of the American states. Although I think that there’s more or less one. Yeah, I think there’s one resume, I’d be safe to say, I know, I can give you a resume for the US that you can use throughout the US.

Jenn Viemont: All right, interesting. So and I think so many people often

think of Europe, sort of like they think of the US, you know, like they think of Europe, of course, we all know that it’s made up of different countries. But I think people often think of it as sort of having one standard or one expectation. And so I think knowing that it varies is really helpful. The last thing I want to ask you about I was tooling around on your site over the last few days digging in and I saw you have a number of guides that people can purchase about working in certain countries. One was about working in international organizations. Can you tell me a little bit about these guides? And what sorts of information students, families, whoever can find in them?

Nanette Ripmeester: Yeah, there’s a background to the guide. And I’ve been working for the European Commission at the beginning of my career for about seven years. And then when I founded the company, very often, we had people phoning up, and my colleagues would always say, oh, no, that we don’t know anything about job handling in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, so next year, somebody for you. And I would not want to turn people down. But it would take me half an hour, and I would still not be able to transfer all the knowledge I had. So we came up with looking for work in followed by country name, I think we call for 42 countries, and something like the international organizations, which I think is extremely important. And those guides tell you about the job hunting culture in that country a little bit about the country itself. We’ve interviewed people who are working in that country as examples of what they came across. So it’s a little bit, it’s your guide to help you navigate through the job hunting process in your first days of work in that country. And that’s the basis that we used for career professor, the app I just described. So the app is like a follow up of the guides.

Jenn Viemont: Interesting. And they can find this app on. 

Nanette Ripmeester: Yes, you can find the app online, but you don’t have access because it goes through your university. So they all have to ask the universities to get the app for them. And then the app is for free. But there’s a few universities across the globe, some in Canada, some in Europe, non in the US. So let’s see. Maybe we can open up the market.

Jenn Viemont: Are there some Dutch universities that you said? Yes, yeah. Do you know any off the top of your head, we have a lot of families in…

Nanette Ripmeester: Aden is one of them. That has it. So yeah, there’s several universities around Europe that have it.

Jenn Viemont: Excellent, excellent. Well, this has been so helpful today. I really appreciate you talking to us and telling us more about the skills that go along with studying abroad and getting a job and I think this would be really helpful to so many of our families. So thank you.

Nanette Ripmeester: And love to talking to you. And if there’s any questions, you know where to find me.

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