Fulbright Career Corner: Your First Impression Might Not Be In Person

Fulbright Career Corner: Your First Impression Might Not Be In Person

In my work as a career coach, I’m often attending professional events and  networking gatherings. It’s not that I’m looking for work, but rather, I’m out learning about trends and opportunities for others. For Fulbrighters, being engaged with others who have similar interests as well as potential employers is critical to advancing a career.

David J Smith — career coach, author, and Fulbrighter

How a Fulbrighter presents themselves is important in making the first impression. We often think the first impression is in person, and it can be. But increasingly today, first impressions are made through social media, email, and in other virtual ways. And if that first impression is made well, it will often lead to a meeting or coffee!

There are simple, yet important ways to present yourself that emphasize your Fulbright experience and even suggest a level of expertise. Being showy is not good. Rather, indicating your Fulbright experience in a direct, yet unassuming way will go far in impressing potential employers and individuals you would want to connect with.

The first step is easy. What does your email signature indicate about your experience? Particularly if you are a newly returning Fulbrighter, it needs to note your time abroad. I’ve seen it done several ways. You can under your name include something like (in my case):

U.S. Fulbright Scholar, Estonia, 2003

or

Fulbright Scholar to Estonia, 2003-2004

or

Fulbright Scholar Program (Estonia 2003)

There is no cookie cutter approach here. I would suggest, though, to be as specific as possible. For instance, a Fulbright Scholar is generally a professional, often a faculty member who is teaching or conducting research. A Fulbright Fellow is a student who is engaged in a project or taking classes. Indicating that you were in the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program will indicate your expertise in language instruction (and are likely a foreign national). I would resist the urge to abbreviate the program name (that is, don’t use FLTA!). You will often be communicating with individuals who are unfamiliar with the various types of Fulbrights (though the Fulbright Program overall is well known). Some of these titles are long, but an unrecognized abbreviation doesn’t help you much. Also, it’s always a good idea to include the year with the name of the country. This provides some context to when you participated. Individuals who went on Fulbrights to the former Soviet republics in the 1990s would have had very different experiences than those going more recently.

Increasingly, LinkedIn is the professional network that many are using including Fulbrighters. As a career coach, I spend time with my clients reviewing their LinkedIn profile and reminding them that merely putting up a profile is not enough.  If you use LinkedIn (and most everyone should be), make sure you are active in posting, commenting, and even publishing. Every LinkedIn profile requires a “headline” which is just a few words identifying who you are and what you are trying to accomplish through LinkedIn. Identifying your Fulbright experience here, similarly to how you did it in your email signature, is important. Your “summary” paragraph is also a place where it should be done, especially emphasizing any specific research or teaching you did. And elsewhere on LinkedIn, there are places to indicate your experience. Fulbright can be listed under “honors & awards” as well as “experience.”

And how about other social media? If you have a Twitter account is your Fulbright experience indicated in your profile? Some social media you might be using more for personal rather than professional needs like Facebook. Reminding family members of your Fulbright might come off as a bit of vanity. But to professional audiences, you need to sell yourself.

Your experience sets you apart from other professionals. Fulbright is a valuable brand: use it. You are not only advancing your own goals and career, but also, emphasizing the importance of global awareness and international experience, at time when we need to do that more than ever.

—David J. Smith

David J. Smith (Fulbright Scholar, Estonia 2003-2004) is a career coach and the author of Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace (Information Age Publishing 2016).  He is on the career advisory board of the Peace and Collaborative Development Network.  David writes regularly on career issues at davidjsmithconsulting.com. He can reached at davidjsmith@davidjsmithconsulting.com.

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