Boost Your Cultural Quotient
The value of travel extends beyond your semester abroad
By Katie Christoff, University of Dayton
It’s common knowledge that an IQ, or intelligence quotient, is a measure of how intelligent someone is. It’s like a GPA for the rest of your life, even after school is over with. But does one’s IQ really demonstrate their ability in today’s increasingly competitive job market? Experience is beginning to overtake this quantifiable “intelligence” as the true measure of how qualified a candidate is for a job, and this includes not only past employment but also valuable life experience. Studying abroad is one such valuable life experience that helps boost one’s “CQ,” or “cultural quotient,” instead.
The CQ is a phenomenon that has gained momentum in recent years, especially as many companies spoke out about the lack of culturally qualified candidates for their international endeavors. Kevin Kelly, CEO of a leading executive search and leadership consulting firm, Heidrick & Struggles, said “We cannot find enough talent today that can navigate through different cultures across the globe,” during a speech at Georgetown University last year.
It sounds like having a study abroad experience on your resume would make you an excellent candidate for employment with his company.
It is frequently repeated that studying abroad will make you a better person — so frequently, in fact, that it’s becoming a cliché. But do we ever stop to consider how this is so? Sure, you get to travel a lot of places and learn much more about yourself, but did you ever consider that you may have also gained valuable professional experience? Evaluate the knowledge and skills you’ve developed during your time abroad, and put them to good use. Don’t let the value of being abroad last for only that semester.
It’s important to make the most of your time while you’re living and studying in another country, there’s no denying that. But it’s just as important to make the most of the experience upon your return home.
So you learned how to communicate with people while overcoming cultural differences or language barriers? Great, now nothing’s stopping you from befriending the international student in your class. You discovered that many European cultures balance their work with relaxation, and make time for sitting by themselves to enjoy a coffee every once in a while? If you miss it, then stop Netflix binging and finish your work so you’ll have time to do the same.
Don’t just say that studying abroad has been a life-changing experience. Prove it.
By doing this, you are increasing your cultural quotient. Not only will your CQ keep your experiences abroad at the front of your mind, but it may also help you land a job. It’s a win/win situation.
Some businesses have even begun administering a CQ evaluation, which is supposed to “identify an individual’s willingness, capacity, and strategy to understand each other’s cultural attributes as a means of bridging communication and collaboration gaps,” according to a story in the Financial Post.
Other companies that don’t administer such tests still take CQ into consideration when hiring. Cultural awareness along with an attitude of acceptance and tolerance are a few qualities highly in demand right now, particularly since so many companies are going global and doing business all over the world on any given day.
In the age of globalization, the CQ is overtaking the IQ. If you were fortunate enough to study abroad or travel young, you have an amazing advantage, so make it count. Demonstrate your CQ both in your job applications and in your everyday life, and then you can truly say that studying abroad was a life changing experience.
In his speech at Georgetown, Kelly closed by encouraging students: “Take the risk to work in another country. By doing that . . . you gain the international experience that’s going to help you in your career.”