Identifying International Skills

Job-seekers have a huge reserve of international skills and competences which remains untapped. The Europass is a useful tool for presenting new kinds of international know-how.

There is a huge amount of international know-how in Finland that remains hidden. Employers are unable to identify it - and job-seekers do not always realize all the skills they have.

“Job-seekers do not promote their international know-how as much as they should in the recruitment process, and employers do not recognize all the international skills and competences that job-seekers possess,” says Programme Manager Kati Virolainen from the Centre for International Mobility CIMO.

Kati Virolainen
Kati Virolainen

In 2005, CIMO surveyed the attitudes of Finnish employers on international competences, and in 2013, CIMO conducted a research project on the matter together with Demos Helsinki. In the latter survey, the attitudes of vocational and university students on international experience and its potential benefit was also investigated.

Both studies showed that job-seekers’ international experience is not important for employers in their recruitment. Students regard international competence highly and believe their own international experience will be useful in their career. On the other hand, they believed other people consider such experience less important than they do themselves.

A new way of gaining international experience

International know-how has traditionally been understood to include language skills, experiences gained abroad, and a tolerant attitude. In the study conducted by CIMO and Demos Helsinki, the “new” international competence is given a wider definition. It means the ability to work in a multicultural community, networking skills, perseverance, and problem-solving skills.

“These are exactly the kinds of qualities which employers emphasize in recruitment. The problem is that they are not recognized as skills which can be honed through gaining international experience,” Virolainen explains.

Employers understand international competence in the traditional way, and do not hold it in high regard. At the same time, they value the new type of international competence, but do not recognize it. At the same time, job-seekers do not realize how many international skills and competencies they have. International competence remains hidden.

Curiosity builds skills

At the turn of the millennium, there was a lot of talk about the new creative class, whose innovations made an especially significant contribution to culture and the economy. CIMO and Demos Helsinki identified a new, broader-based and more democratic phenomenon: the rise of the curious class. This does not mean a particular group of people, but a widespread attitude of curiosity towards the globalized world.

Curiosity means that ever more people follow international media outlets, are interested in global questions, and participate in open global online communities, for instance taking part in developing Wikipedia. At the same time, these people are honing their international skills, without even needing to leave the country.

“An active online gamer, for instance, is developing his or her problem-solving skills, and is used to working in a community with members from all across the world,” says Virolainen. “You can emphasize these skills, when you are looking for a job: you can say that you have learned to network and to work in a multicultural community in your hobby.”

Present your skills with Europass

The Europass is a good tool for highlighting this new kind of international competence. The Europass CV enables you to paint a comprehensive picture of the kinds of skills and competences you have learned in nontraditional ways. The Europass Language Passport enables the job-seeker to accurately describe their competence in different languages, regardless of whether the language has been learned in traditional language courses, or by participating in discussions in social media.

“Especially the Europass CV is well-known across Europe, and it is also a good tool for highlighting previously hidden skills and competences,” says Virolainen.

CIMO is developing supplementary CV questions, which make it easier to showcase your international competences. In spring 2014, you can also go to the CIMO website to assess your international skills with a brief questionnaire aimed at young people.

It is essential that job-seekers are able to identify their own international competences. “If the employer does not ask about it during recruitment, you can actively bring it up yourself.”

Text: Juha Rudanko

Photo: Samuli Siirala

Kati VirolainenJob-seekers have a huge reserve of international skills and competences which remains untapped. The Europass is a useful tool for presenting new kinds of international know-how, says an expert.


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