Global awareness and intercultural skills


The Sheffield Graduate Attributes includes being 'equipped to work in diverse cultural settings', recognising the importance of global awareness and intercultural skills. These skills include:

  • Appreciating and respecting personal and cultural differences
  • Being aware of the diverse needs, feelings, and views of other people
  • Communicating and working with people from different countries and backgrounds
  • Understanding how world issues may affect society and people’s lives
  • Being able to consider issues within different contexts – local, national and international

As we travel more, and increasingly live and work in different countries as part of a multi-national business environment, so employers of graduates look for global awareness in their recruits.

Employers are under strong pressure to find employees who are culturally astute and able to thrive in a global work environment.” ‘Culture at work’ British Council 2013

What do employers look for?

Employers often describe the global competencies they look for including:

  • Working collaboratively with teams from a range of backgrounds and countries
  • Embracing multiple perspectives
  • Negotiating with and influencing clients across the globe from different countries
  • Forming professional global networks
  • Showing openness and respect for a range of perspectives from around the world
  • Learning in any culture and environment
  • Multi-lingual skills

To summarise, a globally aware person is likely to be someone who is flexible, adaptable, curious and tolerant; able to discuss world news and current affairs and talk about international aspects of their course/career; and be open-minded and sensitive to other people’s cultures. They may well have spent time living and working abroad and can probably speak more than one language.

“KPMG like many UK firms recruits globally. We want the best wherever they may be. The UK develops some great talent. It attracts some of the best from around the world. We will recruit that talent but to remain competitive we want to see more UK graduates developing a global perspective through international experience. They will have to work with global clients and mix with a range of people from different cultures. They have to be at home with cultural differences.” Keith Dugdale quoted when Director of Global Recruitment at KPMG

How do I develop these skills

The University is a major international institution committed to helping you develop global and inter-cultural awareness. So you should take advantage of the opportunities on offer and engage with students from the 130+ countries on campus. Have a look at the tips below. Some are quite easy to achieve while others may take up more of your time, but all will help you improve your global focus, add a new dimension to your CV, and enhance your employability.

  • Talk to students from other countries, find out about them and their country.
  • If you are involved in group work on your course, try and make your group as internationally diverse as possible. This will help bring a new and interesting perspective to your work. Also get to know students from other countries on a social basis, for example those who are living in your hall or flat. Find out about them and their cultures.
  • Take advantage of opportunities on your course. For example, select modules that have an inter-cultural and global dimension.
  • Learn a new language or improve your existing language skills. Have a look at the Languages Gateway web pages for information.
  • Attend international events organised by the Students’ Union such as ‘World Food Festival’, ‘International Cultural Evening’, the ‘International Languages’ Festival, and discussions on global issues run by ‘The Exchange’ etc. They are a great opportunity to have a good time and meet people, whilst learning more about other cultures, customs and viewpoints.
  • Consider spending part of your degree in another part of the world under the ‘Erasmus’, ‘Study Abroad’ or Summer School Programmes. See the Global Opportunities and Exchanges web pages  and visit their fair held in October/November each year.
  • Think about applying for internationally-focused part-time jobs in the University such as ‘Orientation and Meet and Greet Assistants’ etc., or volunteer as a ‘Teaching Assistant’ with the English Language Teaching Centre.
  • Consider voluntary work or work experience abroad. For help see our Jobs, work experience and placements section.

If you want to work abroad, look at our Careers Service Information resource to find country-specific careers advice and details of international vacancies.