According to SEVIS, as of last year, there were 991,957 international students enrolled in US schools. That wasn’t even including the 179,253 students who were studying with an exchange visitor visa (J-1).
Whether or not you actually want to graduate college and officially enter adulthood, the date is approaching, and there is no avoiding it now. After four years of getting settled into your life in the States, you are being pushed out. If you’re already dreading it, you will be in for an even ruder awakening.
It may take a few weeks for it to kick in and for the celebratory champagne to wear off, but it will. And you’ll wonder how you ended up in the real world.
Consider this a warning for what you’re in for ahead of time.
Here are the tips to guide you through those international student job opportunities
The Job Search
Not all of us are fortunate enough to land a job and have it lined up months before graduation, which means, most of you have been searching for a good while now. You’ll begin to catch on that that most employers are unaware of the cultural differences and visa requirements that will need to be addressed. And the ones that do will usually try to steer clear of hiring an International. As if the job hunt wasn’t already hard enough as it is. You’ll spend your days sending countless resumes and rewriting cover letters only to receive no responses. This will be discouraging, but you’ve got to power on.
Here are some tips to help you through the process:
- Get an Early Start – Time is of essence. It’s not only going to take you longer to find a job with a company that will sponsor your work visa, but the steps leading up to your employment start date is a tedious process as well. Getting your OPT is going to take you 3 months, assuming that you were able to file for it immediately. If your employer decides to sponsor your visa but demands that you start work right away, you’re going to wish that you were better prepared with all the necessary legal documents.
- Research – You need to be completely aware of the regulations of your specific situation. Not all international students are on an F-1 visa (some are on J-1 or M-1) so you need to be aware of this fact while seeking advice from your fellow international students, or when you’re talking to your school’s global office.
- School Resources – Your school has a global office for a reason. I made the mistake of not actively seeking advice from my global office until the last few weeks of my graduating semester. It’s no surprise that I ended up being in 3 months of limbo where I had to sit at home doing literally nothing, just to wait for my EAD (Employment Authorization Document). All because I didn’t go to the info sessions my school was offering for graduating internationals.
- Networking – Over 70% of jobs are secured through connections. Talk to alumnis or professors who have had experience dealing with international students and their struggles. Even building up relationships with your American friends’ parents might become a useful social link in your career endeavors.
- Staying Positive – To say that a job hunt could be demoralizing is a severe understatement. There were so many times I felt so helpless and discouraged during my job search. Even at career fairs, I had to struggle to keep a smiling face when a recruiter would abruptly end a conversation with me upon discovering that I was an international student. Do not give up. I can’t even begin to explain how crucial a positive attitude is when showcasing your abilities to your potential employers. Make them want to invest in you.
All that being said, it goes without saying that you need to thoroughly research your employers. You need to go that extra mile because you’re an international student. No written job description provided for a position? Ask for it! Call their office to request for additional information when their website doesn’t offer you enough. Go that extra mile; it will be worth every minute of your time.
I also want to emphasize that you must understand your personal qualities before sending out cover letters and doing interviews. Own your strengths and weaknesses! And please don’t be cliché about them.
Do yourself a favor and just do you.