How to be Irresistible as an International Student in Your Job Search

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How to be Irresistible as an International Student in Your Job Search was originally published on Interstride.

This blog post was co-authored by Betsy Cohen, the author of Welcome To the U.S.A. – You’re Hired!, a guide for international talent to land their dream jobs in the US.

For international students, the job search experience can be stressful and unpredictable. You are navigating an unfamiliar job market and workplace culture. You are most likely away from your family, and your domestic peers may not understand your unique challenges. 

Job searching as an international student requires resilience and determination. To increase your chances of success, there are specific actions you can take to make yourself irresistible to potential employers. Being irresistible in this context means that the potential employer feels that they cannot do without you.

How to be irresistible

To make yourself appealing to potential US employers, building relationships is key. Start early, way before you need a job, and look for ways to connect with a specific organization you might be interested in working for. Try to find a direct or “backdoor” way to meet them such as:

  • Events (e.g. industry meet-ups, chamber of commerce)
  • Traditional internships
  • Ask to shadow 
  • Ask to do a case study
  • Coffee meeting

The word “networking” has a negative connotation for some people in the US. Instead of networking, focus on building relationships. Think of appropriate topics (e.g. sports, music, travel, food) to talk about at networking events and practice what you could say. Focus on quality over quantity when building relationships. We recommend trying to make three connections per event by having meaningful conversations and then following up via email or LinkedIn after the event.

The key is building relationships by asking good questions. When messaging someone on LinkedIn, ask relevant questions. This makes you more interesting to the person and shows your interest in them. Lastly, network in person as much as possible, and use Zoom as a last resort.

Navigating the US job market

The US is a large country and the job market differs greatly by area and by industry. Research the local conditions and industries in the area where your school is located or in places where you are interested in living after graduation. Use AI to learn industry insights, company information, interview questions, practice answers, practice negotiating salary, etc. For example, LinkedIn is key to finding a job in many industries and AI can help with connections. 

To learn more about the US job market, you can take online courses and certifications, get a mentor, or leverage employee resource groups. The more knowledge you have about your desired industry and employer, the more likely you are to have strong job interviews.

How to best leverage job fairs

Job fairs are in-person events at your school. They are free and open to all students. To get the most out of a job fair, research companies in advance to see if they have hired international students and graduates before or if they are open to it. You can find this information online through Interstride if you attend a participating school. You can also ask your network to gain this information or look at 

Here are some quick tips for attending a career fair:

  • Bring at least 10 copies of your resume to pass out to recruiters
  • Be proactive by approaching tables and greeting the recruiters
  • When talking to recruiters, show your motivation and dedication
  • Ask questions about opportunities

Cultural norms for job interviews in the US

Knowing what to expect when you go into your first job interview in the US will help you have a strong interview. Interviewers usually ask two types of questions – chronological questions about events in your life and behavioral questions about how you acted in specific situations. Make sure you understand what type of question is being asked so you know what kind of answer is expected. 

It’s normal in the US in many industries and companies to negotiate your salary. Be prepared to do this in your job interview. The interviewer may ask what your salary expectations are. Know your value and prepare a confident answer in advance. Research the average pay for similar positions in similar companies in your area if you are unsure what to ask for. Sometimes, you can also negotiate benefits such as paid time off (PTO), signing bonuses, requesting an earlier performance review timing for salary upgrades and stock options.

To show that you researched the company and job before the interview, come up with at least a couple of questions to ask in your interview. Then, prepare and practice a solid closing sentence about why you think you are a great fit for the job and to ask when you might hear next steps. 

Immigration and legal aspects of job hunting

As an international student, it’s essential to understand your F-1 student visa status and work authorization options: OPT, STEM OPT, and/or CPT. Research what questions US employers can legally ask you about your immigration status and work authorization. You may want to educate potential employers about your work authorization status rather than just answering questions with yes or no. Many employers do not understand that you will stay on your F-1 student visa when you begin working for them and that they do not need to begin the sponsorship process at the beginning. The more knowledge you equip yourself with, the better you can explain your situation to potential employers.

Get to know your designated school official (DSO) during your first year of school because you will need them to help you apply for work authorization. Also, start researching the H-1B visa for after OPT or STEM OPT expires. The H-1B visa requires employer sponsorship and winning a highly competitive lottery to acquire. Therefore, some international students may want to consider an O-1 or E visa. These are self-sponsored visas, and you must submit evidence when you apply, so the earlier you start preparing, the better. Finally, consider H-1B cap-exempt positions for employers that do not have to go through the lottery to sponsor international workers. 

Key takeaways

Job hunting can be intimidating and complicated. To minimize stress and maximize your chance of success, start early, build relationships, and show deep knowledge of your field and industry. Use LinkedIn regularly and attend in-person events as much as possible. Lastly, remember, as an international student in the US, you are irresistible. We need your talent here! 

The post How to be irresistible as an international student in your job search appeared first on Interstride.

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