So Fall is almost here and closes to $1 million international students have recently joined our U.S universities, many with dreams of finding employment in the U.S after graduation. Having already worked with a few different universities this summer, below are 5 observations regarding what I see out there, particularly in the Business School world, and some initial suggestions that might help our newly arrived international students address early common job search challenges they normally face.
1) Trump fear – This is the new, big elephant in the room, of course. More than ever our newly arrived international students have questions about what our President may want to do with the H-1B program.
I am flattered that many think I may know what may happen. Though I do live 6 blocks away from the White House, I have not had much luck yet securing a meeting with President Trump to discuss with him my views about what he should do with the H-1B program. All joking aside, none of us know what may or may not happen with the H1-B program though it is clear that President Trump is against the idea that international hires may be taking jobs away from American Citizens. You may have heard the President say “Hire American and Buy American” before.
Solution – Why worry about something you cannot control? Stop reading every article you find on the article about potential changes in the H-1B program. The International Advantage will continue to keep you appraised of any immigration changes you may need to know about. For now, just relax and focus on getting fit as a job seeker. Control what you can control. No news on this topic is good news.
2) Lack of self-awareness around strengths – This is an expected common challenge newly arrived international students often face and this IS something I do worry about because hiring managers and HR professionals want to hire candidates who know what their professional sweet spots are. U.S students seem to have a huge advantage over international students in this area. Think about it: U.S children start hearing the phrase “good job” the minute they are born and they are often told by their parents not to be shy about promoting their talents to world. Well, it is a very different story for many of us international students, isn’t it? Many of us have never taken any time to think about what it is we do well. Many international students may know they have been good students but that may be the extent of it. It gets worse: many have been taught to be humble and not to draw attention to themselves.
Solution – There are no quick fixes for this one, I don’t think, but remember that the new context you now find yourself in as an international student will help you see strengths you may have had all along but never noticed when you were home. This is one of the many beautiful gifts of being an international student. It’s also tricky to recognize your strengths when everyone in your class was as good of a Java programmer as you. In my book The International Advantage I write about an international student from South Korea who told me “I never knew I was good at Math until I came to the U.S Marcelo”. As far promoting your strengths, think about it this way: U.S hiring managers want you to tell them what it is that you do well. You are not bragging when you do this. You’re simply helping them understand if you may be a fit for their firms or not, or for a job opening, they may be trying to fill. If you have worked with me this summer my question for you is: how’s your ISEL coming along?
Once you can confidently answer the question about where you can have impact develop a digital portfolio so others can see what it is that you do well.
3) Not skipping the line as a job seeker – This is also something I do worry about. How can international students be savvy job seekers if many may have never even looked for a job in their home countries? Sadly many international students graduate without knowing how to play the “how to find a job” game in the U.S.
Solution – Engage with your university career services early so you learn about what it really takes to get a job in the U.S. Schedule an appointment with your university career advisor as opposed to staying up all night applying for jobs on line, which is typically the least effective way to get a call back from a recruiter or hiring manager. Remember this: companies want you to connect with someone already working at their firms so you can possibly get recommended for a job. Top firms do not want you to apply for job openings on their web site because this is typically not an effective way for them to find top potential hires. Companies want you to skip the line as a job seeker, so let’s start skipping the line as job seekers international students.
This is Ambrose Zhi, an international student from China, who I had a chance to meet during my recent visit to the University of Washington Foster School of Business two weeks ago. Ambrose is an ultra-successful undergraduate international student, and he’s wrapping up a summer internship at Boeing. My conversation with Ambrose reminded me of all that is possible for our career-driven international students.
4) No American friends – Look around: there are international students everywhere but we must connect with Americans and the earlier we do this the better. Lack of U.S contacts can be the kiss of death for International Students who wish to stay and work in the U.S after graduation.
Solution: What do you like to do for fun? Photography? Painting? Running? Playing Chess? Dancing? Maybe explore a new hobby? I singed up for a Fly Fishing class during my 1st semester at the University of Oregon. Join a club at your school or take a fun class so you can engage with Americans who share the same interests you do. This will allow you to network without feeling you’re networking, and start building a good base of U.S contacts during your first semester in the U.S. Yes, such a simple recommendation yet sadly utilized by our international students. The new contacts you will make may help skip the line as a job seeker when time comes for you to get an internship for a full-time job. Be extra brave: find an American roommate.
5) Forget about the need to sell yourself, to pitch – This is an outdated and infective way to build relationships but the notion we must do this at all times as job seekers is unfortunately so prevalent in the minds of international students. I have learned that is takes some time undo this mindset. Many international students doubt my advice when I ask them not to sell themselves. Some are incredibly skeptical and come to my job search workshops thinking that this is I will teach them. Some leave disappointed because I did not spend enough time helping them perfect their elevator pitch.
Solution: Nobody wants to be sold anything. Learn the art of asking good questions and listen attentively instead. Change your mindset. The job search marathon has just started. We are only on Mile 1 of this race. Become an informed job seeker early on in the race and manage your conversations correctly, regardless of how great or poor your English language skills might be. Job leads tend come as a result of good interactions.
Marcelo Barros is the author of The International Advantage Get Noticed. Get Hired! and founder of The International Advantage. Barros continues to learn how to job search in the U.S as someone who was not born here. He still cannot sell himself but has found creative ways to address this possible shortcoming. In the meantime Barros partners with university career centers to prepare international students to get noticed and hired by U.S employers. If you liked this article, share it with other international students you know and perhaps take a look at the article below as well, which has similar content and was published in January of this year.
Run the job search race hard international students. We are rooting for you.