Hello everyone. Welcome back to my interview with Luz Camargo. This is the final part of my conversation with Luz. I really enjoyed talking with Luz, by the way. Her suggestions are very mature. If you missed Part 1 of my interview with Luz, you can read it on my web site. Enjoy the great insights below.
Let’s talk about career services. How’s the career services model in your country different from what is typically available at U.S universities?
Luz: It is very different. In my country, universities help you by hanging job postings on a bulleting board, but there’s no help with resume enhancement, interview preparation, generating smart job search strategies, etc. And the concept of networking does not really exist in Colombia in the same way it exists in the U.S.
Marcelo: Tell us how you found your internship. How did you get the lead? What was the interview process like and how did you use your internship experience when seeking full-time roles as a second year MBA?
Luz: Finding my MBA internship was painful. There was a huge financials crisis in the U.S in the summer of 2008, right when I was trying to get an internship. Companies were not hiring. Even worse: they were not hiring in finance, my target area. I didn’t look for internships during the first few months of my first year as an MBA because I didn’t imagine it was going to be so difficult to land one. I only got 2 or 3 interviews on campus.
So, in the end, I started my summer break as an MBA without an internship. To my advantage, because some companies do not plan ahead, many internship postings were popping up during the last week of spring term (before my summer break). Since many students had already secured internships by the end of spring term, my chances increased. There was simply less competition. During the first week of my summer break I was invited for 2 interviews and got 2 quality internship offers.
So, it all worked out in the end. I had a great summer internship. In fact, when I finished my MBA and did not have a full-time job offer, I was able to return and temporarily work for my previous internship employer. I was able to join the same firm for a few months until I got my full-time job. It was a perfect situation for all parties involved: my internship employer let me look for full-time job opportunities while I was helping them with a specific project.
Marcelo: How’s interviewing in the U.S different from interviewing in your home country? What was the biggest adjustment you had to face?
Luz: PAR, which stands for
P = Problem
It is hard to phrase interview answers in 1 minute and get it right. Prior to my MBA, my interviews were generic. In the U.S you need to adjust your answers according to the PAR format and be conscious of time.
I didn’t enjoy interviews in general. International students not only have to worry about the quality of their answers, but we also need to worry about English. I had to practice over and over and learn how to pronounce certain key words correctly. I also learned how to speak slowly. People from Latin America, in my experience, sometimes speak very fast. I needed to make extra effort. The more you practice the better you will get. It is very helpful to have some sort of self-assessment after each interview, and think about what you did well and what you need to improve in your next interview.
Marcelo: What’s the best part about being an international student, and what is the worst?
Luz: BEST: If things don’t work out and you don’t secure a job in the U.S, your plan B could be an amazing job in your home country, close to your family and your childhood friends. That can be a great option. Or maybe you will end up elsewhere. There are many possibilities for adventurous international students.
WORST: culture awareness. Sometimes international students don’t always pick up on every detail of a conversation. Also, building rapport with people can take a little longer depending on whom you are talking to.
Marcelo: Let’s talk about sponsorship, always a hot topic for international students, of course. How did you deal with the typical “we don’t sponsor” phrase international students hear all the time? Did you have a “plan” to secure your H1-B?
Luz: No, I didn’t have a plan. Since we have OPT as international students I was able to use it to get one year of work experience in USA. My U.S employer eventually filed for my H1-B. You just need to keep your options open as an international student looking for job in the U.S. For example, my employer did not initially offer sponsorship. One year later, they changed their minds regarding considering international students and I was able to secure an interview for a great job and got hired.
Marcelo: It seems like things really worked out for you. How did you get the lead for your full-time role, and what was the interview process like?
Luz: I was volunteering at the time for the National Society of Hispanics MBA (NSHMBA) DC chapter, and it was there that I met the president of the association at the time – a very smart and kind Brazilian man – and this individual opened the initial door for me at Laureate Universities. When Laureate changed their recruiting strategy and started considering foreign nationals as candidates, he asked me for my resume and the rest is history.
I initially had one phone interview and then I was invited for a full day of on-site interviews with different individuals. It was very stressful to have multiple rounds of interviews on the same day. In the end, it left like love at first sight. I was very comfortable in all interviews and felt that Laureate International Universities would be a great home for me. I am proud to share with others the wonderful work we do at Laureate and the impact we are having around the world. I know I would not have been successful interviewing with Laureate had I not had 2 full years of practice and self-improvement, which were available to me during my MBA studies.
Marcelo: Americans talk a lot about “likability” in the hiring world. Does such a concept exist in your country? Are international students at a disadvantage when it comes to likability in your opinion?
Luz: I don’t think the “likability” concept exists in my home country the way it exists in the U.S. It is certainly something international studnets need to manage when job searching.
Marcelo: What kinds of questions was your family asking you during your studies? Were they worried about whether or not you were going to find a job in the U.S after graduation?
Luz: They really didn’t worry since they would have been happy to have me back close to them. With that said they certainly provided me with a lot of support and comfort during the entire job search process.
Marcelo: What message do you want to send international students who are seeking jobs or worried about their careers? How can an international person be successful in the U.S in your opinion?
Luz: I think this advice applies to every job seeker not just international students: DO YOUR HOMEWORK 🙂
Things don’t come by change. Prepare yourself, apply for jobs, keep knocking on doors and keep a positive attitude. Don’t give up. All my international friends who decided to stay in the U.S after graduation made it. Below are a couple of more pieces of advices that are especially important for international students:
- Accept the challenges ahead and keep on improving;
- Listen to the advice of others who can help you succeed and apply the recommendations provided to you;
- Do not walk alone in this process. Find support, be smart, and learn from the mistakes of others
Marcelo: You’ve achieved what so many dream of: great work experience in the U.S with an H-1B visa, a cool job in Malaysia, etc. What is your international advantage?
Luz: It is interesting for me to think about my life and career. After working for Laureate in Baltimore, MD in the U.S I had a wonderful opportunity to move far away, to Asia, and experience a completely different culture and work environment. I accepted a role as the Director of Finance in Asia – in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to be precise – and I am proud and lucky for the opportunities I have had to represent Laureate International Universities across the globe.
As a Finance professional from Latin America who obtained a U.S MBA, I see huge growth opportunities in Asia for qualify firms. As the world gets more and more global, smart companies will continue to look for professionals with multicultural profiles who can help them grow internationally. I feel my international advantage in Asia more strongly than I did when I worked in the U.S after graduation. I feel my international advantage more than ever in Malaysia.
Global firms that are trying to grow value professionals who obtained college degrees in the U.S. As a job seeker, if you don’t have a family yet, or maybe even if you do, be adventurous and flexible enough to work in other countries other than the U.S. We have an edge as international students and global professionals. When we go to the U.S for college, maybe to get an MBA, we learn about the American corporate culture. When working outside of the U.S and our home country, we become connectors between the local culture and the American culture. It’s hard for American companies to understand the culture of the different countries they operate in. Many U.S firms want to hire educated, talented, and global professionals and will pay a premium for those who have these characteristics. That’s us: international students. Being from Latin America not only helps me understand Malaysia, but actually thrive here. I am proud to say that I grew up in a beautiful “third world” country without many of conveniences that the U.S may offer. Because of that I was never afraid of the new experiences that awaited for me in Malaysia. My American education and professional experience at Laureate in the U.S help me “speak” the corporate language of multinational firms. I understand culture, finance, and know how to get things done.
In Asia I have seen how multinationals firm pay a premium for professionals who speak their “corporate language” while executing on the ground. And that is foundation of my international advantage: I can do this.