International students: see this email I received…

I’d like to send a special hello to the international student who sent me this message. You know who you are. My apologies for the very late reply to your message. In the spirit of helping other international students out there, allow me please to quickly try to explain the reasons I loved receiving your email and decided to reply back to you:

1) You compliment my work – How nice of you. Thank you. Everyone loves compliments. In your case, I can feel sincerity in your email, and that makes me more willing to reply to your message, even though I do not know who you are.  Bottom line. Your message comes across as genuine.

2) You ask me a question I feel I’m just the guy to answer – This is important. When emailing a stranger – someone you have no connection with – you want the person who’s receiving your email to feel that he or she is the best person out there to help you, and no one else will do. I don’t think you intentionally planned to do this but in this case, I do feel that I am just the right person to give you some perspective on the situation you describe in your email, and that’s what you want to achieve when you try to connect with strangers on-line.

3) Your message is not excessively long. And you also make it very clear what it is that you are looking for.

4) Your question is not one I have heard 100 times before. I think this is key. It is to me. Here’s an example of a question I receive about 5 times a week via LinkedIn. “Hi Marcelo, companies don’t sponsor. I’d like to get a job in the U.S. What do I do?” Do you see the difference? Your question is original and it is an intelligent question. Because of that I am more likely to reply and try to give you some assistance.

5) It is a great email AND it is NOT perfectly written – There are a few grammar mistakes in your message. It is far from perfect. Do you think that made me think less of you or be less willing to try to help you? No! I make mistakes when I write. Everyone does from time to time. In your case, you have already proven your intelligence and your maturity to me. I am already impressed by all of that. You clicked the send button. So many international students become too focused on sending 100% error free emails and forget to create messages that have impact. Many don’t email people/strangers often enough in my opinion because they overthink the entire process and focus too much on writing completely error free messages. Just do it! Do the best you can and get some help when needed but just do it. Think Nike, yes.

So, let’s try to get back to your question to me:

What do you think of this idea of showing up in an abnormal way? 

I completely love the idea of you showing up in an abnormal way.

My rationale is simple: you probably already know that often times it is not the best person who gets hired. Qualified candidates who are able to attract the attention of recruiters are the ones who get noticed, sometimes get interviewed, and sometimes get jobs. How can you distinguish yourself in a sea of business graduate students looking for the same type of positions you’re seeking, the same way? Well, one way to do that is by “showing up in an abnormal way”. So yes, maybe the pitch book idea could work really well. I love the concept. Yes, push the envelope and help recruiters and hirings managers learn about your skills and talents in a creative way.

I think it is great that you are thinking of differentiating yourself as a job seeker. This is very hard for international students to do because what we often want to do – particularly as newcomers to the U.S – is to conform, to observe and do everyone else is doing and then copy them. We don’t want to break rules. God forbid. We don’t even allow ourselves to be creative. But you’re thinking differently….

If you think about it, all business graduates out there end up looking the same. They answer questions the same way. They comb their hair the same way. They all have a dark suit which they wear for interviews. They all say they have passion and they answer questions such as “tell me about a time when you exercised leadership skills” in a similar way. Everyone has the same prepared answers for the typical interview questions and everyone more or less uses the same tactics to try to get hired. Also, the curriculum of business schools does not change too much from school to school at all. Everyone is reading the same texts books, taking the same finance classes and essentially learning the same stuff. So be careful! It seems though that you’re trying to think of ways to do things differently and attract the attention of recruiters in different ways. Awesome.

Sometimes we have to take chances as job seekers. Give the pitch book idea a try. Whatever the results are I assure you will learn something valuable.  Sometimes we have to do something that seems a little crazy actually as job seekers. So push the envelope. Have you heard how COO Gary Cohn got his start on Wall Street (Goldman Sachs?) See the article below.

Can a white lie help you get a job?


Marcelo Barros is the author of The International Advantage Get Noticed. Get Hired! He partners with university career centers to help international students achieve their job search goals.

Keep pushing hard international students. I’m rooting for you!

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