Some international students sadly make the job search process harder than it needs to be. Obviously, it’s not their intention to make an already difficult journey any more painful. But sometimes international job seekers (unwittingly) do things that work against them.
If your search has dragged on longer than you’d like, or if you feel all you hear is “sorry, we don’t sponsor”, see if one of these reasons below might be the culprit. Just know that before you start reading that all of these behaviors and decisions are totally fixable once you identify them. Make the right decisions and increase your chance of securing a great job in the U.S in 2018.
1. Don’t choose the wrong major
If you have already picked your major move forward and don’t second guess your choice. In theory, an H-1B visa is available for international students from any major, even unpractical ones. What you decide to study in college has always mattered a great deal in terms of your chances of staying and working in the U.S after graduation though. More than ever choosing the right major college major matters. There are more employers interested in sponsoring students with a techie background than those majoring in architecture, for example. That is a fact. I’m not necessarily saying “go major in Computer Science” but you get my point. Certain STEM majors currently enjoy 36 months of OPT, and some employers these days will only consider international students with a possible 36 months of OPT. That’s a relatively new trend. If you what you chose to study is not in demand by U.S employers, be extra careful. Be aware that following your heart may cost you precious job opportunities after graduation. This risk is worth to some. At a minimum add in-demand skills to your profile during your studies, no matter what you are studying, if you’re interested in seeking U.S employment. Have a plan and seek counsel to understand the pros and cons your college major choice may have in terms of U.S employment opportunities.
2. Don’t buy unnecessary education
Speaking of education and college majors, don’t spend any more time in school than needed. Don’t buy degrees or college certificates that won’t make you a more competitive job seeker. The other day I exchanged some emails with an international MBA student who decided to double major (MBA and Business Analytics) because he was convinced that a double major would increase his chances of staying and working in the U.S after graduation. He was wrong. Not only this student’s decision to pursue an additional major did not make this student a more competitive candidate, but it cost this international student an extra $10,000. Wasted money. If needed consider on-line educational platforms such as Udemy, Teachable and Coursera to acquire in-demand skills. This may be a faster, cheaper and wiser route to consider if you wish to complement your university course work.
3. Don’t wait to network until you arrive in the U.S
Why wait? International students don’t have time to wait. Just do it! Move into job search action the minute you decide to come to the U.S. Fully leverage the power of the Internet and tools such as LinkedIn, etc, before you leave India, China or whatever country you’re from to come to the U.S. In 2018 we will be working on job search solutions that will be released to international students through U.S universities before they arrive in the U.S. Regardless, once again, there’s much you can do on your own. If you’re already in the U.S, network non-stop.
3. Don’t assume all employers know that they are able to hire you
Of course you don’t need to educate the Googles and Microsofts of world on what OPT or an H-1B visa is, but a smaller firm who has only been through the process a few times before, or maybe never before, may need to be educated and convinced that moving forward with you as an international hire is the right thing for them to do. Know whom you’re talking to, interject as needed, take control of the conversation, and know how to correctly disagree with an employer that tells you they don’t sponsor.
4. Don’t fail to confidently answer this question:
When job searching you’ll often be asked what you do or what you want to do after graduation. Start thinking about how to answer this question. If you wish to stay and work in the U.S after graduation, how would you answer this question: what do you do better than others? Similarly, what unique international advantage do you bring to the U.S? Your answer should make sense to a 10-year-old who knows nothing about your field and it should take you less than thirty seconds to answer it. This is hard to do. Hesitate with your answer and people will think you don’t know what it is that you want to do or worse, that you are not competent. By the way, it would be best if you answered this question is 2 or 3 sentences, max. Americans like when you cut to the chase. Be direct and brief.
5. Don’t fall in love with your resume. Don’t give it too much attention
Instead, use video, social media in general, constant blogging to give the world a taste of who you are, what you stand for, and what you can produce. International students are tech-savvy. Don’t worry about perfect English. I bet you can find typos in my posts if you look hard enough. That has never kept me from being hired. Show your distinctive thinking to others and you will get noticed. A simple WordPress site is easy and inexpensive to create. LinkedIn has great blogging capabilities, In the end, create an online portfolio you can point to. That will impress employers. School work counts. Resumes are boring.
6. Don’t just do what you like. No pain no gain.
Do you want to stay in the U.S and work after graduation? Well, then be ready to train like an Olympian. I read somewhere that Michael Phelps at one point trained every day for five years, and that he spent three to six hours in the pool each day and exercised on dry land four to five days a week. Do you think Phelps loved all of this training? Do you think he looked forward to being in the pool every day? I doubt it. Do you think there were days when he wanted to sleep in and live like a normal person? Job search is hard. It’s not fun sometimes. Do what you know you need to do, even when you don’t want to do it. I can be a little lazy when it comes to completing certain tasks related to managing my firm, The International Advantage, that I don’t find exciting. When I feel my productivity is declining, I schedule a coffee chat at Starbucks with someone I know who cuts me no slack and we don’t leave until I do what I need to do. A good latte helps.
7. Don’t job search without weekly goals
Since most of your work as a job seeker will hopefully be meeting new people as opposed to applying for jobs online, set weekly goals for networking, for example. How about 2 conversations per week with contacts in your desired field? That’s a doable target for an average job seeker. Stay on target and if you’re not reaching your goals, ask for help from someone who can help you stay on track. Find a personal trainer. In other words, find a strong career coach or mentor to work with.
8. Don’t just build muscle. Build the right kind of muscle
Identify the skills and experience needed for you to secure the jobs you want. Analyze the LinkedIn profile professionals who have the jobs you’re seeking and ask yourself how you compare. This is not hard to do. It will not be of much value to spend time working on the wrong stuff. The other day I was working with an Economics student from China who had been a Java programmer all of his life – and got really good at it – but failed to realize that R, not Java, was the programming language that the jobs he was targeting required. The jump to R was a breeze to this student but the oversight did cost him a few job interviews, according to him. In the end this student not only got hired but secured a great well paying H-1B visa in his desired field. I’ll be covering his success story in more detail on a different post.
9. Don’t let Mr. Trump’s views on immigration keep you up at night
We all know things are tough out there right now for international students who wish to stay and work in the U.S after graduation. There is much uncertainty in the air. As an international student, unless you want to ask your university president to urge his or her senator to fight for sensible H-1B reform, then there’s probably nothing else you can do to impact the future of the H1-B program. If you believe in what I’m saying, then it makes no sense to worry about possible changes in the H-1B program that you have 0 control over. Focus on what you can control.
10. Don’t just play, play to win in 2018 and stay in touch with us
There’s much you can as an international student to tilt the balance in your favor and increase your chances of securing a great job in the U.S after graduation. You may be already doing 90% of what you need to do. The remaining 10% is hard to figure out but you must understand what that is to live to your fullest potential and gain an edge over other candidates. We want to work even harder in 2018 to help international students secure great jobs in the U.S. We are excited about what’s ahead of you in terms of possibilities.
If you are an international student click on the contact form below to receive information from The International Advantage program in your Inbox to help you to get noticed and hired.
Marcelo Barros is the author of The International Advantage Get Noticed Get Hired! and founder of The International Advantage. Barros partners with U.S universities to prepare international students to get noticed and hired.