Written by Rynnaas Azlan , Journalist and content writer looking for new opportunities
This article provides international students and laid off H-1B visa holders with job search strategies that could help them get hired fast. It is important to remember, however, that if you are an international student under the impression that all of your problems will go away once you secure a job in the US that comes with a H-1B visa sponsorship, think again. The recent massive tech layoffs have greatly impacted many employees, many of whom are former international students. The 60-day grace period is less than generous for those affected, making it even harder for former international students (now H-1B visa holders) to remain in the US and live out their American dream. There’s still hope — The International Advantage spoke to several international graduates who managed to bounce back and find new employment within 60 days! Read their stories of success and courage below, and apply their job search strategies so you can get hired too!
Vishal Pallerla managed to find a new employer that was helpful in speeding up his H-1B visa transfer
Indian-born Vishal Pallerla was able to handle his layoff last August with grace — he secured a new job as a Developer Advocate at DevZero within the time frame required by his H1-B visa, the daunting 60-day grace period. “I was still in shock for the first two to three days but realized that I needed to act quickly and prepare my mind accordingly,” he tells The International Advantage.
Some of the steps he took was to update his resume, LinkedIn, Github, and score a few solid recommendations for his LinkedIn profile. “As I worked as a Software Developer before and then as a Developer Advocate, I prepared two different resumes, one for Software Developer/Engineer related roles and another for DevRel (Developer Relations) roles.” In addition, Vishal searched LinkedIn with relevant hashtags such as #startupjobs, #techjobs, #hiring (sort by the latest) and saved interesting jobs he was not ready to apply for immediately. “This is a great way since you can see who posted the job and you can then reach out to them directly”, says Vishal.
His top tip? To apply for a job no less than two days after it has been posted. “My observation was that time is of the essence here if you are a laid off H-1B visa holder, and the chances of you landing the job are higher if you apply for it immediately after it was posted.”
Pallerla is lucky — he was a Computer Science graduate, which meant that he was in a field that’s quite in demand. LinkedIn recruiters constantly reach out to Computer Science graduates, which was another way Pallerla searched for jobs — by backtracking and messaging recruiters who had previously discussed opportunities with the Indian native.Clearly such steps worked — after over 50 targeted job applications and nine interviews, Pallerla was fortunate enough to land the role he had aimed for with an employer that was helpful in speeding up the H1-B visa transfer. He started work just a month after the entire process.
Another option was to connect with international student career experts like *Marcelo Barros, Founder of The International Advantage, who has access to a wealth of information on international student career placements. According to Pallerla, he was introduced to Barros’ content through Dobrina Ustun, an Immigration Attorney.
Post lay off Shaunak Paranjape secured a number of job interviews by applying through traditional job portals. He chose to join LaBella Associates as an Electrical Engineer (Solar)
Just like Pallerla, Shaunak Paranjape was able to save himself from having to leave the US due to a round of layoffs at his former company. His employer closed up shop toward the end of September and his manager had informed everyone that their employment had been terminated, a news that greatly disappointed Paranjape. Although he was contemplating leaving for his home country before the 60-day grace period was up, he took a leap of faith and began his search for a new job.
Paranjape’s advice was to look out for sections within the job postings that mention whether the job was open for green card holders or if the company was willing to sponsor a visa for that particular role. “If it is not mentioned, then make sure that when you get a call from HR, let them know beforehand about the H-1B transfer process and ask them to confirm before you attend multiple rounds of interviews,”, he said. “I’ve lost two job offers due to HR not paying attention to my visa status in spite of me informing them about the matter in my introductory interview”.
Shaunak utilized both existing contacts and job portals in order to conduct his job search. “if you get laid off, the best initial strategy is to immediately tap into your linkedin connections by contacting them directly. But don’t stop there: apply on job portals as well! Surprisingly for me what worked best was job portals. I was able to secure 30 interviews and was able to go to at least 10 final interviews.”
Satvik Dhandhania successfully secured not one, but two job offers after being laid off from Meta on a H-1B visa
Laid off from Meta, Satvik Dhandhania was in a state of anger and anxiety. The unfortunate incident took place during the 2022 holiday season, when many companies were known to freeze hiring. Stress regarding the 60-day grace period began to take root and every lawyer the former Microsoft employee had spoken to had a different idea about what he should do next.
“Immediately after the layoffs I added my name to the impacted employees lists and received a lot of replies within a few days. I even asked my friends to refer and connect me to teams that were hiring within their companies,” Dhandhania shared. “I filled my calendar with interviews without thinking much about what I wanted or where my profile fit better. This strategy was ineffective as I messed up during some interviews due to being overworked and exhausted.”
What he did next was to reduce the amount of companies he wanted to focus on — those that had a fast hiring process and suited his area of expertise. “I also made sure I wasn’t applying to all the same places everyone was applying to since I knew those places have a large pool of candidates already. Luckily, I got two offers before the 60-day grace period ended and I signed on to one to quickly initiate the visa transfer.”
Shanmukha Priya Mudigonda
Post lay off Shanmukha Mudigonda participated in over 30 interviews. She joined TriNet as an AI and ML Enterprise Architect, and transfered her H-1B to her new firm
Last May, Shanmukha Priya Mudigonda got laid off from Stanley Black & Decker but moving back to her home country India did not cross her mind. Instead, she searched for posts that were specifically focused on recruiters that were hiring.
“Read every comment, check which companies were hiring, and reach out to those recruiters,” Mudigonda advised. “I also mention to recruiters that I am very much on the H1-B visa to save time and filter the companies that hire and don’t hire H-1B employees.”
Her final tip was to reach out to as many recruiters as possible. Even though some might not be looking out for the roles that might suit you, it is imperative that job seekers build a good relationship irrespective of the situation. Recruiters have a network of their own — and might know another recruiter who’s interested in your profile.
According to Shanmukha Priya Mudigonda, international students are normally highly qualified, as they have special skills and technical strength that gives them an edge in the job market. “Difficult interviews for companies like Amazon make us really strong both mentally and technically,” says Shanmukha. In order to get hired inside the 60-day window, Shanmukha recommends that international students leverage their personal experiences to the max and combine these with the job search strategies that Marcelo Barros creates for international students.
After putting himself out there in the job market, Ajeya Anand found a new home at Infinera as a Senior Hardware Development Engineer
Ajeya Anand’s story is a different one. When the Senior Hardware Development Engineer was laid off, he was initially fine with going back home as the initial goal of the University at Buffalo, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences graduate, was to experience another country as an international student. However, the inevitable shame of losing a good job in the US was too difficult to bear, so Anand quickly got to work and made Excel sheets of companies that he was interested in. The list also included companies that were hiring in his area, while another sheet was used to track his applications and their progress.
“My list also included a column where I would list if I had a LinkedIn contact in the company I am applying to. Before applying, I would reconnect with my contact by messaging them. This was when I began to understand the power of building LinkedIn contacts. Someone I connected with during my master’s degree had a hand in helping push my resume to the hiring manager. This individual eventually turned out to be one of my most trusted coworkers,” Anand explained.
All the credit, he said, goes to networking. “100% of the success of getting the job is thanks to the luck and kindness of my network. I am in the Electrical Engineering field so I would search for and set alerts for related job titles on Indeed and LinkedIn.”
Anand later received an offer with a job title that on the surface may not directly apply to an Electrical Engineer like himself, but he now loves his new job. His recent job search exposed him to the power of expanding the type of roles he could potentially fit into such as Process and Systems Engineer. “I considered most jobs that did not list US Citizenship or green card holders as an invitation to apply and consider them to be H-1B friendly jobs. However, 60 days to find an H-1B sponsoring employee who will actually file all the paperwork in time is not realistic unless firms have a pressing need to hire quickly”.
Vikram Rao encourages laid off H-1B international professionals to hold on to the mantra that “this too shall pass” while they search for another job in the US
For Vikram Rao, going back to India was the last resort when he first heard that he was to be laid off. “The first thing I told to myself is that this situation was out of my control and the only thing I could do was give it my best shot,” Rao shares.
First, he identified and tailored his resume to highlight the value he was bringing to the organisations he was interested in at the time. Similarly to Shanmukha Priya Mudigonda advice, Vikram also recommended finding multiple recruiters on LinkedIn so that you can send them messages mentioning the roles you’re looking at. To add a bit of spice, choose a problem that you feel the company is facing and try to solve it and show them how you can help mitigate what they’re facing.
To Rao, the best way to identify whether a position sponsors H-1B visas is to ask or communicate your current visa status to recruiters in the initial round. “Converse with recruiters as if they’re your colleagues, try to have a proper conversation and don’t make it obvious that you’re only speaking to them because you’re looking to be hired. Send a follow up email thanking them for their time and how you’re excited to meet the hiring manager,” the Senior Product Manager adds.
*Marcelo Barros is the founder of The International Advantage, a firm specialising in providing job-search training for international students who seek U.S. jobs. Barros partners with over 50 US universities to help their international students beat visa odds and secure jobs in the U.S. Next stops for The International Advantage include: University of Massachusetts Amherst March 21, 2023 and University at Buffalo March 29 and March 31, 2023.
Though the 60-day maximum grace period is short, Barros has seen many laid off international workers bounce back, secure new employment, and continue their journey in the U.S. Barros encourages laid off H-1B professionals to immediately notify their universities of their new employment status because their school may have resources, or even contacts, that might speed up the process of getting hired again.