On Quora, the question and answer website, there are many versions of this question: “how do I find international student jobs?” Students like you are searching for companies that hire international students and looking for international student jobs across the US. The H-1B job search is a bit of a mystery when you start. That’s normal because you’re in a new country. It is possible to learn how to search for work in the US after graduation. It’s also possible to find international student jobs. They exist! The challenge is that they are hidden among many, many opportunities that aren’t open to international students.
Finding jobs for international students takes time, patience, persistence, creativity, and a bit of luck. So prepare your research skills and get ready to talk to a lot of people.
Here’s how to succeed in the international student job search.
How to find a job as an international student
Finding jobs for international students takes patience and persistence. Your job search consists of small steps. Most students learn to start their job search with a resume. This is incorrect. Your job search starts before you create a resume. Use the map below as visual guide on how to find a job as an international student.
Learn the visa rules for international student jobs
Know the process for obtaining CPT, OPT, OPT extension and H-1B work authorization. Learn this information before you begin. A well-informed job seeker is more successful in the search.
Build a target list of interesting companies
You discover so many interesting companies in your job search. Get organized by making a spreadsheet of companies that interest you. Each time you learn about a cool company put it on your list. As you progress in your H-1B job search, add details: deadlines, contact information, and contacts who you want to talk to.
Confirm if the company sponsors
Learn which companies that provide H-1B visas. Alternatively, you can use myvisajobs.com to research any company to find out if they offer H-1B visa jobs. Use their database to learn if the company has petitioned for an H-1B. If a company is in this database, they are open to sponsoring international students for H-1B. Remember, even if a company offers H-1B sponsorship they may not hire international students for all positions.
Using myvisajobs.com to learn about H1B jobs
Set up keyword search alerts
Use keywords that relate to your academic study to search for opportunities. Try terms that combine your major or academic interests with your level. For example, use terms like “marketing intern undergraduate” or “software engineer entry-level.” Then use the “saved search” feature. When you save a keyword search, opportunities are emailed to you. This saves you time and ensures you don’t miss out.
When you’re new to the internship or job search you need to learn about the type of roles that fit your experience. Start by researching opportunities that match your experience level. If you have no work experience, target entry-level roles. If you are a career changer, target mid-level or (jr) associate level jobs.
Next, track the skills and requirements for each job to know what you need to be a competitive candidate. If you don’t have 60% of the skills required, don’t apply. Competitive candidates have at least 80% of the skills required for the job posting.
Finding entry level jobs on LinkedIn
Create a professional story
You meet a lot of people in the job search. Those people want to know about you and sometimes help you. You will not get hired if you can’t talk about your professional interests. Learn how to create a professional story that helps people understand your career goals. Creating a professional story shows you’re serious about your job search.
Customize your professional documents
Resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles: these are your professional documents. They are tools that communicate your interests, skills, and experience to employers. Learning to write them is a skill and it takes time. Writing customized resumes for each job is important; you won’t get hired if you submit a generic resume. Make sure your professional tools are error-free. American employers are strict when it comes to resume and cover letter mistakes. In a Career Builder survey, 58% of employers said a typo mistake would make them dismiss a candidate. 36% said they wouldn’t consider a candidate who submitted a generic resume. Pro tip: Get feedback from your career services office.
Get experience outside of the classroom
What employers want in candidates; Source: NACE Job Outlook Survey 2016
Academic experience and GPA do not qualify you for international student jobs (neither does the brand name of your school). In addition to your studies and GPA, employers want you to have experience. Even if you’re an undergraduate who has never worked before, you are expected to have the required skills to do the job. Companies hire international students who have experience, skills, and academic studies. While you are in school, get experience working or volunteering to build skills. Here are some examples of how to build skills while in school:
- Lead a club
- Host a conference
- Participate in a real-world project
- Build a website or app
- Tutor other students
- Teach a class
- Write a blog post
- Produce a video series on a topic that interests you
- Launch a social media campaign
Talk about your career interests (and ask for advice)
People can’t help you if you don’t tell them what interests you. When you get to know people, talk to them about your career interests. Visit your career services office. Ask them what they know about international student jobs. Tell your career coach what industries or subjects interest you. Tell your friends, host family, and people you meet during activities. Visit your favorite professor during office hours and ask what jobs are common for students interested in their field of study.
Just remember: Avoid asking people for jobs for international students. Instead, tell people your professional interests. Learn about their professional interests. When you take an interest in people’s lives and careers, it builds relationships. Then ask people for advice about the job search. It’s as simple as saying “I’m studying finance and I’m really interested in the fintech industry. I’d like to build apps for a bank. Do you have any advice?”
Hang out with Americans
American employers hire for fit. Fit means that they want to work with people who:
- are curious about their organization
- add value to teams
- understand the company culture
- are comfortable in American culture
- are enjoyable to be around (after all, you will be spending 40+ hours a week together if hired!)
To fit in at a company, you need a good understanding of American culture. Learn as much as you can about slang, small talk, humor, communication style, cultural differences in how different cultures work by hanging out with Americans while in school. Join a club with a lot of Americans. Attend their parties. Invite American students to dinner at your house (hanging out over food = instant friendships!).
Talk to alumni (especially international student alumni working in the U.S.)
One of the benefits of attending school is the alumni network. Alumni are students from your school who have already graduated. Most alumni enjoy talking to current students, like you. They want to help. After all, they were once a student like you and understand your experience. They give advice. Alumni help you understand the companies they work in. Ask your career services office if they have a list of international students working in the U.S. Another way to find international alumni is to search on LinkedIn. Then reach out to the contact and ask for an informational interview.
Find an inside connection
The average open position online receives over 200 resumes. Only 2% of those applications are invited to interview. Translation: it is very difficult to get noticed in the application process without an inside connection. It’s harder for international students because employers are nervous about hiring you. To find international student jobs, you need people who can help for you. Most international students get help from people inside of companies. International students who network with people inside companies increase their chances of getting hired.
In the US, the #1 method that employers use to find qualified candidates is employee referrals. An employee referral is when a current employee recommends a candidate (like you!) who they think is a good fit for the job. To get referred, you need to build relationships and network with people inside the companies where you want to work. Build relationships by conducting informational interviews.
Mock interview to build confidence
Once you are invited to an interview, prepare for the opportunity. Mock interviews are a practice interviews. They help you practice answering common interview questions. Get feedback on your interview style and gain confidence. Your career services office offers mock interviews. Schedule one before your interview.
Interview with confidence
Interviews are a chance for you to share your experience, curiosity, and passion. American employers want to hear about your accomplishments, even as a student. Talk about the work you have done outside of the classroom. Ask smart questions about their company and the role you want to work in. Students who get hired are the ones who are the most prepared. Use websites like glassdoor.com to learn about company interview questions and processes. Prepared students know how to answer the question “Why do you want to work for us?” and “What interests you about this role?”
Starting a job in a foreign country is an important life step. Don’t be afraid to negotiate your salary. Use career reports from your school or websites like transparentcareer.com to research salaries. Learn as much as you can about benefits Americans gets from U.S. employers. Look up estimate taxes in your state.
And some final advice…
Avoid assumptions about international student jobs
It’s easy to make assumptions about international student jobs. Rejection and misinformation makes it feel like there are no jobs for international students. Yet in 2017, 55% of employers were open to hiring international students in the U.S. The trick is finding the right companies that are a match for you. It takes time, connections, practice, and a bit of luck.
Stay open to all opportunities not just international student jobs
Your job search should be filled with curiosity. When you start talking to people and learning about their interests, you start finding opportunities. Those opportunities may not fit with your plan. But nothing is guaranteed in your U.S. job search. So be flexible and open. If you hear about an opportunity in a country outside the U.S, embrace your curiosity. You’re at the beginning of a global career! Explore global rotation programs, jobs in international startup hubs, and opportunities in other countries where the work authorization process is less strict (like Canada).
Embrace the roller coaster and you will find jobs for international students!
International student careers are never easy. There will be good times and bad times during your job search. It’s like riding a roller coaster. Sometimes it will feel exciting. Other times you will want to be done with the whole thing. The goal is to just keep going. Keep learning. Always try new things and be open to advice.
You are at the start of an exciting global career. Your international job search is the first of many and one of the most interesting learning experiences you will have during your time in the US.