The international student job search would be so much easier if there was a platform which only listed international student jobs. Unfortunately there isn’t a platform (yet!).
As an international student your job search is an adventure. Like any good adventure, your job search is full of surprises. You’ll meet interesting people (and maybe a few boring people). You will overcome obstacles. You’ll visit new places. You’ll get new skills. And you’ll do it all without knowing exactly what the outcome will be.
For any new adventure it helps to have a few tools to help you navigate. The map below is the ultimate tool for your job search. It helps take the mystery out of the job search process. Use it as a guide to help you through the steps of finding H1B jobs in the US.
How to Find International Student Jobs
Learn the visa rules
Know the limitations and 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.
Build a target list
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 job search, add details: deadlines, contact information, and contacts who you want to talk to.
Confirm if the company sponsors
Since there is no database for international student jobs, the best resource is myvisajobs.com. Use their database to learn if the company has petitioned for an H-1B. If a company is in this database, it is an indicator that it is open to sponsoring for H-1B. Use the database to find out which positions a company is most likely to sponsor for (hint: not all companies sponsor for every position).
Set up keyword search alerts
Discover interesting opportunities and companies using the “saved search” feature on job search websites. Indeed.com and LinkedIn.com both have saved search features that email you recent job openings. Use keywords that relate to your academic study: “marketing intern undergraduate” or “cloud computing security entry-level”
When you’re new to a country you have a lot to learn about job types. Research 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. Track the skills and requirements for each job to know what you need to stand out to employers. In the U.S., having a degree is not enough to qualify you for a job. You need skills and experience.
Create a professional story
You meet a lot of people in the job search. Those people want to know about you. You can’t get hired if you can’t talk about your professional interests. Learn how to create a professional story that shows people that you’re curious and motivated. 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 need to be error-free and communicate your interests, experience, and skills to employers. Learning to write them is a skill. Write a personalized resume and cover letter for each job. You won’t get hired if you submit a generic resume. 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
Academic experience by itself doesn’t qualify you for international student jobs (neither does the brand name of your school). Employers want you to have experience, even if you’re an undergraduate who has never worked before. 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. Tell your coach what industries or subjects interest you. Tell your friends, host family, and people you meet during activities. Avoid asking people for international student jobs. Instead, tell people your professional interests. Visit your favorite professor during office hours. Ask them 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
- 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. As an international student job seeker, you need people who can advocate for you. 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 with people inside the companies where you want to work. Build relationships by conducting informational interviews.
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.
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 employment. 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
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).
Practice persistence and patience when searching for international student jobs
The international student job search is like a rollercoaster. There are moments where you are up high and everything goes right, like getting a call from a hiring manager for an interview. There are moments where you are down, like getting rejected. Students who succeed in the job search keep going when they face rejection. If they don’t see opportunities that are a fit, they are patient for future opportunities. Sometimes it means waiting a few months (even as other friends get jobs.) They persist in talking to people who interest them, talking about their career goals, and practicing new behaviors. If one opportunity doesn’t work out, they shift to the next thing and pursue new leads.
Embrace the roller coaster and you will find international student jobs!
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