Job Search for International Students
Getting a job in the United States can be challenging, even for domestic students. As an international student, you will encounter obstacles during the job search process. Try the suggestions below to help you overcome these obstacles and find the right job for you:
Begin your search early
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, it takes an average of 5 months to find a good paying job, so please don't wait until you graduate to start looking for a position. As an international student, you should also be aware that it takes 90 days for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to process and approve your Optional Practical Training (OPT) application.
Only about 20 percent of jobs in the United States are advertised in newspapers, magazines, or the Internet. The other 80 percent are not advertised. These non-advertised jobs or "hidden jobs" are usually filled by word of mouth. To find out about these jobs, you will need to network. Learn more about networking.
Apply to companies that sponsor international students
The Internet offers many resources where you can find lists of companies that have sponsored foreign nationals in the past. Do some research to find resources that will help your job search.
Seek U.S. companies with offices in Your home country
Multinational companies will have an interest in your cultural background and language skills because of the ties they have in your home country. Many of these companies prefer to place foreign nationals in offices in their home countries for a few years prior to transferring to an office in the U.S.
Become an expert on visas and optional practical training (OPT)
Many companies are hesitsnt about hiring foreign nationals because they don't understand the process. It is your job to educate the employer on how easy it is to hire an OPT student. If you want to stay in the U.S. longer than the year OPT allows, learn about the H1-B Visa so you can explain the process of hiring to your employer.
Choose a major/specialization in demand
If you want to work in the United States after graduation, choosing a profession in high demand is in your best interest. The top 5 occupations approved for the H1-B Visa status are in the following areas:
- Systems analysis and programming
- College and university education
- Accountants, auditors, and related occupations
- Electrical / Electronics engineering occupations
- Computer related occupations
Even if your major doesn't fall under any of these categories, you can strengthen your candidacy by adding a minor in one of these areas. Learn more about choosing a major.
Focus on your attributes
Foreign students bring with them many skills that Americans may not possess. You need to show the employer that your qualifications are unique beyond what the other candidates can offer. Many international students know more than one language, have been exposed to different cultures and systems, are mature, adaptable, and deal well with change. These are all qualities that employers value highly.
Strengthen communication skills
Communication skills, both verbal and written, are the number one quality desired by employers in job candidates. If your English needs improvement, take English as a Second Language (ESL) courses, English composition, or public speaking classes, or arrange private tutoring for assistance.
Complete an internship
Employers want to hire people who have experience and can perform the essential job duties. The more experience you have, the better your changes of getting a job. If you want a job after graduation, spend at least a year at your internship site. This doesn't necessarily mean working for free as international students can get a paid internship for up to 20 hours per week, if it part of the curriculum (meaning you must register for the internship class). This is known as CPT (Curricular Practical Training).
Perfect your resumé and cover letter
A well-prepared resumé and cover letter are essential to getting a job interview in the United States. The U.S. resumé is different from résumés in other countries. If you are not familiar with the standard U.S. resumé, review this information for pointers. You may also visit Career Services to attend a workshop and / or have your resumé reviewed by a professional.
If you are interviewing with a U.S. company, you will be expected to conform to certain cultural norms. Your dress, manner of speaking, and answers to questions will be expected to match certain norms. It is important to practice your interviewing skills.
Don't give up!
Finding a job in the U.S. — while difficult — is not impossible. In fact, more and more employers are seeing the benefits of hiring international students. So don't give up your job search just because you don't find immediate employment. And remember to present your international experience as a strength to potential employers.