Career Development, the U.S. Job Search, and International Students: Lack of Understanding the U.S. Job Search (Post 2)

Ross WadeRoss Wade, assistant director of career services, Duke Engineering/Professional Master’s Programs
Personal blog: http://mrrosswade.wordpress.com/
LinkedIn URL: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosswade
Twitter: @rrwade
Blogs from Ross Wade.

Greetings career professionals! I wanted to focus this post (and the next couple of posts) on common challenges I assist my international students with, and provide some strategies and ideas that you can use in your practice.  I’ve even added a couple of ideas that could be a part of your office’s employer outreach strategy.

 CHALLENGE: Lack of understanding the U.S. job search.

I see it over and over again. Students from across the globe begin their U.S. college experience thinking that the job-search process will be just like it is in their home country. Most of the time that process is something like: make great grades, study hard for the final test, and the higher your test score (and grades), the better job you get. And the employers will come to you! It is all about grades, and working toward being top of your class. There is little to no focus on networking or getting hands-on experience (though many of my Chinese students acquire a one month “internship,” which is more like an observational externship experience). Many international students have no idea about the U.S. job search, and that it is focused more on professional experience and relationships than grades.

Sharing this, and having students understand this, is your first and most difficult step. Some students will feel uncomfortable approaching or cold calling professionals to connect, thinking that it is rude or disrespectful; aligning these students with others from their home country that have successfully found careers in the United States normalizes networking…and they can get the scoop on the step-by-step of networking and how their peer or “senior” successfully did this without feeling like they were being disrespectful.

 IDEAS & RESOURCES

  • Create a book club or U.S. job-search working/accountability group for international students that meets every couple of weeks. Daniel Beaudry, has written a wonderful book about the U.S. job search for international students called “Power Ties.” He does a fantastic job of explaining the process of the U.S. job search and networking, while explaining the visa process and all of the “players” such as hiring managers, HR, etc.
  • Teach students how to connect with international alums that were able to find jobs in the United States. Most institutions have an alumni database, but did you know the LinkedIn “Find Alumni” tool is FANTASTIC for this?! I work with graduate students, and have them access the tool (LinkedIn > Network > Find Alumni), and search for alumni of their undergraduate institution (back in their home country), click on who is living in the United States, and sort by industry. Not only does this give them a list of alums they can connect with, but shows the companies and industries most likely to hire international talent. If you are working with undergraduates, have them search under popular universities in their home country (they’ll still be able to access the alums!).
  • A lot of my international students are obsessed with all the big-brand companies (e.g. Deloitte, Google, Exxon), and don’t consider smaller companies. I remind my students that pursuing a big brand company is fine, but don’t forget that a gazillion other international students will be doing the same thing. Smaller companies may have less competition and be less rigid in considering hiring international talent, and accessing hiring managers may be easier. Consider this idea which incorporates educating students and employers (here’s the employer outreach idea I mentioned earlier); do a webinar or panel with employers (that have successfully hired international talent in the past), an immigration lawyer, visa services, and international alums working in the United States to share their insights and experiences from the employer and student point of view. You could invite international students and smaller companies/employers in your area to learn more about this process (a great professional development opportunity for them, and a way to get them interested in your students).
  • Find a mentor or colleague with experience working with international students to help you. This could be someone from your school’s visa services office, international house, or counseling center. I’ve been so lucky to have incredibly smart and experienced colleagues (Carrie Hawes, Jenny Johnson, Bridget Fletcher) help me grow my skills with international students along the way – I’m so grateful to them!

In my next blog posts I’ll discuss the sponsorship process, and address all of the confusion and anxiety many international students face when networking.

What ideas do you have for helping international students better understand the U.S. job search?

Did you miss part one? Read it here, and watch for Ross Wade’s next blog in this series! Coming soon.

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