Helping Students Navigate Familial Pressure

katie smith at duke university

Katie Smith, assistant director, Duke University Career Center,
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ksmith258/
Twitter: @ksmith258

 

“The most important job of the adviser…is to help students understand themselves, to face and take responsibility for their decisions, and to support and to free them to make choices that are at odds with the expectations other have for them. Students look to mentors—figures ‘more attuned to their rising hopes’—to give them what their parents won’t or can’t: the permission to go their own way and the reassurance that their path is valid,” William Deresiewicz quotes Harvard faculty member Harry R. Lewis comments in his recent book, Excellent Sheep.

The quote is one that many career professionals can identify with, as we often pride ourselves in providing a safe space for students to explore and articulate their interests while helping them to identify a career to fitting to their skills, talents, and needs. If only it was that easy!

Most people who work with college students have encountered a student who is torn between what she wants and what her parents or family members want. This is an incredibly challenging situation for students, mentally and emotionally taxing, often without an easy solution.

As college tuition continues to rise, so does the discussion on ROI. Parents are, understandably, especially attuned to this issue. What will my child study, and what will he be able to do with that? Is it a competitive field? Can she get the “right” experience in classes or internships? How much money will he make?

In short, is it worth it?

For some students, there’s a lot at stake in academic and career decision making. This decision could compromise the financial support of their education, narrow options (particularly in the case of international students), or could injure, or even sever, a relationship between student and their parents or other family members. In many cases, it’s also a decision that could affect a student’s success in school, as well as their well-being throughout college and beyond.

In recent weeks, I’ve worked with a student who studied engineering due his parents’ refusal to assist with his tuition if he pursued another major. Additionally, another student passionate about education is receiving pressure to commit to a more lucrative field, as her family is depending on her for financial support. Both of these students are navigating a challenging path balancing familial pressures, both real and perceived, and their own goals and aspirations.

As counselors, coaches, advisers, and mentors, working with these students can be difficult. Generally, we encourage students to follow their interests, and to choose a field that they get excited about. However, when the field they want to choose doesn’t align with others’ expectations, we carefully venture into new territory. “Is it possible to find the best of both worlds?” We might find ourselves asking. Where do fields such as art history and medicine or computer science and philosophy converge? If the student recognizes that his family’s opinion has a major stake in his decision, is it possible for him to pursue both his interests, and theirs?

For some students, this compromise is a possibility, but for others, this may not be the case. As career professionals, it is our role to help students identify their priorities, and to find a path that maximizes opportunity and fit given the present constraints.

As Deresiewicz quotes an observant student commenting on her mother, “she wanted me to have everything instead of wanting me to have what I wanted.”

The question is, where is the line?

Career Development, the U.S. Job Search, and International Students: The “S Word” (Sponsorship)…and Keeping Students Motivated (Post 4)

Ross WadeRoss Wade, assistant director, Duke University Career Center
Personal blog: http://mrrosswade.wordpress.com/
LinkedIn URL: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosswade
Twitter: @rrwade
Blogs from Ross Wade.

The whole sponsorship process can seem overwhelming, confusing, and daunting. I’ve seen many a career adviser’s face go blank (with a slight hint of “YIKES!”) when asked about this process from an international student seeking work in the United States. Here is the good news: you don’t have to know everything! As a career adviser, you simply need to understand the sponsorship basics, connect the student to the correct resource/office, discuss strategies and resources for the career search, and provide hope (and not just the mushy “you can do it!” stuff…I mean concrete hope in the form of proof through past successes). Not too scary, right?

Step one. Find the visa services office at your institution. Check out their website, and find a contact you can use to connect with students, to answer occasional questions. Your institution’s visa services office will have information on a variety of issues, including optional practical training (OPT) and curricular practical training (CPT), along with other links, and instructions for various processes. If your institution (or company) does not have a specific office or website for this, Duke University’s website is very helpful. Every year or so, my office has our visa services contact visit during a staff meeting to review the sponsorship process and current trends or changes, and answer questions.

Step two. Find resources you can provide international students with to help them with the U.S. job/internship search. I mentioned a few books and other resources that are very helpful in my first post in this series. I have two additional online resources that I find super beneficial…and my students LOVE them too.

GoinGlobal—This is a paid service that some of you may not have (don’t worry, I have a free resource below that is also very helpful), that provides tons of great information including companies that have petitioned for H1-B’s in the past (clues to international student friendly companies); country guides with employment and internship job sites, cultural job search information, top companies, and industry and employment trends.

MyVisaJobs—This is a free resource with information on work authorization (e.g., H-1B and student visas); links to attorneys categorized by state; and databases for finding companies that have petitioned for H-1B’s each year—you can search by employer, city, state, industry, job title, or by if the petition was certified, withdrawn, or denied. Great stuff!

Now, to the third and final step. Provide hope to your student. The information students can garner from the above links gets them motivated, but connecting them to others that have found work in the United States successfully provides great hope. Not only does this type of connection/networking provide hope, but it also provides instruction, direction, and the potential for a wonderful mentorship opportunity. Creating a database of international alums working in the United States, will be highly beneficial to you as you’ll be able to connect these alums to current students and invite them to panels or other special events. These alums can also be a great resource to you, and entry into a stronger relationship with their employer. If you don’t have a spreadsheet or database, you can certainly use LinkedIn (I especially like the “Find Alumni” trick I wrote about in my second post under “Ideas and Resources”).

I hope my posts on assisting international students with the US job search have been helpful to you. I’d love to hear about other strategies and resources that have worked for you—if you have any, please share the love by leaving a comment!

Find Ross Wade’s other blogs on working with international students. Part 1, part 2, part 3. Get Quick Tips for Assisting International Students on NACEWeb.

Why Recruiters Ignore Students’ LinkedIn Invitations

Andres TraslavinaAndres Traslavina, Director of Global Recruiting, Whole Foods Market
Twitter: @traslavina
LinkedIn: http:www.linkedin.com/in/traslavina

I receive a number of daily invitations from people I don’t know, including students, who want to connect on LinkedIn.

My first reaction when I see such invitations is to ignore and delete. However, I changed my views on this a while ago based on my understanding of the fundamental differences in people’s relationship talent and circumstances.

Personalizing an invitation is one common “tip” or advice provided by recruiting and networking professionals.  So why do people keep sending me impersonal invites?

Here are my theories:

  • They have not received or read anything that implies this is bad practice. In addition, LinkedIn makes it easy to ignore what would, under other circumstances, be a bad practice. LinkedIn’s objective is to continue to grow their user base.
  • They simply want to quickly grow their network and want to spend the least amount of time doing it.
  • Success for the sender depends on building as many connections as possible.
  • People’s circumstances and perspectives are very different: Active candidates, networkers, passive candidates, happy employees, sales professionals, etc.

Naturally, I am compelled to connect with those who have interests in common with me. In recruiting, this natural ability helps me discover commonalities between me, or the brand I represent and the potential job candidate.

All recruiters know how to research candidates, and often use their available social channels to accomplish this. If you truly enjoy this process, you are a natural recruiter. If you enjoy the process of “hunting” for people without necessarily feel eager to connect and you are great at it, you are a natural sourcer.

These are two different sets of talent. Can you have both? Absolutely.

My point is that for individuals like me, a non-personal invitation will not likely “push” the right button. In summary, my advice coincides with most recruiting professionals: “Personalize your invitation, it takes one minute.”

However, the next time you receive an “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn,” think about their circumstances and the differences in our natural abilities to connect with others.

Follow Andres on Twitter @traslavina or connect with him on LinkedIn (just make sure it’s personalized).

 

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.