Dubbed “The City That Never Sleeps”, New York City is a place that many people, including Tika, have dreamed of working in. With its towering skyscrapers and variety of delicious cuisines, thousands of university graduates flock to New York City each year in search of fulfilling their dreams. What does it take to get a job in the City? In this article, Tika shares her experience navigating through the job-hunting process after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from New York University.
If you’re an international student studying in the United States, you’ve probably heard about the post-graduate Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. When a student graduates with a degree, he/she will be able to apply for the OPT to be able to work in the US for a year. After receiving my Associate degree from a community college in the West Coast, I transferred to a university in the East Coast. I moved to (well, people say) a city where dreams come true, New York City. Being a transfer student means that I would need around another two years to receive my Bachelor’s degree. I think it is not enough time to enjoy the City—honestly, I don’t think there is ever enough time! That is one of the reasons why even before I graduated, I was already certain that I wanted to use the OPT opportunity to live another year in New York City.
Having been here for a few years, I can now say that living in New York City is not all about going out to its bars every Friday night, seeing the magnificent skyline every night, or having brunch at Chelsea every Sunday. However, I was impressed by the diversity I found here. Who knew that this city is home to such a diverse group of people? I can honestly find people from all walks of life and from around the world on its streets. From the pedestrians who get angry over yellow cabs, the car drivers who swear and honk all the time, and the naked clown who dances in the middle of Times Square even if it is winter, they are all in New York.
Well, if I can list all of the perks to work in New York City, it would be an extremely long one. Just to name a few: first, unlike the traffic in Jakarta, the public transportation in New York City is very convenient. It would give me a maximum of an hour to commute from my house to the office. Secondly, New York City is home to the headquarters of many Fortune 100 and the most impactful companies (such as United Nations and McKinsey & Co.) in the world. This being said, it would give people who work in New York exposure to other smart and amazing people. Lastly, when employees get tired from work, there are so many entertainment options to brighten the day such as music performances (even on the subway stations and streets). Who would not want that? It is because of all this that I decided to look for a job after graduation only in New York. Can you imagine though how hard getting a job in New York actually is?
I still remember how hard it was for me to get a job in New York City, especially because I would need a company who can sponsor me or can do a short term contract. Which company would want to hire a fresh graduate who would quit the job in a year? Also, work visa sponsorship is not an easy process. Sponsorship costs a lot of money for the company. The company would need to hire an immigration lawyer and go to the application process. It is also not a guarantee that the employee (or me in this case) would get the work visa. The US work visa that I would apply for (H-1B) is granted based on a lottery system.
Like most international students who were having a hard time finding the right OPT job, I tried my best to look for one. I applied to around three different positions everyday to make my chances of getting hired higher. Moreover, I used various job search engines: my university’s career website, LinkedIn, Indeed, and job agencies. I got called to several interviews, however, when they found out that I need sponsorship (i.e., a work visa), most of them backed out. The fact that my major was Economics in college makes it even harder to gain sponsorship. Students who studied in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields are eligible to apply for a two year extension to their OPT, but unfortunately this extension does not cover my Economics degree. My friends told me that one easy way to get the OPT job for an international student is from the job agencies. Yet, most of the job agencies in New York at that time were for Paralegal positions in law firms or Administrative positions.
On the other hand, most of my other friends who are familiar with the recruitment process already applied for jobs a year before they graduated. As a transfer student, I did not know about this, and as a result I missed most of the on campus recruitment opportunities (where employers come to campus to do on campus interviews). Yet, I have read articles and came to seminars that say a pretty high percentage of people who find a new job usually do so through networking (yes, my university career services also emphasize how important networking really is in job search).
Then, when I almost gave up looking for a job in New York, Grace Dewi, one of my Indonesian friends who I met through PERMIAS (Perhimpunan Mahasiswa Indonesia di Amerika Serikat or Indonesia Student Association) in New York reached out to me. We have not seen each other for a while, but we incidentally met during the Eid Fitr Indonesian celebration in New York. Grace said, “Tika, are you still looking for a job? If so, one of my colleagues is hiring in New York.” Dewi was one of the doctorate candidates studying in the Greater New York City area at that time, so it makes sense that she has a lot of colleagues. She has done numerous research about the economy in Indonesia with several institutions. Of course I said yes. After connecting her colleague with me, I sent my job application, went through the interview process, and finally got an offer!
Through this job search journey, I learned how important resilience and perseverance are. I never imagined that my dream to work in New York City would come true, but I would have never known unless I tried. Even though my employers were not able to sponsor me for a work visa, I have learned a lot from the experience that New York and the job itself have given me.