Looking for a job is always difficult for everyone, especially in these times and especially for international students. International students face visa problems, language barriers, and other factors that prevent them from getting any job offers in the U.S. However, there are ways that students can do to overcome these obstacles and successfully find jobs in the U.S. Our contributor, Armaya Doremi, shares her story on getting an on campus job in America as an International Student based on her own experience.
Before we get into a deep talk about finding a job in the U.S., there are certain things that you should know about what happens behind the scenes. First of all, you should know your legal status in the U.S. To my knowledge, you can’t have a job off-campus if you are an international student since you hold an F-1 Visa unless you are applying for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT). After that, you can prepare for your job searches and offers in the U.S. However, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a job by no means. Part-time jobs are always available in a university if you need some additional income.
Furthermore, speaking about the status, you also need to know your university’s procedures about programs that can help you to get a job. For instance, Cooperative Education (Co-op), internships, and OPT are very common programs at Northeastern University, the university where I am currently studying at Boston, Massachusetts. Co-op, especially, is a very common program for international students to gain experiences on- and off-campus. At Northeastern University, Co-op is a 6-month program in which students can do after they have taken a minimum of 2 semesters in their program. OPT, on the other hand, is a program that allows students to have a full-time job in the U.S. It’s a temporary employment that is directly related to the F-1 student’s major study. That being said, you can get a full-time job without applying for a work visa because it is your privilege after completing a degree in the U.S. However, you still need to follow the process to apply for OPT itself.
Therefore, if you are an international student in the U.S and your university doesn’t require any of those programs, this article might not suit you. Nonetheless, if you want to know how the recruitment systems in the U.S. work, you should definitely read this entire article because I will render some tips on how to get a job in this country.
My first job was a part-time Student Life Coordinator at Northeastern University. Three months after that, I got another part time job in a different department as a Social Media Coordinator. One year after that, I got a full-time job for my co-op on campus as an Administrative Assistant at the Residential Security Office at the same University. Now, I am a teaching assistant candidate for a Graduate Students program at Northeastern University. How did I do that?
- Utilizing Networking
It’s all about networking. It’s not only about the skills and knowledge that you know, but also about the people that you meet and connect in order to move forward in life. For example, had I volunteered for one of the programs at Northeastern University, I would not have become a student life coordinator for international students at my university. My manager reached out to me after I completed my volunteer job. The offer was not for the Student Life Coordinator position, but for the position of Brand Ambassador. However, I brought up the idea of whether they would hire someone for their department. Fortunately, they hired me after having that conversation. Most of my friends who got a full-time job after graduation also did so through networking.
Basically, you need to tell people what you are looking for. Sometimes, you will find success in looking for a job if you talk to people who have connections to job opportunities. For example, hiring managers love referrals that come from employees whom they already know and trust. This will also benefit the hiring managers because they don’t have to look through the resumes from all of their candidates. There are lots of networking events in the U.S, and you should not hesitate to introduce yourself to them. How will someone know if you are looking for a job when you don’t even mention it? Thus, try to be friendly and open to any opportunities that are in front of your eyes.
- Getting your resume on point
Most of the companies in the U.S. use an application tracking system (ATS), which automatically scans your resume without being seen by the HR. The idea is that the ATS will work based on the given criteria, such as keywords, skills, former employers, years of experiences, and schools attended. Thus, you should put some keywords on your resume that match with the job descriptions at the company that you are applying for, or your previous jobs should at least be similar to the current job that you are applying for. If the match is lower than 60%, you are less likely to get the job. Time is so precious, and hiring managers won’t look at tons of resume on their plate. It is such a hard work.
Thus, you should be mindful to get your resume on point. Your resume should have information related to the job descriptions and pay attention to grammar, organization, and format. You should also avoid lying on resume because hiring managers can easily find that out and reject you. For instance, never put that you are a “detailed oriented person” if you have several misspellings on your resume, or that you are a “good communicator” when you can’t even speak well.
If you have no clues as to how to build your resume, you may want to utilize the facilities in your campus, such as the writing center and the career center. You can’t imagine how many months I built my resume until it looks perfect. Having someone to look over your resume will benefit you, especially someone who already got the job.
- Writing a proper cover letter
The cover letter is one of the pivotal aspects when applying for jobs. It is a formality of courtesy and an opportunity to express yourself about your desire to work for that company. On the other side of the coin, it is also an opportunity for hiring managers to know who you are. Some companies do require cover letters, and some are not.
Thus, be prepared to have one page of resume and cover letter at the same time. I wrote hundreds of cover letters because I was applying for more than hundreds of companies. Luckily, it paid off. I suggested that you be honest about who you are while telling your stories on your cover letter because when you got an interview, employers might have known what your stories are. Thus, you might get caught up if you add some skills that you do not even have.
- Building your LinkedIn Profile
I was astonished by the fact that I had to complete one course about building my LinkedIn Profile. It was kind of annoying, but it was necessary. As an Indonesian, I barely use LinkedIn since I did not have any professional jobs in my country. Other students from other countries have a similar problem too. Thus, we insisted on completing the course to utilize this social network for our future. Again, I am reiterating that this is crucial. Sometimes and often, hiring managers will reach out to you directly through your LinkedIn if you have a great profile.
Why so? The logic is that your information about your skills, your previous, and your background. So, they meet you in-person online. Furthermore, the LinkedIn algorithm is so robust. The hiring manager can find you based on the keywords of the job descriptions that you put on your profile. I suggested you connect to many people as many as you can and connect with them. Once you have done so, I can guarantee that some companies will reach out to you. But, under one circumstance, YOU HAVE TO HAVE A GOOD LINKEDIN PROFILE.
- Building your interview skills
I couldn’t feel more ashamed of my first interview for two of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in America. I failed. I did not prepare. After three months of applying, I finally got several interviews from more prominent companies, but I had zero preparations. Consequently, I was unemployed. I learned from my mistakes. I did reading lots of articles about how to be confident during the interview, yet it was helpful. Most of the hiring managers would ask the same questions as they ask other candidates. Since they give the same questions to thousands of people, they can immediately tell whether you prepare or not. You might want to do some research about what the company is doing. Knowing about their vision and mission will give you confidence during the interview. Stop speaking off-the-cuff. You should practice and be convinced. Don’t forget to smile, though.