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February 14 2013

How To Get a Job As An International Student

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I have a friend who is a recent college graduate. He has an accounting degree, from prestigious university in the mid-west.

He’s been looking for a job for the past 10 months and has applied to more accounting firms and financial institutions than I have the mental focus to count. His resume is full of jobs such as working in the campus cafeteria, manning the front desk at one of the dorms, one summer internship where he filed paperwork for an accountant for two months and two semesters as an RA (Resident Assistant) at the dorms.

He constantly complains about how difficult it is for international students to find jobs, how lucky American residents and citizens are and wonders why no company ever gets back to him after an interview. He’s concluded that most companies just don’t want to hire international students.

If you’re an international student in college, chances are that you’ve met a student like this, or who knows maybe your situation actually makes you this student. Getting a full-time job or career doesn’t happen over a weekend, and there are certain steps you should take to get a head start.

Step 1: Entry Level Experience

Most international students sit around imagining what their full-time job or career will be like. They are magically able to decipher ever aspect of their career, when they should out there finding out for themselves. Experience is the best way to know if a particular career is a good fit. It also increases your credibility with future employers.

Before you quit your part-time job at the cafeteria, and hit up Mum and Dad to take out loans for grad school, I highly recommend trying out you career to make sure its what you want to do. Internships and volunteering are great ways to develop professional experience in your field.

Well, what if the company or organization I want to work for doesn’t offer any internships? Go directly to the staff and offer your services for free. This works because the company doesn’t have to worry about Curricular Practical Training (CPT) issues, they get free labor and you get free experience-on your resume.As an international student, you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to get your foot in the door.

Explain why you want to be a part of their organization and emphasize the experience and skills you hope to gain. Since you’ll be working for free, most organizations are willing to work with your schedule.

A lot of other skills that would help you gain experience are available in the form of workshops and certificate programs outside of your college. For instance, here at Varsity we offer a certification for sales professionals which shows that you have been through a three summer sales and management training program and are qualified to literally sell anything and manage anyone.

Remember, gaining experience is more than just having an awesome education and resume. Its about finding out whether a career is the right fit for you.

2) Start Networking:

First off if you think that you’re going to get a job by putting up your resume on Monster.com or CareerBuilder-unless your dream career is selling insurance, you’re just asking for spam.

Here’s a little nugget of information for you: Over 80% of job openings in your major are not advertised to the public. Most employers are legally required to keep a record of every application they receive for up to 1-2 years after a hiring period has ended. When you consider the current job market, you’ll realize that there are more job seekers than there are available positions, therefore, if a company posts a position online, it is promptly flooded with thousands and thousands of resumes from unqualified candidates.

When a job position opens up, most companies just go directly to their employees and ask them if they know anyone who is qualified and interested in applying for the position. Guess what? If you’re not in their employees network, you don’t get a job!

Here are some ways to build your network:

a) Join a professional associations
b) Attend business networking events ( in your city)
c) Contact your school’s alumni association and find out if it has an online directory. Alumni are a great way to expand your social circle because you already have something in common.(Don’t know how to contact alumni and build a relationship with them? We’ll teach you how.)
d) Participate in clubs
e) Visit your professors office during office hours and build a relationship.

As the saying goes, “ Build your network before you need it, and your ‘net’ will ‘work’ for you.

3) Keep track of your professional development.

Every job is a learning experience and its important to look back at your professional development and see how far you’ve come, and evaluate how you can continue to grow. The easiest way to do this is to regularly update your resume. Your resume should not just summarize your experience, it should emphasize your accomplishments.

What was the purpose of that research project you were involved with? How much money did you raise during that fund raising program? All your promotions, honors and leadership experience should be emphasized.

Once you are done, have a friend or colleague review and critique your resume. Make sure you use people who are honest and ready to tell you if it sucks.

Another great way to track your progress (and ace interviews) is to keep an archive of your work in a portfolio. Portfolios are great tools for job interviews because they provide tangible proof of your expertise. Your portfolio can contain, letters of recommendation, writing samples, photos, proposals, evaluations from other internships-basically anything that visually documents the projects and experiences you’ve been involved in.

For example, Varsity interns during the summer compile an extensive portfolio of recommendations from their customers-some portfolios contain hundreds of positive recommendations from business owners to college professors, teachers, religious leaders and company executives. Their portfolio also includes weekly sales analysis for their entire summer performance, demonstrating their achievements to any prospective employer.

Keeping track of your professional development gives you an idea of of where you are and where you need to be, or as we say in Varsity “You have to figure out where you’re coming from to figure out where you’re going.” If you remove all your on campus menial labor from your resume and it barely fills a page, you’ve got work to do.

What next? Well after doing all of the above, you’re still not guaranteed to get a job. Finding a career involves a lot of hard work and sometimes there’s nothing available in your field. You’ll have to learn how to deal with a lot of rejection,identify the things that are with within your control and take action.(We teach you how to do that as well!)

Add a comment below if you know any additional ways for international students to get jobs.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about ho w you can be better equipped to find a job as an international student, shoot us an email at Varsity@varsityinternational.org.

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