Job Search Strategies for International Students: by Nanxi Xu

May 05, 2014 |

danielscareers-internationaljobsearchThere are a number of reasons it can be a challenge for international students to find jobs in the U.S. These are difficult times for anyone looking for a job, but especially internationals. With the right attitude, some practice and a strong skill set, you can get a job in no time! 

Possible Barriers:

From a job searchers’ perspective, it is important to determine how good your conversational skills are. The way you present yourself can convey your business etiquette, personal values and attitude. If you are a quiet person you might want to work on speaking up for yourself in networking sessions so you will make a good impression during interviews.

It is key that you connect with and impress your potential employers. They are looking for candidates who are confident, energetic, capable and fun to work with. Sometimes in order to project these qualities, you may have to adapt your personality to fit into a particular setting. First impressions are critical. You want the employer to know you are eager to work for them.

Employers say the number one factor that makes them reluctant to hire international students is the cost associated with H1B visa sponsorship. This is especially true for smaller-sized companies. Employers may also not recognize your accomplishments from work experience gained overseas, as it might be unfamiliar to them. It does not mean that your overseas experience is irrelevant — any acquired experience is valuable. You must articulate your experiences effectively during a networking event or an interview opportunity. This is the time for you to advocate for yourself.

Areas for Potential Growth:

  • Be willing to learn, adapt and stay open minded. Attitude is very important. Rather than complaining about the hardship of job searching, adapt to the new environment as quickly as you can. Polish up your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile. Attend networking opportunities to cultivate your business etiquette. You are not alone; a lot of these professional development skills can be challenging for domestic students as well.  You may feel intimidated and overwhelmed at the beginning, however, this will change once you start practicing.
  • Take a small step to make change happen. Practicing “small talk” is a good way to overcome nervousness and shyness, and will eventually help you build up your confidence. Talking to a company representative can be daunting at first, but it is much more manageable if you get used to initiating a natural conversation. Try practicing small talk at coffee shops, grocery stores and restaurants. Following up with “how are you” after they greet you is a great way to practice connecting with people, which is your ultimate goal at a career event.
  • Get to know yourself.  It is key in stepping out of your comfort zone to socialize with other professionals during your job search. It is hard to make connections with others when you are not sure what you want. Think about your goals before you find yourself wandering around a career fair not getting anything done. There are different types and levels of goals. In order to reach your final destination, you may need some specific, measurable and attainable goals that will help you connect your present to your future. Once you have figured out what you want and how you might achieve it, it is much easier to go into career events and be productive. This is true for interviews as well. Employers will ask you a lot of self-reflective questions. They want to know how you got to the position you are today. Your job is to help them navigate through your career and goals map in a logical manner.
  • Manage your own negative self-evaluation.  During the interview, it is common for candidates to get nervous. You may start wondering how interviewers perceive you and end up with negative self-perception which can impact your behavior. There is an effective way to manage this type of stress. Rather than focusing on your negative internal thoughts, focus more on the employer. What is the pattern of interviewing questions? How do I draw the connection between my background and this position? What is a good way to impress my interviewer? What can I do to convey my enthusiasm? There is plenty to think about rather than being preoccupied by worry, therefore staying within the present moment is key. You will have enough time to self reflect and get constructive feedback after interview.
  • Preparation makes perfect. Research your targeted companies, polish your resume, cover letter & LinkedIn profile, practice networking and interview skills, attend career events and go into interviews with confidence. Job offers don’t fall into your lap without the preparation phase. This can be tedious and arduous, but your effort will pay off once you land the job you want.
  • Keep calm and move on. After a long and tiring process of job searching, if you still do not get an offer–stay positive! There are many resources here at Daniels for you to utilize. Make an appointment with your career counselor to figure out areas for improvement. Be prepared to fail before you succeed. This is a completely natural process for everyone. Resiliency is crucial to get you through hard times, but fortunately, job search skills are can be learned and developed.

Final tip: Make direct eye contact, have firm handshake and make sure you look happy and positive. If any of these suggestions do not correspond with your personality, you might want to consider adjusting. These are the ground rules for professional development in the U.S., and reflecting the sincerity and confidence expected from each qualified candidate. 

Nanxi Xu is a career consulting intern at Suitts Graduate & Alumni Career Center. She is currently a graduate student in the Counseling Psychology M.A. program at the University of Denver. She holds an undergraduate B.B.A. degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied finance and psychology. She was formerly a student assistant and academic peer advisor at the Wisconsin School of Business. Outside of work, Nanxi enjoys reading and traveling.


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