The International Student’s Guide to the Job Hunt and Networking in the United States

Hi there! I’m Shabrina Koeswologito, travel blogger and photographer, and FindSpark Campus Ambassador alumna originally hailing from Indonesia. I came to New York City in January 2016 to pursue my Master’s degree in Tourism Management at New York University. Being new to the United States, I immediately prioritized networking, making new friends, and building relationships early on.

It’s no secret that finding a job takes a lot of time – if you’re an international student, there’s even more factors that you’ll need to consider. I’ve learned a lot of lessons from my experiences – here are my tips that have helped me launch a successful career and enjoy networking in the United States.

 

Take advantage of your college’s career services office

At your college’s career services office, you can start to build skills, from networking to writing top-notch application materials, that’ll help you in your job search.

Set up an appointment to meet with a career counselor to discuss your professional interests, along with ways to connect with companies, professional organizations, and experts in your desired industries. Before your meeting, make sure come prepared with questions and career goals you want to discuss.

 

Review your resume and cover letter

Before you send out your applications, ask someone to look over your resume and cover letter. Customize your application materials for each position you’re applying for – and make sure they’re clear of any typos and grammatical errors.

It’s important to know that a standard resume used in job applications in the United States might be different than what your country uses. For example, you don’t need to include a photo of yourself on your resume and if you’re applying for an entry-level or mid-level role, your resume shouldn’t be longer than one page.

 

Go to networking events

In today’s competitive industry, you need to do more than just apply for jobs online. Going to networking events is one of the best ways to discover new opportunities, meet professionals working in your desired industries, and even make new friends!

For me, I found it helpful to be selective with choosing which networking events to go to. As someone who’s interested in tourism and hospitality, I asked my professors what events, from happy hours to workshops are coming up.

Before you start networking, it’s important to consider the following:

  • How should I start and close a conversation?
  • What types of questions should I ask to those I’m interested in meeting with?

For more on how you can have successful and less-awkward conversations, click here.

 

Prepare your elevator pitch

An elevator pitch is a thirty second to one-minute version of your professional life. Create different versions that you can use based on who you’re speaking with.

A good rule of thumb is to create three different versions, one for friends, one for a casual gathering, and one for going to formal industry networking events.

 

Practice your interviewing skills

Practice as much and as early as you can. Ask your school’s career counselor, friends, teacher, or even strangers to do a mock interview with you. Before you start, create a document with your answers. Make different versions that are tailored to the roles you’re applying for.

Prepare answers to questions like:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Can you explain how your background and skills fit in this position?

After you have a mock interview, write down all their feedback and unexpected questions that you had difficulty answering.

I’ve also found it helpful to create a mock interview schedule. When I’m practicing, I aim to get mock interviews twice a week, outside from the interviews that I get from prospective employers. A good way to know that you’re ready is when you can confidently answer the questions off the top of your head.

 

Find companies that will hire internationals

There are plenty of companies in the United States that assist international-born employees with sponsorship and don’t mind paying the necessary fees.

My Visa Jobs is a great resource, where you can search for companies and see how many employees they have sponsored and their acceptance rates.

When you’re searching for companies that are willing to provide sponsorship, make sure to consider the following:

  • Has the company provided a decent number of visa sponsorships over the past 5 years?
  • What is the approval rate for their job candidates at the company? (in other words, you want the smallest possible denial rate)

 

Find companies that are willing to hire and relocate

Some companies may offer a relocation package to help assist new employees who’re looking to start their careers in the United States.

You can find out by asking their plan of opening up new offices outside the US or set up an informational interview with the current employees.

 

Research your visa options

In today’s unpredictable political landscape, it’s getting harder to get an H1B visa. With rules that keep changing, you might want to explore these work permit options.

United States:

Canada:

 

Track your job search progress

Make a spreadsheet where you can track your process on all of your job applications. Take the time to update this as needed, based on your progress.

I highly recommend making columns for the following on this spreadsheet:

  • Company Name
  • Job Position
  • Company Website
  • Company’s Linkedin profile
  • Contact Name, Position, and Email (if available)
  • Additional Infomation (how do you know or who referred you to this position)
  • Dates (noting when you sent your application out, follow up emails, etc.)

Job Search Spreadsheet Example

Finding a job and networking in the United States, especially as an international student can be a hard and time-consuming process. But don’t give up! Start your job search early on and make it a fun learning experience – the perfect job will come to you before you know it!

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